Aging gracefully?

This month, my grandma moved into a retirement community. In some respects, it’s a significant change for her. After 95 years living in standalone houses, she will be moving into a small, sunny apartment. To do that, she’s had to downsize significantly – donating furniture, giving away belongings, and simply leaving some things behind. (The cycad that my parents gave her decades ago; the lemon tree that I’ve greedily harvested for years.)

Grandma's new neighbourhood.

Grandma’s new neighbourhood. Wish we built places like this for young people too.

But in other respects it’s not such a big step. She’s not moving far – only from Takapuna to Milford. Because there are retirement apartments sprinkled around Auckland, she is able to downsize and stay in the same community. (As John P’s excellent RCG/Transportblog development tracker highlights, there are many more such developments in the works.) That means that she can maintain all of her social ties and everyday habits – same church, same lunch groups, same healthcare facilities, and same proximity to family.

So I’m not worried about Grandma. But it’s making me wonder what’s in store for my parents, who are now in their early 60s.

They live, as they have done for most of the last two decades, on a large section on the edge of one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s many excellent regional parks. It gives them plenty of space to run a business and pursue their hobbies, like my mom’s wine-making and my dad’s shed Ponzi scheme. (He builds workshop space to house the lumber and tools that he will need to build more sheds.)

But it’s not exactly convenient if you can’t drive. (Or bicycle – they’re now spending more time on electric bikes.) Their house is at the top of a rather steep hill, the sidewalks are pretty patchy, and the nearest stores are three kilometres away. There is no bus service anywhere in the vicinity. Things are very spread out in the California suburbs.

While my parents are fit and vigorous, the fact is that at some point in the next two or three decades, they won’t be able to drive. At that point staying in place will no longer be an option. And if they don’t plan ahead, possibly by moving to a more accessible location before they absolutely need to, it could be a difficult change.

I suspect that they are not the only ones facing this dilemma. Many Baby Boomers will not be able to age in place. The post-war sprawl suburbs where they have spent their adult lives are not suitable for people who can’t drive.

There are three main problems with aging in a typical post-war suburb. Fortunately, all can be corrected or ameliorated – but doing so will require us to do some things differently.

The first is a transport problem: street networks and transport choices. As I highlighted in a post last year, designing neighbourhoods primarily for cars – with a hierarchy of cul-de-sacs, collector roads and arterials – don’t work for other transport modes. You can’t run efficient, usable bus services through these neighbourhoods, and it’s slow to walk anywhere. Furthermore, as shown the following image illustrates, changing that is hard due to the fact that you’d need to re-route street patterns:

Sprawl repair manual subdivision rebuild

A related issue is the quality of sidewalks, crosswalks, and other pedestrian infrastructure. In suburbs where most people drive, these tend to be in poor condition or simply non-existent. I have full use of my legs but still find this exasperating. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for people with limited mobility.

Poor transport choices often coincide with segregated land uses. Because older people tend to be less mobile, regardless of mode, their lives can be better when distances to retail and social destinations are short.

Unfortunately, a second issue that will face aging boomers is that post-war zoning codes have generally mandated rigid separation of residential and commercial use. Houses go in one place; shopping and work goes in another.

Here’s an illustration from Pakuranga and Howick in Auckland’s Unitary Plan. The bright pink areas are “centre” zones that allow both residential and retail. Most of the rest – the cream and orange colours – is exclusively residential. While the cream areas are undoubtedly nice beachfront property, people living in them will face constraints as they grow old.

Unitary Plan Howick

However, this isn’t the only way to build a city. When I was visiting Paris in December, I was struck by the vibrancy of retail options on just about every block in the city. Due to the fact that Paris lacks single-use zoning, it’s possible to get most of life’s daily needs – groceries and company, in particular – met without walking more than 100 metres.

Typical Paris neighbourhood shops (Source: Wikipedia)

Typical Paris neighbourhood shops (Source: Wikipedia)

That leads on to a third issue for aging boomers: a lack of housing choices for young and old people alike. Post-war planning has embraced “exclusionary” zoning policies such as large minimum lot sizes or tight controls on multi-family dwellings. Unless these policies are unwound, they will have two negative impacts for aging boomers who are seeking to age in place:

  1. A lack of neighbourhood density means that local retail and social facilities are not economically viable. Mount Eden, where I live, is a great example of how a mix of housing choices can enable vibrant local retail opportunities. The much-derided 1970s “sausage flats” mean that there is a sufficient critical mass of customers within walking distance. This creates positive spillovers for people living in the suburb’s standalone houses.
  2. A lack of options for downsizing in place will force people to leave their communities as they age. Retirement homes alone are not a solution to this problem, as some people may prefer to move into a smaller dwelling before they need of aged car. A greater mix of apartments, terraced houses, and units are important for filling this gap in the market.

Comprehensively addressing these three challenges will obviously take a long time. The built environment is persistent, and as a result many of the places we built in decades past will continue to look and feel the same for a long while.

However, I would argue that people who are middle-aged today have a strong incentive to vote for change. Retrofitting the suburbs with better transport choices, more housing choices, and more social and economic opportunities will benefit people of all ages. But it is likely to be especially beneficial – and urgent – for people in their 50s, 60s and 70s who will soon face some hard choices about where to live. It will offer them the best chance of aging gracefully, rather than facing disruption in old age.

What do you think is important for a happy retirement?

Council Caves on Freyberg

Despite over 80% of submissions in support of closing the pointless lane through Freyberg Square, the council have caved to the wishes a few complaining retailers who consistently seem determined to hold the city back – often so they can park outside their shops. They’ve announced that the lane will now be retained while the council spends many more years coming up with a plan for the entire High Street area.

Freyberg Square Proposed Design

The Auckland City Centre Advisory Board (ACCAB) has endorsed a staged approach to improvements for Freyberg Square, with vehicle access through the square retained in the interim to provide more flexibility for future improvements in the wider area.

Upgrades to Freyberg Square and the Ellen Melville Centre in Auckland’s city centre received strong public support when consulted on in September, however some key issues were raised, particularly from local businesses.

The temporary retention of vehicle access – connecting High Street with Chancery Street – is the most significant change from proposals, and follows discussions with Heart of the City and business owners in the area. Other changes include the retention of four large phoenix palms, cycle parking, additional seating and moving some of the trees.

The vehicle access would provide flexibility for potential future improvements in High Street and the wider area, while a precinct plan is developed with the community and businesses. That plan will set out the direction for the area and inform future investment decisions. There are currently no set proposals for what a High Street upgrade could consist of – however $15m has been committed from the City Centre Targeted Rate.

ACCAB Chair Kate Healy said “Having a staged approach to Freyberg Square means we get most of the improvements now, while helping to keep options open for the area’s future development – as well as options for how we might minimise potential disruption. We will also work towards the vision for Freyberg Square, which had strong public support in the consultation.

“Many businesses in this area are excited about what the future will hold, but want to see a holistic approach taken for the district’s development. This underlines the commitment of the ACCAB and Auckland Council to listen to stakeholders and work together with communities to transform our city centre.”

It is expected that access through the square would be generally open but able to be closed for events. This would evolve over three to five years to become generally closed to vehicles, but able to be opened when needed.

The ACCAB advises on city centre projects and spending of the City Centre Targeted Rate. The rate raises about $21m annually – of which 96% comes from city centre businesses and the rest from residents. It will fund the improvements to Freyberg Square and is also set to fund improvements to High Street.

The full feedback report of the consultation on the square and the community centre is available online at here.

I agree that there needs to be a plan for High St but at the same it seems like the decision completely undermines the council’s consultation processes. It raises the question of why even bother going to the effort of submitting and engaging with the council if they then ignore the vast majority of responses which in this case actually supported them.

I guess the only positive is there now seems more impetuous to actually do something about High St and that hopefully means an upgrade of the street from its currently pedestrian unfriendly design. The counter to that is the retailers who have managed to hold up improvements to Freyberg Square are just as likely to keep doing the same thing with any plans for High St as they will be emboldened by this decision meaning the council will likely delay improvements even further.

Freyberg Pl

The lane will remain

Perhaps instead of spending time on a plan that will likely be delayed further the council should instead just pull all money from the area and instead spend it on areas that may support improvement. For example I’m thinking of more shared spaces on other parts of Federal St. In the mean time High St, Aucklands former high street, will no doubt continue its slide into relative obscurity and businesses and customers flock to those streets that haven’t fought against the spirit of the times

Ponsonby Rd Pedestrian Improvements

I’ve left this a bit late; today is the last day to get your feedback in on some quick fixes coming to P Rd. But it doesn’t take a moment to choose between the two near identical options and just a few moments more throw a word or two it in as well. Go here.

In general AT and the Local Board are to be commended for the proposed changes as they will enable the street design to better follow the development of a new depth to the Ponsonby Rd strip; the noticeable lift in intensity throughout this area from Ponsonby Central and other places where the retail and hospitality now reaches further away from P Rd itself: Trading activity here is now much more 3-D and there are simply many more people.

P Rd Option 2

Option 2. Fullsized PDFs here

What is at stake and why does this matter? Ponsonby Rd is one of Auckland’s many urban centres that all deserve the same kind of improvements, the same re-tilting back towards providing better amenity for people and granting less space and free-reign for vehicles. So everything I say here about Ponsonby Rd is also true for other areas, adapted to local conditions. Additionally Ponsonby Rd can act as a leader in this change, because it has that kind of role in our city, it is an early adopter kind of place; the forces driving change are evident here earlier and more powerfully than other areas.

The importance of this cannot be overstated. Small nudges can lead to big improvements; if only we could get our institutions to lead instead of follow on these issues, or at the very least be more responsive. In practice traffic engineering’s inbuilt methodology of ‘predict and provide’ with regard to anything other than vehicle traffic actually becomes; ‘lag and reluctantly catch-up’ and only when forced to. This has become an unhelpful conservativism that is a tremendous brake on placemaking by those controlling our streetscapes. I get the tradition of technical conservatism inherent in other branches of engineering, for example in structural engineering, but this is an unhelpful carry-over into street design, a field that ought to have input from both spatial designers and engineers, but without the later having a veto over final outcomes. A subtle shift in the pecking order around street design could unlock a great deal of potential in our city.

For example take the intersection of Ponsonby with Richmond and Picton [below]. This used to have a Barnes Dance crossing, like there still is at the top of Franklin Rd. It now has pedestrian movements concurrent with vehicle traffic movements complete with every variety of arrowed turning manoeuvres across pedestrian flows. Simple observation shows this to be overly complicated and delaying for the ever increasing numbers of pedestrians. A small group of locals approached AT through the local board about this and got the following response:

Barnes Dance

Certainly it doesn’t have consistently high pedestrian levels; it does gets quiet here around 3am, but it sure as hell has very high numbers for an intersection outside of the City Centre, and is surely busier than the Franklin intersection. The shot below was taken on a sunny Saturday in December so shows it at a peak, but similar levels are not unusual through the day. And the schools remark is double curious, first it is an odd criteria for what is primarily a shopping and hospitality area, but also it fails to spot that this intersection pretty much exactly triangulates Richmond Rd School, Auckland Girl’s Grammar, and Freemans Bay School; students for all three certainly travel through here. And note there is absolutely no claim that what we are requesting might be unsafe in AT’s view, we can only assume [it isn’t stated] that they are, as usual, privileging driver time over pedestrian time, assuming there may be additional delay for some drivers with a Barnes Dance? They can’t deny that there would be greater clarity for all users with a Barnes Dance.

PONSONBY RD_5887

Happily the writer also added this:

P Rd Barnes Dance 2

but then this:

P Rd Barnes Dance 3

PONSONBY RD_5861

More positively AT are now catching up with reality on the issue of the side streets off P Rd. We have long campaigned for raised pedestrian tables on these, and at last they look like they’re coming. Fantastic. The footpath on this long spine is the key public realm here and is appallingly fractured by continuos carriageway that gives all priority to the one or two occupants in any vehicle over the often multitudes on the pavements. Might is right, is what the current street design says to us all. We look forward to seeing this solution at the tops of all these lovely narrow Victorian lanes eventually. A consistent and clear communication to us all when driving that this is a people place first and foremost.

PONSONBY RD_5683

The other great opportunity is to continue the existing street-tree amenity along the length of the area. These are of inestimable value; living proof of the old urban design truism:

‘Whatever the question; the answer is almost always a street tree’

PONSONBY RD_5622

In particular a row of trees is proposed for the over-wide Mackelvie St. This is good, the street needs compressing and enlivening now that it has many more attractors further down it. It has a new laneway through to Richmond and is soon to get another through to Pollen St as well. However it is my view that trees should not be in the middle on the street as proposed but rather on the eastern side where there are already hospitality businesses with outdoor chairs and tables. This means that people could sit under them on the widened pavement and they wouldn’t constantly be being pruned by passing trucks. They would be able to be enjoyed physically as well as visually by people.  The second raised table probably ought to move up to connect the two laneways too.

PONSONBY RD_5736

There’s plenty of width here to narrow the carriageway in order to draw pedestrians down into this newly activated zone of retail, hospo, and laneways. But the trees should, in my view be where the parked cars are on the left in the above picture, not in the middle of the street, moving the parking out to where the silver car is now. Those power lines could surely be undergrounded too.

PONSONBY RD_5741

PONSONBY RD_5671

Ponsonby Rd; A car-topia by design, yet an increasingly people rich place in spite of this.

Lastly this is a set of minor changes and it has to be mentioned that the issue of cyclelanes has been kicked down the road for later. The addition of new parking on Ponsonby Rd is not helpful for cyclists as this a street with a growing reputation for dooring incidents. The number of riders is increasing noticeably. There is a lot of additional parking coming to new buildings in the area and we feel this plan fails to take a sufficiently holistic view of the whole area and this new supply in particular into consideration. An issue for future action.

Below is what I added to my preference for Option 2:

Ponsonby Road Improvements

For both options:

First general context; as a local, who uses the street everyday with all modes, I am astounded by the rapid and sustained increase in activity everywhere in the area currently. Especially people on foot, but also on the road; driving and cycling, and stepping on and off the buses. I don’t believe that the physical environment is at all appropriate any more. The auto-domination of the entire width of P Rd is not helpful. A whole lot of additional parking is coming with Vinegar Lane which will further increase attempts to drive through what is increasingly a people rich environment. While 40kph limit is good the street design doesn’t support it.

The most important public realm here is the long fabric of footpath, it’s kind of like the biggest organ of the human body; the skin, an overlooked but vital resource. This needs improvement in duration, connection, and quality. So fixing the constant breaks at the side streets with raised tables is a vital and urgent upgrade. This will at last support the pedestrians’ right to the street for at least the length of the slim width they are currently allowed. Its virtual extension across the carriageway is also desperately needed. This is why we support the return of the Barnes Dance to Richmond/Picton.

 Street trees offer so much all users, the gaps in their appearance on P Rd and side streets need filling at every opportunity, especially anywhere people might linger [everywhere]. Shade and beauty are glorious utility.

Mackelvie St is currently over-wide, and needs compression to be more attractive to users, to draw people down to the attractions away from P Rd, to the new laneways and other businesses. The narrowing of the carriageway is good, however I really think the new trees would be far better down the southern side of the street where the carparking currently is, instead of the middle of the street, as there are already cafe table on the pavement here, and the increased width and new shade would be fantastic for users of the hospitality businesses here. This seating faces north and is blistering for the times of the year there are leaves on the trees. And this would help these businesses, this may not be what the owners say, retailers seem to often be extraordinarily fearful of change, and to misunderstand what us customers are drawn to.

Right hand turning into and out of MacKelvie needs looking at in more depth, and may need restricting.

The second raised table in MacKelvie should align with the new laneways, ie needs to be higher up the street.

Cycling gets new parking but no where to ride but for us over-confident types; this will need to be addressed soon; the numbers are rising fast. Until then how about at least some sharrows on one lane each way on P Rd?

I am concerned that the increase in on-street parking on P Rd is a step backwards and will create problems later when more long term improvements are proposed. Quick fixes are great; but keep an eye on the longer term.

In summary: The raised tables are great, any increase in street trees is fantastic. Until proper bike lanes are added I think sharrows in the outside lanes on P Rd would go a small way towards legitimising the ever increasing cycling there…..all good for a quick fix, and I look forward to further improvements.

 

PR 2015

Park(ing) Day 2015 Video

You may recall Park(ing) day from September. The council have released a video about it.

Earlier this year we transformed car parks on Lorne and High streets into places for people.

As you can see from the video, the response was pretty positive. We’re now looking at installing a parklet in this area long term.

About PARK(ing) Day

PARK(ing) Day is an annual global event where people turn parking spaces into “PARK(ing)” spaces – temporary public places – for the day.

Auckland ‘Carmageddon’

We’ve written before about the construction disruption coming to central Auckland next year. In particular there are two big half billion dollar full block rebuilds in the Convention Centre and the Downtown development and associated tower, plus the City Rail Link early works, then there are numerous other office and residential towers due to start. Only projects very close to the CRL route are shown below, there’s a lot more to the west both at Wynyard and around Sale St and elsewhere:

CRL Growth Corridor

AT have some details on their CRL page about the details of their work, including a video of the Albert St process, no doubt they will communicate more closer to the time. Work on the pipe-jacking access shafts start early next month on Albert St. But as there is so much other construction starting next year I wonder if AT wouldn’t be wiser to really take an bold line on this as it all winds up? For the people who are used to driving through the city it’s more than likely these habits will be impacted. I feel the best way for AT to manage this frustration is to front-foot it, to ‘own’ this disruption, explain that people should not expect to get by without making changes. Say this is going to be big and difficult, but worth it in the long run. Just hoping to minimise disruption and try not to draw attention to it and that it’s all going to be ok seems to me to invite more of a backlash. In particular to invite accusations of carelessness and incompetence.

I think AT should consider a little Catastrophising; should call down a full ‘CARMAGEDDON’ for the central city next year. This has four potential benefits:

1. They can’t then be accused of downplaying or not taking the disruption to peoples’ commutes and daily business seriously.

2. It is likely to get a number of people to change their plans especially it may get more people to trying other methods for getting into the city, thereby actually helping to reduce the impacts of all this construction activity.

3. For these and other reasons it is likely that it won’t actually be as bad as they paint it, so people will feel more relief than anger.

4. It is a good way to get communication into the media, and with it the opportunity to discuss the value of the projects too.

Here’s an example of what I mean. The I-405 in LA:

“Carmageddon”

A section of I-405 was closed over the weekend of Friday, July 15, 2011 as part of the Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project.[10] Before the closing, local radio DJs and television newscasts referred to it as “Carmageddon” and “Carpocalypse”, parodying the notion of Armageddon and the Apocalypse, since it was anticipated that the closure would severely impact traffic.[11][12]

In reality, traffic was lighter than normal across a wide area. California Department of Transportation reported that fewer vehicles used the roads than usual, and those who did travel by road arrived more quickly than on a normal weekend.[13] The Metrolink commuter train system recorded its highest-ever weekend ridership since it began operating in 1991. Ridership was 50% higher than the same weekend in 2010, and 10% higher than the previous weekend ridership record, which occurred during the U2 360° Tour in June 2011.[14] In response to jetBlue Airlines‘ offer of special flights between Bob Hope Airport in Burbank and Long Beach Airport, a distance of only 29 mi (47 km), for $4,[15][16] a group of cyclists did the same journey in one and a half hours, compared to two and a half hours by plane (including a drive to the airport from West Hollywood 90 minutes in advance of the flight and travel time to the end destination).[17] There was also some debate about whether the Los Angeles area could benefit from car-free weekends on a regular basis.[13]

 

Granted this was only for one weekend, but still the principle is the same; own the cause of the likely negativity boldly.

What do you think is the best way for Auckland deal with these growing pains?

Sunday reading 15 November 2015

Here’s the latest installment of Sunday Reading starting with a cartoon cameo of parking guru Donald Shoup.

Eric Jaffe. “California’s DOT Admits That More Roads Mean More Traffic“, CityLab.

Congestion relief itself is a dubious claim when it comes to road expansions. Transportation experts have repeatedly found that building new roads inevitably encourages more people to drive, which in turn negates any congestion savings—a phenomenon known as “induced demand.”

So it’s refreshing—and rare—to see the California DOT (aka Caltrans) link to a policy brief outlining key research findings from years of study into induced demand. The brief, titled “Increasing Highway Capacity Unlikely to Relieve Traffic Congestion,” was compiled by UC-Davis scholar Susan Handy. Here are the highlights:

There’s high-quality evidence for induced demand. All the studies reviewed by Handy used time-series data, “sophisticated econometric techniques,” and controlled for outside variables such as population growth and transit service.

More roads means more traffic in both the short- and long-term.Adding 10 percent more road capacity leads to 3-6 percent more vehicle miles in the near term and 6-10 percent more over many years.

Much of the traffic is brand new. Some of the cars on a new highway lane have simply relocated from a slower alternative route. But many are entirely new. They reflect leisure trips that often go unmade in bad traffic, or drivers who once used transit or carpooled, or shifting development patterns, and so on.

Joe Cortright. “A “helicopter drop” for the asphalt socialists“, City Observatory.

While advocates of the road system regularly cloak their arguments in the rhetoric of choice and the free market, our transportation system is actually characterized by heavy government intervention on behalf of private vehicles. Massive, taxpayer-supported subsidies effectively bribe people to drive, and insulate them from the financial consequences their choices impose on others.

Drivers want more roads—as long as they don’t actually have to pay for them. The fact that there’s no stomach for increasing the gas tax—even though gasoline prices have fallen by more than a dollar a gallon in the past year—shows that when put to the test of the marketplace, there’s actually little demand for more transportation.

The irony, of course, is that transportation is clearly one policy area where traditional free market principles would put a serious dent in the problems of traffic congestion, air pollution, and safety. If car users faced anything close to the actual costs of building and operating roads (and mitigating or preventing the injuries and pollution effects), we’d see much less driving, and much less demand for additional capacity.

Carlin Carr. “The War on Cars Is Winnable“, Next City. An interesting long read about how countries are moving away from car-based transportation systems.

To encourage more people to buy cars, Japan went on a road-building frenzy. Bridges and highways materialized overnight. Gun factories were transformed into automobile plants. In 1956, only 2 percent of the country’s roads were paved. The Japan Highway Public Corporation was formed to change all that. In the 1960s and ’70s, road building absorbed an astounding 40 percent of all public works spending. At the same time, manufacturers and banks introduced extended warranties and auto loans, all of which allowed more and more households to buy a car.

But then something unusual happened: The government looked a few decades into the future and realized that encouraging the public’s obsession with cars, while a powerful short-term economic stimulus, was a dangerous and unsustainable plan for a country with no domestic oil and little space to expand. There was also the simple fact that financially strapped post-war Japan just couldn’t afford to sprawl, with suburbs — and all the many layers of infrastructure that accompany them — being too expensive to build and maintain…

Today, the country that makes the world’s bestselling car, the Toyota Corolla, has done an outstanding job of discouraging its own residents from driving it. In Japan, you may be able to afford to buy a car, but using it costs a fortune. First, there’s the compulsory 60-point safety inspection, called a shaken, required every two years. The inspection has been in place since 1951, and can set owners back anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000. The exhaustive test inevitably turns up multiple failures, which then cost even more to fix. The shaken also comes with a compulsory insurance and a weight tax. The endless circle of tests, fixes and fees is a perpetual source of grumbling in Japan.

melbourne

Sarah Oberklaid. Melbourne: a case study in the revitalization of the city laneways, part 1, part 2, The Urbanist.

Only a few decades ago, the intricate network of laneways in Melbourne, Australia, carved into the street grid by property owners for access, sewerage, and waste disposal during the Victorian era, were overlooked and devoid of life. As a result of incremental initiatives, Melbourne’s laneways are now world-renowned — transformed into inviting passages, lined with an enviable mix of alfresco eateries, unique bars, boutiques, street art and residences. Given growing interest and efforts to enliven alleyways in Seattle, the revitalization of Melbourne’s laneways provides an example of re-envisaging these spaces as public assets.

Opinion. “A slower speed limit would make Wellington even more delightful“, Stuff.

As transport expert Stewart McKenzie said in his personal submission: “The 30 kmh speed limit proposed for Northland Village and other suburban centres is a no-brainer.”

The case is not just about road safety, although that is the most urgent issue. It is also about having a liveable city. A suburb where the traffic roars through is not a pleasant place to live.

Wellington falls naturally into a network of villages, each with its own geography and its own particular charm. A 30 kmh speed limit can add to that village atmosphere and make the capital an even more delightful city than it is now.

Daniel Simons, “A Simple Solution for Distracted Driving“, The Wall Street Journal. I’ve never understood why mobile phones aren’t disabled automatically or even voluntarily while people are driving. Here’s a story about how a robust “driving mode” on smart phones would save lives.

For a solution to work, it must respect the limitations of human cognition and the flaws in human intuition. A robust Driving Mode feature on phones would do just that. It would eliminate the most common sources of distraction: phone calls, text messages, games and social media. It should disable all communication between the phone and the outside world, with the exceptions of GPS, navigation apps and emergency notifications.

Strong support for removal of Freyberg Place

Last week the council announced the outcome of consultation into the design of Freyberg Square and the Ellen Melville Hall. The proposal was for the hall to be upgraded including removing the ground floor retail and turning that into a community space. The square would be upgraded and importantly Freyberg Place would be would be pedestrianised and incorporated into the square. In to total they received 337 pieces of feedback.

 

Freyberg Square Proposed Design

The report on the consultation (1.5MB) shows there was strong support for both the upgrade of the square and the hall with only four percent saying they don’t like the design of the hall and 7 percent saying they don’t like the design of the square.

Freyberg Square-Ellen Melville Hall consultation feedback - general

As you can also see there was strong support for the removal of Freyberg Place and on it’s own it had one of the most lopsided responses. Out of the 306 responses to the idea a massive 84% supported the idea.

Freyberg Square-Ellen Melville Hall consultation feedback - road removal

The council say that those that opposed the changes were mostly local businesses, some of who have long been vocal supporters of retaining the status quo for the entire area. The quoted comments in the report mostly talk about concerns of flow of traffic and congestion from removing the street however in the report they also talk about it being very lowly used in which case removing it won’t really have an impact. Anyway if it did happen to cause congestion it might mean a few more drivers look out their window and actually see the shops and want to visit them, at least there would be a better chance of that than if they are racing through.

Unsurprisingly a similarly strong number also supported changes proposed to Courthouse Lane which included changing the direction and adding a raised table between the square and the Chancery.

Freyberg Square-Ellen Melville Hall consultation feedback - Courthouse Lane

Again most of the support seems to have come from the general public while it is retailers who are the most concerned about the changes and also again they seem overly worried about traffic flow. They also note that quite a few who disagreed with the raised table idea highlighted that they weren’t sure what a raised table was with some questioning if it meant some kind of pedestrian overbridge.

The council also asked what could be done better for the two aspects of the proposal. For the hall the biggest responses were primarily about issues such as seating and how the space was used. For the square the concern was also about seating, security and other aspects such as the security and planting choices

Freyberg Square-Ellen Melville Hall consultation feedback - areas to address

Lastly the survey also briefly asked about how to improve the wider area. The two largest responses were for a shared space or no cars at all.

Freyberg Square-Ellen Melville Hall consultation feedback - Wider area

There are of course some who oppose the idea of a shared space on High St and they are almost certainly going to be the same people who have opposed the closing of Freyberg Place. The example of O’Connell St is used with them claiming it has been a failure

Because of the feedback from the businesses the council have said that they and Heart of the City are going to work with the businesses to try and find potential solutions. Given the line in the sand approach these some of the retailers have taken in the past over issues it’s hard to see them getting a different outcome. If that comes to pass it raises the question of at what point the council push ahead with improvements knowing that the vast majority of people want a better outcome. Unfortunately there are also no time frames around when these discussions will take place or be finished by.

New ideas for Franklin Rd

The discussion over the future design of Franklin Rd has be going on for some time now and has taken a number of twists and turns along the way. The most recent of these was a few months ago when Auckland Transport suddenly dropped the two of the four options they were considering – the two with any kind of cycle infrastructure included. Since then a lot of work has been going on to push for a better outcome and to cut a long story short, AT now say:

Since options A – D were presented in June 2015, AT has been continuing with technical investigations to address the safety issues raised by residents and in safety audits. As a result of this further work, options have been revisited and further revised to address safety issues and meet the project objective.

In addition to a “do minimum” option (which is maintaining the current design), the 3 options outlined below are currently being considered.

The great news is that other than the no change option, all three now include cycle infrastructure of some kind. They are shown below

Option 1 – Parking is between the trees and 1.5m wide on street cycle lanes that are buffered from the general traffic lanes by 0.6m of paint. This option retains the central median for those turning.

Franklin Rd - October 2015 -revised option 1

The cycle lane and painted buffer is similar to the setup they’ve put on Upper Harbour Dr as shown below. They are certainly better than a normal painted cycle lane but I’m not sure it’s necessarily going to encourage a lot of less confident people to get on their bike and use them.

Upper Harbour Cycle Lane with BYL

Note: incase anyone was concerned, the courier wasn’t parked there and moved before I reached the driveway

Option 2 – This is very similar to Option 1, the key difference is there is no flush median and the space it used has gone into making the cycleway wider to keep it further away from the door zone of parked cars. I wonder if this is one of the first times we’re talking about removing a painted median in Auckland, good to finally seeing it suggested.

Franklin Rd - October 2015 -revised option 2

This option is better than the first one but can three be better again?

Option 3 – Option 3 takes a very different approach by moving the cycle lane to the inside of cars and raises the pavement, something much more akin to a Copenhagen lane. The lane itself is only 1m wide however there is also a 0.5m buffer to the trees and a 0.7m buffer to for car doors meaning all up the lane is about 2.2m wide. Further it widens between the trees. In my view this is a considerably better option than the first two and the only one that really enables people of all ages and abilities to ride comfortably.

Franklin Rd - October 2015 -revised option 3

When the whole process started one of the first things AT tried to do was stop parking between the trees to help protect their roots. This option would also achieve that much better than the other two options.

We’ve even a real world example of what it would look like, from the Netherlands of course. This is Molenlaan, in Rotterdam

Rather than repeat things too much I’d highly recommend you read this post by Cycle Action Auckland on the options. They have a much more detailed look at the proposals including many more features and downsides for each option, a more detailed look at the safety issues and a better look at the Molenlaan example.

In my view only option 3 would make one of Auckland’s truly iconic streets even more so – and a goal to aim for with other streets across the region.

Photo is copyright to Sydney.

 

 

Mt Albert Town Centre Upgrade

With the projects that Auckland Transport has planned the Mt Albert town centre will be one the best connected in all of Auckland for public transport. With the CRL the train station will only be 10-15 minutes from the centre of town. The proposed new bus network also sees the four frequent bus routes pass through the town centre including:

  • New North Rd from Avondale to town
  • Crosstown to city via the western suburbs before heading out to Onehunga
  • Crosstown service from Pt Chevalier to Glen Innes via Orakei
  • Crosstown service from Pt Chevalier Beach to Sylvia Park

While public transport from there will be fantastic in coming years the town centre itself can feel a little neglected and overly dominated by vehicles. The Albert-Eden Local Board want to change that and are consulting on a plan to do just that.

Mt Albert Town Centre Upgrade

The Albert-Eden Local Board is upgrading the Mt Albert town centre and wants to hear your thoughts on the design. The town centre upgrade is a key project for the board and the aim is to create high-quality, attractive and safe streetscape, that provides a significant increase in pedestrian amenity for the community to enjoy and more opportunity for local businesses, including street-based trading. The proposed improvements include enhanced pedestrian connections to the recently upgraded train station, via an overbridge, to encourage the use of public transport.

Key design features:

  • Wide footpaths.
  • Improved safety on Carrington Rd.
  • 106 public car parks retained.
  • More cycling infrastructure.
  • Ten new trees, to replace five trees being removed.
  • New paving and street furniture.
  • Improved bus travel times.

This is the first stage of the Mt Albert town centre upgrade, which is an important project for the area and we want to make sure the town centre is not only enhanced, but future-proofed to make sure it retains its character and vibrancy. Regular users of Mt Albert Town Centre are being asked for feedback and this will help finalise the design. Feedback will be gathered online and at the open day. Once the design has been finalised and approved we will begin looking for a contractor to carry out the work and plan to have construction completed by August 2016.

Not everything on the plan will be built straight away. The immediate works proposed include widening the footpaths through the town centre by removing the odd slip lane/ parking lane on the Northwestern side. Other aspects of the proposal don’t have firm dates.

Mt Albert Town Centre Upgrade - stages

Here are some cross sections of what’s planned for the streets.

Mt Albert Town Centre Upgrade - NN Rd South 2

Mt Albert Town Centre Upgrade - Carrington Rd

Mt Albert Town Centre Upgrade - NN Rd North Plaza 2

I like that the current slip lane is proposed to make way for a plaza area

One of the projects for the future is to build a new bridge across to the train station – which was designed with this in mind. They will also eventually turn the carpark into public open space.

Mt Albert Town Centre Upgrade - future plaza

There are a couple of things that I think need to be improved. The key one of these is the lack of bus lanes which will be critical given the number of buses that will pass through here, this especially on Carrington Rd. I love the wide 6m+ footpaths in the town centre but also wonder if there’s a possibility for cycle lanes on New North Rd

What do you think, what do you like or dislike – and if this affects you don’t forget to make a submission.

Christchurch striving to be a more accessible city

Some videos from Christchurch’s Central City Development Unit on the transport changes taking place.

And a timelapse of  the construction of their new bus interchange