Multiway boulevards remain a workable street form that can resolve many of the problems related to movement and access in urban areas, especially the need for balance between the needs of of the city as a whole and those of local people. Allan Jacobs, The Boulevard Book
San Francisco Trafficways Plan, 1951
In late 1940’s and early 1950’s, during the height of the freeway building era, the plan for San Francisco was an extensive network of freeways both radial, circumferential around the waterfront, and through the city’s Panhandle and Mission District.
The Central Freeway was conceived to carry traffic through the centre of the city and connect further north via the Golden Gate Bridge. The construction of the Central Freeway began in an industrial area but soon faced “vociferous” resistance when it reached residential neighbourhoods that included Victorian-era buildings. In 1959 with the results of the freeway building precedents in plain sight, politicians stopped progress of the Trafficways Plan and terminated several projects mid-stream. Since that time the Central Freeway remained a double-decked stub of a motorway reaching only five blocks into the Hayes Valley before dumping traffic onto a one-way system of heavily congested local streets.
Central Freeway archive photo, San Francisco Chronicle
In 1989 the Loma Prieto earthquake badly damaged the Embarcadero Freeway along the waterfront and also the Central Freeway. While the Embarcadero Freeway was famously torn down to reveal the waterfront, the Central Freeway had a more protracted story.
In 1997 a city-wide referendum was placed on the ballot to fund the restoration of the freeway. This passed, surprising anti-freeway activists and local residents who had stymied such projects as far back a 1959.
Fortunately, during at the same time the city had at its disposal the expertise of pre-eminent urban designer Allan B Jacobs who had worked for the City of San Francisco, studied streets all over the world and written one of the more important books of urban design – Great Streets. Great Streets includes several examples of multi-way boulevards, a street type found around the world but the design of which has fallen out of favor with traffic engineers due to their complexity and perceived safety issues. The suggestion of the multi-way boulevard with its unique ability to carry through traffic reliably while also supporting local land uses gained traction with the public.
Great Streets: multi-way boulevards, Avenue d’Iéna, Paris
Jacobs, joined by Elizabeth MacDonald, embarked on a two-year study further documenting the multi-way boulevard street type. The research and insights form The Boulevard Book- another must read book on streets, urban design, and critique of orthodox traffic engineering.
With a growing body of research and built precedents the concept of a multi-way boulevard was placed on the ballot in 1998 and ultimately approved. Highlighting the comical nature of California referendum politics a final attempt to restore the motorway was placed on the 1999 ballot. It was too late. The motorway replacement option failed. The research, precedents, and design concepts of a boulevard solution were too compelling.
In 2004 work began on converting the Central Freeway to a multi-way boulevard, one of the few to be built since the modern traffic engineering era.
Octavia Boulevard under construction. (San Francico Planning Department)
Today the project is largely considered a success. It is not perfect as the designers concede, for example, the access lane are too wide and there are ‘threshold’ issues where the motorway touches down. The boulevard carries a whopping 45,000 vehicles a day including heavy vehicles, and as could be expected there are vehicle delays.
It is incredible how the neighbourhood has been transformed since when I lived here 20 years ago. In the place of a double-decked freeway is now is very attractive, active and connected street network and a new local park. Some of redevelopment is no doubt due to the massive tech boom/urban renaissance happening across the Bay Area. To be clear though, with an elevated freeway bisecting and severing the neighbourhood it would not look like this today.
When I visited San Francisco in July the city was was experiencing a heat wave and people in this neighbourhood filled up the new park and spilled out of the dozens of the small restaurants and cafes. This is the magic of San Francisco that has made its neighbourhoods literary settings for over a hundred years and why it remains a magnet for the world’s tourists and talent. This would not be happening with an elevated freeway cutting through the neighbourhood.
Biergarden, Octavia Boulevard, San Fransisco 2014 (Kent Lundberg)
There is also a lot of building activity happening here. Replacing the motorway footprint and its excessive road reserve with a boulevard has released significant amounts of useful land for redevelopment.
Octavia Boulevard building boom. (Nick Reid, June 2014)
A multi-way boulevard by design provides a degree of physical separation from through traffic and heavy vehicle traffic enabling adjacent urban land uses. By some accounts 1,000 housing units have been added to the project area. Perhaps most stunning is this fact. The release, sale, and ultimate redevelopment of the redundant motorway land has paid for the entire project. Consider too how the ongoing tax receipts and local economic activity contribute to benefit the wider city.
Clearly the multi-way boulevard serves a very narrow range of contexts and movement requirements. The street type does warrant consideration in places where there is the unique requirement to provide for through traffic movement, access to abutting land uses, and a need or desire for significant pedestrian movement across the street.The multi-way boulevard seems able to resolve these complex requirements and while helping to integrate neighbourhoods instead of dividing them like conventional flyover or flyunder solutions.
There’s been quite a bit of news in the last week or so about council CCO, Regional Facilities Auckland (RFA) and their stadium strategy. RFA is the body who manage most of Auckland’s stadiums and other facilities such as the Art Gallery, the Zoo and MOTAT.
The strategy is trying to address the fact that Auckland has three major stadiums – Eden Park, Mt Smart and North Harbour (QBE Stadium) – all of which are underutilised and face financial pressures as a result. Mt Smart and QBE Stadium are also owned by the council meaning any shortfalls as a result of those financial pressures directly affect ratepayers. In summary the strategy is
- The Warriors would have to move from Mt Smart to QBE stadium which would basically become the default venue of most small to medium sized games for the rectangle field codes
- Move Cricket from Eden Park to Western Springs
- Speedway would move from Western Springs to Mt Smart
- Eden Park would basically only be be used for large sporting events such as rugby tests or shorter format cricket international tests. Technically Eden Park won’t come under the Stadium Strategy due to the ownership situation
Most of the noise about the strategy of late has revolved around the Warriors being forced out of Mt Smart when their current contract expires in 2018. I personally think that moving the Warriors to QBE stadium is a bad decision and if the information from the club about the process is true, it paints RFA’s approach in very bad light.
But what I want to talk about is a part of the discussion that hasn’t really been discussed, how the strategy affects transport.
Firstly QBE stadium. Put simply, it’s a real pain to get to, as being right on the northern edge of the urban area it means almost everyone converges on it from the south in one of two directions, Albany Highway or SH1 (via Albany Expressway or Oteha Valley Rd). To make matters worse all approach roads converge on and are affected by a single intersection. At times of events, especially large ones, this generally means traffic chaos which is further multiplied by people searching for parking. This is something I experienced first hand during the Rugby World Cup where I remember it took what felt like close to an hour either side of the game to move a few km’s. Let’s not forget that in the case of the Warriors, many fans come from well south of the harbour and as such a move to Albany would see them having to travel much further to attend games.
Unfortunately PT options aren’t any better. The Albany Busway station is over 1km away through a currently barren landscape and even during the RWC when PT use was heavily encouraged and a lot of special services put on, only around 30% of people used it. As a comparison for large events at Eden Park sometimes over 50% will arrive using PT (although much less for some games). All of this is important as the council have set a target of doubling the number of PT trips from 70 million to 140 million by 2022 and special events have potentially a large role in helping to achieve that.
Overall it seems like moving all smaller games to QBE is likely to mean very little opportunities for any real change in travel habits. This is a shame as it seems that events provide one of the better opportunities to get people who don’t normally use PT to try it.
Before we start getting comments about the Waterfront Stadium the former government suggested for the RWC, it’s perhaps worth pointing out that it too would likely have suffered from some of the issue of being too big for most games. Also sorting out the issues surrounding too many stadiums is one of the reasons why RFA exists in the first place.
One of Auckland Transport’s current projects – as highlighted in the August board report – is a rehabilitation of the iconic Franklin Rd
AT have now released more details about the project. Here’s why they say the project is needed.
Franklin Road is an iconic Auckland street with significant heritage value. It is lined by mature, hundred year old London Plane trees that form a canopy over the road during summer months. During the Christmas festival period residents of Franklin Road host a Christmas lights event which attracts thousands of visitors every year.
Franklin Road is also an important connection between Ponsonby and the Central Business District with over 14,000 vehicle trips per day, including buses and over-dimension vehicles. While predominantly residential in nature, there are some small businesses along the road operating from previous homes and larger commercial/retail activities at either end.
Franklin Road is in poor condition creating safety hazards for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. Over time tree roots have damaged footpaths, drainage infrastructure and road pavement. A high demand for parking and a lack of well-defined parking spaces often sees drivers parking too close to trees and driving over exposed roots which can damage the trees.
A number of utility providers are also concerned about the condition of their infrastructure in Franklin Road and are planning service renewals and upgrades in the near future.
As part of the improvements AT have come up with two options, both of which include.
- Moving the kerbline to the other side of the trees and narrowing the roadway enabling the trees to be located within the berm.
- Parallel parking on both sides of the road in front of the trees.
- Upgrading the drainage system.
- Building the new road pavement on top of the existing pavement to reduce the impact on tree roots.
- Sewer separation and water main replacement by Watercare Services Limited.
- Improvements to street lighting subject to power undergrounding works by Vector Limited.
The biggest change is that the kerb is being extended to the outside of the trees in a bid to protect their roots. As the space between the trees is currently used for parking that is being pushed out into the carriageway. I think there definitely needs to be some level of on street parking seeing as many houses don’t have off street parking (although some do) but by pushing the parking out into the carriageway it actually creates more parking spaces. As explained soon I wonder if that’s the best use of the space.
Here are the trees on Franklin Rd likely not long after they were planted circa 1880
Franklin Road, Ponsonby, Auckland. Creator of Collection Unknown : Photographs of Auckland and Lyttelton. Ref: 1/2-004185-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22791340
In addition to the features mentioned above there are two separate options on what to do with the remaining carriageway which is 12.3m in width.
Key features of this option are:
- A shared use footpath cycleway on the uphill side of Franklin Road.
- A marked on-road cycle lane on the downhill side.
- The removal of the painted median.
- Retains parking on both sides of the road.
- Provides an off-road cycling facility in the uphill direction when cyclists are slower and a dedicated on-road downhill cycle lane to separate quicker cyclists from pedestrians.
- Maximises the traffic calming effect as vehicle speeds reduce with narrower traffic lanes and being closer to parked vehicles.
- Provides a narrower road width for pedestrians to cross.
- Traffic delays caused by right turning vehicles sitting in the traffic lane waiting to turn.
- No central refuge area for pedestrians crossing the road.
- The downhill cycleway is less than the desirable width.
The first thing I thought when looking at this was “where’s the uphill cycle lane”, that was until I realised that uphill cyclists were meant to share the footpath with pedestrians. To me that’s a bad outcome as even uphill many cyclists are likely to be much faster than walkers, especially as electric bikes become increasingly common. After that I also wondered why AT are still proposing to use squishy car protectors on the downhill side. Surely the cycle lane should be swapped with the parking lane.
I hoped the design would get better with option 2, sadly I was mistaken.
Key features of this option are:
- A shared use footpath cycleway on the uphill side of Franklin Road.
- A wider downhill lane that safely caters for both cyclists and vehicles.
- A 1 metre wide painted median (narrower than existing).
- Retains parking on both sides of the road.
- Provides an off-road cycling facility in the uphill direction when cyclists are slower and a wide shared downhill traffic lane separating faster cyclists from pedestrians.
- Provides a narrow painted median which should allow most drivers waiting to turn right to sit clear of the through traffic.
- Provides a narrower road width for pedestrians to cross.
- No dedicated on-road cycling facilities (shared downhill lane only).
So for this option we get less cycling infrastructure in return for a median strip so that cars don’t have to slow down as much if someone occasionally turns right.
I’m not sure why we keep coming up with seemingly crap designs for projects like this. To me both options seem like they are compromised by the desire to have as much parking as possible and to use both sides of the road. Instead I think AT need to look at having parking space on just one side of the street which should then allow for two (protected) cycle lanes, something like below.
There are a number of events coming up that readers may be interested in.
Tomorrow – IPENZ Talk by Steven Burgess on Designing for safety how safe road design doesn’t make safe streets
Next Week – Brent Toderian is back in Auckland and giving another Auckland Conversations talk, this time on Vibrant Waterfronts
4th November – Vancouver Cycle Chic are here to talk about emerging bike culture
We’ve spent almost 60 years designing our cities and streets based on one overriding principle, the movement of as many vehicles as possible. This is seen not just on our roads but also in how we develop town centres and even our suburbs. It has become so extreme that in many cases it is virtually impossible to get around a place in anything but a car. Of course this isn’t unique to New Zealand with similar situations arising in many countries, but particularly the English speaking new world ones such as Australia, Canada and of course the US.
We have lots of examples of this in Auckland that have come to symbolise this car centric planning and some classic ones are Albany (left) and Botany (right) although there are many other places equally bad on smaller scales. They share a number of similar characteristics such as a huge volume of parking, buildings set back from the street and all surrounded by large roads that are difficult to get across. It’s not uncommon in places like these to people drive 150m to change carpark rather than walk between stores.
Yet both of these two places are listed in the Auckland Plan as being Metropolitan centres which means they are meant to (or eventually meant to) accommodate a large proportion of the city’s future residential, retail and employment growth and be linked to the region through efficient transport networks. To achieve this we will effectively need to retrofit them to become much more dense and walkable urban environments focused on people rather than the movement of cars.
This isn’t going to be an easy task but thankfully it’s a challenge now being tackled in many cities around the world that we can learn from. Below are a handful of underlying principles distill down the key elements that make for successful and walkable urban areas courtesy of Design for Walkability which is from SPUR, a research and advocacy group out of the San Francisco Bay area. They are all points that we’ve covered off before but it’s useful in repeating them and of course they are not just useful for the likes of Albany or Botany but should be applied to any urban areas.
1. Create fine-grained pedestrian circulation
Frequent and densely interconnected pedestrian routes are fundamental to walkability, shortening both actual and perceived distances. This can be accomplished by making city blocks smaller or by providing access through blocks via publicly accessible alleys, pathways or paseos (pedestrian boulevards) coupled with frequent crosswalks. A good rule of thumb is that a comfortable walking environment offers a choice of route about once per minute, which is every 60 to 90 metres at a moderate walking pace — typical of a traditional, pre-war city block. This not only allows pedestrians efficient access but also provides visual interest and a sense of progress as new structures and intersections come into view with reasonable frequency.
This kind of “permeability” sometimes meets with resistance from developers and property owners, who may cite security, property rights or site-planning concerns. But street networks are fundamental to walking. Walking five 60 metre blocks through Portland, Oregon, is easy and comfortable. Walking the same 300 metres on a suburban commercial street, past a single distant building and no intersections, is very uncomfortable.
A major statistical analysis found that intersection density and street connectivity are more strongly correlated with walking than even density and mixed land uses. Only proximity to the city centre has a stronger effect.
2. Orient buildings to street and open spaces
In walkable urban environments, buildings are placed right at the edges of streets and public spaces, rather than being set back behind parking lots or expanses of landscaping. These built edges provide a sense of definition to streets and other spaces, which helps makes the environment more legible and coherent. At all scales, from big-city downtowns to small neighborhood centers, edges help reinforce circulation routes while allowing easy pedestrian access to buildings. Building entrances are on or next to sidewalks. Setbacks from the street are short and exist only to provide public space or a transition from public to private life.
Where buildings are set back behind parking lots or landscaping, pedestrians are isolated from uses and activities, exposed to traffic and forced to walk greater distances. Even if a walking path or sidewalk is provided, pedestrians and transit users receive the message that they are of secondary importance. Loading docks, service entrances, blank walls and driveways should be limited in size and located where they minimize disruption of pedestrian access.
3. Organize uses to support public activity
The way uses are arranged on a site has a major impact on the activity, vitality, security and identity of surrounding streets and spaces.
Active uses (such as retail, lobbies and event spaces) should be placed strategically along pedestrian routes to engage the public and should be designed for transparency and interest.
Secure, private spaces should be placed at site interiors, away from public streets.
Residential entrances should be designed to provide a graceful transition from public to private. Stoops, front porches, balconies and lobbies can all provide privacy while supporting sociability and greater security by increasing the number of “eyes on the street.”
Certain uses, such as garages and cinemas, should be tucked deeply away, but their points of access can be major nodes of activity.
Loading and utility spaces should be hidden from pedestrian frontages.
4. Place parking behind or below buildings
In newer development, good places for people depend heavily on the artful accommodation of cars. Parking is an expensive, space-hungry and unattractive use — and it’s a key driver of site planning and project finances. It should be provided in multilevel structures where possible and placed where it will not disrupt pedestrian spaces. Well-designed garages can serve multiple buildings, draw people onto streets and allow parking to be managed efficiently. Once they have parked, every driver becomes a pedestrian, so pedestrian garage exits should be located to support and enliven public spaces.
5. Address the human scale with building and landscape details
People experience the built environment at the scale of their own bodies in space. Buildings should meet and engage people at that scale, with awnings, façade elements, lighting, signage and other features along sidewalks. Building forms can be broken down or subdivided visually to lighten the sense of mass. Even very large buildings can meet the human scale in a gracious and accommodating manner.
6. Provide clear, continuous pedestrian access
Wide sidewalks that include elements like trees, lighting, street furniture and public art are the city’s connective tissue. In great walking cities like Barcelona and New York, sidewalks 12 metres wide are not uncommon, but a well-designed 3 metre sidewalk can be adequate in some contexts. Sidewalks should form a continuous network connected by frequent, safe street crossings.
Sidewalks, while fundamental, are only one part of the broader public realm. They should be seamlessly integrated with walkways, paseos, building entrances, transit facilities, plazas and parks. In order for people to feel comfortable walking, the continuity of pedestrian access among major uses and amenities, including transit facilities, is essential.
7. Build complete streets
Streets can accommodate a variety of travel modes while also serving as public amenities, sites of commerce and green spaces. Vehicular roadways should be no bigger than necessary for their function, and they should apportion space safely among private vehicles, transit, bicycles and parking. If they are well designed, streets can move significant volumes of auto traffic and still support other activities. Small streets are equally important and can limit vehicular speeds and capacity in the service of other functions, from deliveries to social activity.
From The City of San Jose’s Envision 2040 General Plan:
“A complete street provides safe, comfortable, attractive and convenient access and travel for pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit users of all ages, abilities and preferences. The design of a complete street considers both the public right-of-way and the land uses and design of adjoining properties, including appropriate building heights and the planning of adjoining land uses that actively engage the public street realm.”
Obviously implementing all these recommendations straight away is a bit tricky but they are definitely something we should be working on too across the region.
Yesterday I had a look some of the changes Auckland has seen over the last decade and as mentioned, here are some predictions for the next decade. To start off I’m going to address the projections made in the Herald by Victoria University Associate Professor Ian Yeoman.
We might not be flying around on jetpacks but we will definitely be using driverless cars, Yeoman says. “By 2024, we won’t need a test because all the cars will be self-drive.”
That will benefit those new to the country and the ageing, more frail population, he says. “Driverless cars will become more important and more mainsteam.”
He expects the electronic car will be more common than the combustion engine. “Electric cars and battery technology have come so far – electric cars are even sexy now… Porsche is doing an electric vehicle.”
Yeoman says the country’s cycleways will be populated by people on electric bikes rather than operating under pedal power. And although jetpacks will probably still be just a fun innovation and not something you’d consider relying on for your daily commute, Yeoman sees potential in the Terraflugia, a car that is licensed for road and flight.
Yeoman tells people: “Everything you saw on Star Trek has come true, except for teletransportation.”
Many many companies are now putting a lot of work into driverless cars yet they still appear to be years away from the market and even if they were available within 5 years, it’s unlikely they will be available or affordable for the mainstream market for considerably longer. What’s more even if they are available within a decade New Zealanders are keeping their cars for longer with the average age of vehicles increasing to 13.5 years old last year. In Auckland the average age is slightly less but also showing the same upward trend. It’s also for this reason that electric cars are likely to remain only a small proportion of the fleet in a decade
If driverless cars do start to be seen the first and probably biggest impact they will have will be on the taxi industry. Public Transport is the other area that could really benefit from driverless technology, it’s obviously used on some rail networks already although we probably need a more secure network before it’s possible here. Like taxi’s buses represent a huge opportunity as the labour costs are a huge portion of the operational costs.
Johnny Cab from Total Recall
As for the Terraflugia, that’s still really pie in the sky territory.
The one area I do agree with Yeoman on electric bikes which offer the potential to effectively flatten out Auckland’s hills and see a lot more people out on bikes – that is if Auckland Transport pick up their game and build a lot more cycling infrastructure. Getting additional funding for more cycling infrastructure is something I think we will see happening, particularly towards the end of the decade as the number of people on bikes and public and political support for more cycling infrastructure continues to increase.
After being dragged through the environment court Skypath will be built and will be incredibly popular not just for commuters but for tourists too. By the end of the decade most people will be wondering why it wasn’t built sooner and why it wasn’t funded by the government.
Public transport is where I think we’ll see the biggest change over the next decade. As mentioned we’re already seeing PT usage increasing faster than Auckland’s population is increasing thanks to the investment that’s already been made however it’s not till the next few years we’ll really see the fruition of many years work become a reality. By 2017 we will have electric trains rolled out across the network and running at good all day frequencies. On top of that will be the dramatically better new bus network along with additional bus priority further improving choice and mobility for many people. Add in ferries and linking everything up with be integrated fares allowing people with HOP substantially easier (and possibly cheaper) trips around the region.
These improvements are of course not new with many cities having made them before however not many would have done them all at the same time. The effects of each project will combine to revolutionise PT in Auckland and I think will see patronage soar ahead of predictions and by 2024 be sitting somewhere between 120 and 140 million trips. On a per capita basis that would likely put Auckland at a similar level that Wellington is at now but which is still below many peer cities.
During the next decade I do think the CRL will be built and completed. The section from Britomart to Wyndham St will start sometime next year as part of the Downtown Shopping Centre redevelopment. My guess is the government will give the green light for funding the rest of the project in 2016 and actual construction will start in 2017 finishing around 2021/22.
As with cycling, I think the growing usage of PT along with the ever increasing public and political appetite for more PT infrastructure will see other major projects be substantially advanced. This includes
- The Northwest Busway
- The AMETI Busway
- Electrification to Pukekohe
- Designation and perhaps even an extension of the Onehunga line to Mangere as part of a longer term goal of getting the line to the airport.
In short I think the next decade is going to be a fantastic one for public transport.
There’s a huge amount of construction activity going on at the moment or is just about to start as part of the governments roading binge. All things going to plan in 2017 the Waterview Connection will be completed as well as the widening of SH16 and associated interchange upgrades. Associated with this is the governments $800 million for widening and upgrading other motorways around Auckland. This is likely to have the effect of sucking many more trips on to the motorway, some from alternative routes and some from induced demand. While it will see more people being able to drive around Auckland I suspect the queues on the roads will be just the same as they are now.
I suspect a big challenge for Simon Bridges over the next 3-4 years will be thinking through what the government will do next with transport in Auckland. The reality is almost all state highway projects in Auckland will have been done or nearing completion within half a decade. Further as these projects are completed it is likely to free up substantial sums of money (some of which will likely be used by the NZTA in other parts of the country. I do think we’ll see another couple of major motorway projects in Auckland in the form of widening SH16 between Lincoln Rd and Westgate (something that seems to have dropped off the radar) and from extending the SH16 motorway to Kumeu (the section from Brigham Creek Rd to Kumeu is one of the busier single lane roads in the region with well over 20,000 vehicles per day.
On the metrics I think we’ll continue to see per capita vehicle Kilometres Travelled (VKT) remain flat although the total number of km travelled will increase slightly.
Governance and Funding
I’m not going to make any predictions about what will happen with governance but I do suspect Len Brown will stand again in 2016. Once again transport is likely to be the hot topic issue. I don’t think we’ll see any mayoral candidates oppose the CRL although some candidates for councillor will do. What happens further out than that is way too hard to predict.
Over the next half decade or so the issues around transport funding are likely to become more obvious and while they have been reluctant too so far, I think the government will start looking at how they can raise additional money to pay for transport projects and supplement fuel taxes which won’t be growing as people continue shifting to more fuel efficient vehicles and people don’t drive as much as predicted.
Urban Spaces and development
Auckland has seen some impressive change over the last few years and I expect that will continue in the coming decade. We’ll see huge changes in the CBD in particular as projects included in the Downtown Framework (and the other frameworks start to be delivered. These projects will continue to transform Auckland into a more people friendly place and I suspect it will have an effect not just on the liveability of the city but in attracting visitors to check out Auckland.
I think we’ll also see some of the strongest opposition to intensification and change reduce as people start to see better and better examples of good design. This isn’t to say there’ll be no opposition to development but just not quite the level of fear that currently exists.
Overall I think Auckland in 10 years time is going to be a very interesting place, one that has started to make huge inroads to fixing its scars from the second half of the 20th century. There’s a lot to be positive about.
The Herald on Sunday are celebrating their 10th birthday by looking at how things were 10 years ago so I thought I’d do the same by from a transport/urban slant.
Just over 1.3 million people lived in Auckland compared to today which is pushing towards 1.6 million. The area with the strongest population growth over the last decade has been in the CBD with last year’s census showing that over 29,000 are now living in the area, up by approximately 14,000 people and which is ahead of earlier estimates.
We’ve seen huge changes in the governance is Auckland with the 8 former councils (7 territorial councils and the regional council) merged into a single body. This has also seen the creation of Auckland Transport to manage all transport across the region. On the whole I think both the council and AT have been relatively successful and will be more so now that they’re really starting to get through the issues of combining and prioritising the multitude of legacy plans and ideas.
A decade ago Britomart had only been opened for a year and there was no Northern Busway and even projects like double tracking the western line or electrification of the rail network were just pipe dreams. Bus frequencies even on the busiest routes left a lot to be desired, especially off peak. Overall Aucklanders made around 52 million trips on PT (approx 39 trips per person).
Today the usage PT has seen significant growth now up to 73 million trips (47 trips per person) and we are on the cusp of even greater growth thanks to a handful of projects that vastly improve services (electrification, new network, integrated fares etc.).
Electric Trains for Auckland were just a pipe dream a decade ago – Photo by Patrick Reynolds
While there has been investment in PT over the last decade it pales in comparison to the investment in the roading network. On the state highway network alone we’ve had the following projects completed.
- Central Motorway Junction Upgrade
- SH18 Upper harbour Highway and duplicated upper harbour bridge
- SH20 Mt Roskill extension
- SH20 Manukau Harbour Crossing
- SH20 Manukau connection
- SH18 Hobsonville Deviation
- Significant progress on the Waterview Connection and the widening and upgrade of SH16 and its interchanges.
- Strengthening of the Harbour Bridge clip-ons
On top of that there has been numerous local road upgrades. All up more than $5 billion has been spent on new or upgraded roads in the region and that doesn’t maintenance or operations costs. Since 2004 the number of kilometres travelled (VKT) on Auckland’s roads has increased from close to 11.1 billion km to just over 12.7 billion km in 2013, an increase of about 15% however crucially that’s about the same as population growth and so on a per capita basis vehicle travel has remained virtually flat.
Data from the NZTA shows that the areas where vehicle volumes are growing strongly are typically the areas that have recently been upgraded, inducing additional trips. In many other areas traffic volumes have been flat or even declined. For example on average fewer vehicles cross the Harbour Bridge now than they did in 2004.
This and many of the other changes could fit into a didn’t exist 5 years ago category if I had one. North Wharf which represents the first stage in the redevelopment of the Wynyard Quarter was only opened 3 years ago just before the Rugby World Cup. The area has seen a colossal amount of change from an area dedicated to the storage of bulk liquids and servicing the marine industry into a successful people space that people want to visit. The redevelopment has been so successful it’s won numerous international awards including two just a few weeks ago.
Like the Wynyard Quarter the shared spaces opened just before the RWC but they already feel like they’ve been part of Auckland’s fabric for much longer. We now have shared spaces on Elliot St, Federal St, Fort St (and surrounds), Lorne St outside the library and O’Connell St. Not only do these shared spaces look much better, they’ve also been incredibly successful in other ways. For example as of 2012, spending on hospitality in Fort St had increased by a staggering 400% compared with before the upgrade. Shared spaces have also started to be seen in other locations outside the CBD.
Fort Lane – Photo by Patrick Reynolds
Improved Built Environment
The improvements to the city haven’t just been to the streets but we’re also starting to see improvements to the built environment. The internationally award winning renovation and extension to the Auckland Art Gallery is a fantastic example
Auckland Art Gallery – Photo by Patrick Reynolds
This is of course far from an exhaustive list of the changes that have occurred in Auckland over the last decade but hopefully it serves to remind that the city has change substantially and for the better. This improvement has been despite constant opposition from many quarters. We are definitely on a path to becoming a much more people focused city and it’s been shown that when we put our mind to it we can achieve significant change.
Tomorrow I’m going to look at what the next 10 years may hold.
Another fantastic video from Streetfilms about how Buenos Aires about how they are making the city more friendly for people, something happening in more and more cities around the world
Buenos Aires is fast becoming one of the most admired cities in the world when it comes to reinventing streets and transportation.
Just over a year ago, the city launched MetroBus BRT (constructed in less than seven months) on 9 de Julio Avenue, which may be the world’s widest street. The transformation of four general traffic lanes to exclusive bus lanes has yielded huge dividends for the city and is a bold statement from Mayor Mauricio Macri about how Buenos Aires thinks about its streets. More than 650,000 people now ride MetroBus every day, and it has cut commutes in the city center from 50-55 minutes to an incredible 18 minutes.
That’s not the only benefit of this ambitious project. The creation of MetroBus freed up miles of narrow streets that used to be crammed with buses. Previously, Buenos Aires had some pedestrian streets, but moving the buses to the BRT corridor allowed the administration to create a large network of shared streets in downtown where pedestrians rule. On the shared streets, drivers aren’t permitted to park and the speed limit is an astonishingly low 10 km/h. Yes, that is not a misprint — you’re not allowed to drive faster than 6 mph!
Bicycling has also increased rapidly in the past four years — up from 0.5 percent mode share to 3 percent mode share and climbing. Ecobici is the city’s bike-share system which is expanding to 200 stations in early 2015. Oh, and add this amazing fact: Ecobici is free for all users for the first hour.
The time saving from the introduction of BRT is staggering and with that many people using it the benefit cost ratio from doing it must be off the charts.
As a pedestrian it can be easy to become a bit impatient, especially when traffic lights are prioritised solely around the movement of vehicles which can leave a long wait between phases. Here’s one idea to keep people occupied while they wait to cross.
We believe that smart ideas can turn the city into a better place. Like a dancing traffic light that makes people wait and watch rather than walk through the red light. FOR more safety
So how about some of these around Auckland?
In saying all of this there’s something not quite right about a car company encouraging pedestrians to wait longer given the history.
36: On the Beat
What if we had more cops on the beat?
Isn’t it time the New Zealand Police started to recognise the changes happening in urban New Zealand? In our central cities and busiest town centres and main streets in particular, wouldn’t it be good to see less racing sirens and more friendly-faced officers on the street, on foot and two wheels?
This aspect of New Zealand life is a noticeable contrast with policing in cities elsewhere in the world. In central Auckland and Wellington in particular, there are now such high numbers of people out and about on foot every day and every evening right through the week that having a friendly police presence on the pavement wouldn’t go amiss, particularly at night.
The positive difference was noticeable during the Rugby World Cup where the police by and large had a very positive presence in the city. Ok, so that was a special one-off event with particular policing needs, but it did signal how too often we see officers out of their cars and on the pavement. As New Zealanders increasingly work out ways of to our urban city and town centres it might be time the police consider doing the same.
Stuart Houghton 2014