The Future Design of Albert Street

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

The history so far:

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

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

Lower Queen St and Albert St public realm Sep 15

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

Albert St Key Design Outcomes

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

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

Below are some images of what’s proposed.

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

Albert St Design - Wyndham to Swanson

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


Albert St Design - Swanson to Customs

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

Albert St Design - Swanson to Customs - graphic

And a prettier version from April.

Albert St post CRL

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


Albert St Design - Customs to Quay

Albert St Design - Customs to Quay - 1


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

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

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

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

Improving Upper Symonds St

An interesting idea emerged yesterday from the Uptown Business Association for improving the southern end Symonds St. It’s an area I know well having formerly lived in an apartment right above this part of Symonds St for a number of years.

Upper Symonds St concept

Upper Symonds St above Auckland’s CBD is being eyed as a largely pedestrianised zone – above shallow vehicle tunnels – when trams return to the city.

The Uptown Business Association has produced a conceptual design for the “greening” of what is one of Auckland’s main traffic bottlenecks.

Under the design, by local architects Pacific Environments, traffic heading from any of five directions could pass beneath a new pedestrian precinct through which the only other motor vehicles would be trams, vans or trucks servicing shops and restaurants. That would free the intersections of New North and Mt Eden roads, and of Khyber Pass and Newton roads, for pedestrians and cyclists as well as trams.

Business association manager Gary Holmes said it would create a popular community focal point for the more than 700 businesses and thousands of residents based around Eden Terrace, Grafton and Newton.

“The main problem for Uptown is that currently it is dissected by a number of major arterial roads which join at the central point of the business district, greatly reducing the opportunity for any cohesion or sense of community,” he said.


The business association has come up with its proposal as a way of encouraging people from new mixed residential-commercial developments around the Mt Eden rail hub, to spend a few minutes walking up the hill to Symonds St.

Mr Holmes acknowledged the proposal would mean the loss of parking but said making the precinct more pedestrian-friendly would counteract impacts on businesses.

“At the moment, they have a race track going past their front doors – this will slow people down,” he said. “This area has been neglected for a number of years, and this is a way to redeem that.”

His association intended spending $20,000 to $30,000 in each of the next two years or so on firming it up or considering alternatives, during which financial estimates should emerge.

Pacific Environments managing director Peter Eising said the proposal offered just one potential solution for the area’s redevelopment, but the challenges it faced meant visionary thinking was required.

I think it’s great that the business association are trying to think about how they could redevelop the area to be more people friendly and having lived there I certainly think this part of Auckland has a lot of unrealised potential. I’m not entirely sure the concept they’ve come up is all that realistic or practical though. For starters sinking the roads into a trench would be horrendously expensive and given the image shown would likely cost hundreds of millions. Given all of the other priorities in Auckland I can’t see this one ranking highly on the list. Tunnels such as these also present other issues such as the portals at each end to get the road back to the surface and the need for expensive ventilation, fire and other safety systems. Also to be considered is that currently Symonds St and Khyber Pass are a key route for trucks carrying over dimension loads from the port – I’m not sure if that would change with light rail.

Thinking about how the area could be improved a couple of things immediately spring to mind.

  • The part of Symonds St north of Khyber Pass is quite wide by Auckland standards, in some places around 35m between buildings. This provides a lot of opportunities to make better use of the space for all modes. Light Rail plus improved walking and cycling options could easily fit in alongside general traffic lanes that have been calmed to reduce the chances of people speeding.
  • The intersection of Symonds St and Khyber Pass is an oversized nightmare for people not in cars. This could easily be scaled back to again slow cars and make it safer – in fact I remember from my time in the area frequently seeing and hearing accidents at this intersection. They could start by removing the high speed slip lanes. Of course the intersection never used to be this size, it was widened around 15-20 years ago. The image below shows how much it has changed

Symonds St-Khyber Pass Intersection then and now

With the business association keen for improvements then perhaps the next step could be for AT and the council to look at what could be done to at least temporarily improve the area. Perhaps they could put into practice some temporary changes to see what works.

Notes from Sydney: The Centre City

The Sydney city centre is fantastic. It’s vibrant, varied, exciting:


And, like all successful cities, full of people. So how do they all get there? Of course some are there already, the City of Sydney has some 200,00 residents, but many journey in each day from the suburbs.

The streets are full of traffic, most are not like the part of Pitt St shown above, where pedestrians have priority:


The Bridge is full of traffic:

And there’s a couple of road only tunnels that were added next to the bridge, the Eastern Distributor, the Anzac Bridge, and many other roads in, so in just one of the AM peak hours 25,000 people drive into, or through, the Centre City on a weekday morning.

But that’s nothing. It’s only 14% of the total, just over twice the number that walk or cycle [source]:

Travel into Sydney City Centre

80% arrive on Public Transport. Over 100,000 in that one hour on trains [2011/12]. Because they can.


They would have to, it would be spatially impossible to have such a vibrant city centre if any more than a small number accessed it by private car. There would no space for anything but roads and parking if they tried. No space for the city itself, nor for quiet places away from the hustle:


So while Sydney streets feel very busy with cars, and they certainly have priority to almost all of them, they aren’t actually as central to the the functioning of the city as they appear. There’s just is no way Sydney would be the successful, dynamic, and beautiful city it is without the investment in every other means of getting people to and through the city. Especially high capacity, spatially efficient, underground rail. And nor would the streets be able to function at all if more were forced to drive because of the absence of quality alternatives.


And more is coming too. Next month a second much bigger Light Rail project begins to add to the current one, and a new Metro line with new harbour tunnels is also underway. Driving numbers will likely stay steady into the future, but the city will only grow through the other systems. City streets are vital for delivery and emergency vehicles, but really successful city cities don’t clog them up with private cars to bring in the most essential urban component; people. That’s just not how cities work; even though that may be the impression given by the sight of bumper to bumper traffic on city streets.

And successful cities always appear congested; the footpaths are busy, the stations are crowded, and the traffic is full. Because they are alive and attractive for employment, commerce, entertainment, habitation; in short; urban life. This is the ‘seductive congestion’ of successful urban economies. To focus on reducing traffic congestion without sufficient investment in alternatives for people movement is to misunderstand what a city is and how they work. Sydney is not perfect, but it has a thriving and vibrant, properly urban centre built on properly urban movement infrastructure.

All else there stands on the quality of this investment.






Showing street transformation through Streetview

In a bid to show that it’s possible to transform streets to be more people friendly a Brazilian urban planning group has scoured Google Streetview to put together examples of change. They currently have over 35o examples including a number from Auckland such as the shared spaces and Jellicoe St.

Here are a few examples but of course there are many many more

Ferenciek Tere, Budapest, Hungry

Av. Duque de Ávila, Lisbon, Portugal

Vester Voldgrade, Copenhagen, Denmark

Rue Rt. Hubert, Montreal, Canada

The results show just how much better it is possible to make our streets – and collated shows the work is a fantastic resource.

Square and Hall Upgrade

A road no longer runs though it – that’s just one of the things we’ll be able to say about Freyberg Square if the council’s proposal to upgrade it and the adjacent Pioneer Women’s and Ellen Melville Hall goes ahead. This is great news as both the square and the hall are well used despite being a bit run down, an upgrade on both are well overdue.

I think it is also good that both the hall and the square are being upgraded at the same time and integrated together. The upgrade to the ground hall will see the ground floor become a flexible community space. Combined with the removal of the road which clumsily bisects the square and which offers little to the overall transport network the works should enable the area to perform much better as a people space.

The work will also tie in nicely with the fantastically upgraded O’Connell St by way of extending the shared space south partly though Courthouse Lane. This section of Courthouse lane itself will further be changed by only allowing traffic to travel uphill towards Albert Park meaning we will no longer see cars travelling at speed downhill. It should also mean a reduction of vehicles that need to travel down O’Connell St as currently O’Connell St is the only option for drivers who come down Chancery St. Of course all this work will once again serve to highlight how poor the environment in High St is.

In total the upgrade is expected to cost around $7 million with it being paid for by the Waitemata Local Board and the City Centre Targeted Rate.

Here’s are the overarching design objectives for the projects

  • the design of Freyberg Square as a world-class place that is a distinctive, safe and popular destination, where locals and visitors choose to frequent and linger
  • creating a community facility within the central city with greater user flexibility
  • providing greater pedestrian priority and connectivity and a more usable and child-friendly public realm
  • providing better pedestrian connectivity between Freyberg Square and the surrounding network of streets
  • creating a high quality, attractive and durable public open space that contributes to a sustainable and maintainable city centre
  • designing an improved integration between Freyberg Square and the Pioneer Women’s and Ellen Melville Hall, to create a vibrant inner city hub which will become the community and cultural heart of the city
  • enhancing and redeveloping the Pioneer Women’s building while maintaining the heritage of the building and meeting current seismic and building codes
  • creating a versatile and fully accessible community centre that can be configured to accommodate a greater number of uses and users
  • honouring Ellen Melville and pioneering women of New Zealand, and continuing to honour Lord Freyberg

And some images of what’s proposed (click to enlarge)

Aerial perspective view of Pioneer Women’s & Ellen Melville Hall and Freyberg Square showing the removal of the Freyberg Place roadway to create an integrated public space and community hall. Concrete seating terraces and steps extend up the bank towards the Metropolis, interspersed with native tree and shrub plantings and an interactive water feature, creating a destination public space in the city.

Freyberg Square Proposed Design

Plan view of the Pioneer Women’s & Ellen Melville Hall and Freyberg Square showing the removal of the Freyberg Place roadway to create a fully pedestrianised public space with seamless integration between the upgraded community hall and square. Stone paving, public seating and native street trees create a pedestrian prioritised environment in Courthouse Lane, with vehicular traffic restricted to one-way traffic up-hill towards Albert Park.

Freyberg Square Proposed Design - Plan

This view from Courthouse Lane shows the re-instated verandah and relocated glazing line set back 3 metres from the columns, which honours the heritage of the building and better connects the building with Freyberg Square. The entrance is reinstated under the verandah, providing a more generous and welcoming foyer. The original brick wall is re-instated, reflecting the heritage of the original design.

Ellen Melville Hall Upgrade 1

This view over Freyberg Square shows how the removal of Freyberg Place roadway and the upgraded building will enhance the interface with Freyberg Square, creating a visual and permeable connection allowing the building to flow out in to the square and activities in the square to flow in to the building. There placement of the building’s current blue glass to a cast glass similar to that used originally, combined with the use of a lighter, warmer material palette will create a more inviting community facility.

Ellen Melville Hall Upgrade 2

This view shows how the proposed ‘Urban Living Room’ will help integrate the building in to the local context, encouraging activation of the spaces and interest in the community facilities available. This flexible ground floor community space can be re-configured to suit various activities such as conferences, market stalls and art exhibitions.

Ellen Melville Hall Upgrade 3

Overall it looks like a great upgrade that appears to really add to the area. Your move High St retailers.

The consultation is open to Sunday 27 September and there are details on the consultation page about public sessions on the plans that are available.

Advisory bike lanes – Kiwi Esplanade


Advisory bike lane, Netherlands. (Photo: Andre De Graff)

A few weeks ago there was an unfortunate trial of a bike facility design known as “advisory” bike lanes. Advisory lanes, sometimes called “suggested” bike lanes are common in the Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium and increasingly North America. There are some good examples from NL in this guest post by Andre de Graaf .

Here’s how advisory lanes work. On narrow streets the centre line is removed leaving a 2-way combined lane ranging between about 4-5m. Wide bike lanes (1.5-2m) are located on both sides. When motorists pass a cyclist they take a more central position in the street. When cars pass each other they do so slowly, crossing the dashed cyle lanes. In the rare occasion when two cars pass when there’s a person on a bike nearby, the car driver slows down until it’s safe to pass. Advisory lanes reinforce an established etiquette in European cities – give way to cyclists, slower vehicle speeds, and sharing road space. Like conventional bike lanes they also communicate the likelihood of people cycling on the street.

Advisory bike lanes are used in low speed, low volume settings where there is not enough width for formal or segregated bicycle facilities. The Dutch CROW manual recommends their use on streets with less than 4,000 vehicles a day. When used in the Netherlands they are strictly implemented in conjunction with lower speed limits and traffic calming measures. On rural roads their use is limited to local roads with no more than 60 kph speed limits. Rural roads in the Netherlands are either 60kph or 80kph and they also have comprehensive speeding enforcement making their analogy to New Zealand tenuous.

This design is being experimented in urban settings in many emerging bike-friendly cities. They are often seen as a hopeful solution to constrained street corridors and limited budgets. The City of Minneapolis (Copenhagenize Bike Friendly City #18, US Bike Friendly City #1, 2015) has recently been using the design and Portland, Oregon has plans to use them on 42 miles of new bikeways.


Advisory bike lanes in Minneapolis. (via StreetsMN).

The North American versions seem somewhat awkward as the streets don’t have the same scale or context as European streets. That said, the Minneapolis project above has had impressive safety results.

The fizzer of the NZTA trial was a unfortunate setback as I see advisory lanes being a useful tool in urban settings to expand bike access coverage into wider residential catchments where vehicle volumes are low and speeds are slow enough for sharing. That said, I have been struggling to think of a place where they might be usefully deployed, until recently.

In Mangere Bridge there is an amazing waterfront street Kiwi Esplanade which I recently discovered.

The street serves as prime cycling route in its own right, but also as it connects up to Ambury Farm, making it a useful cycling link. On my last visit the roadie-type cyclists were using the street, and the more casual cyclists were bumbling along on the windy 1.4m footpath. The later arrangement doesn’t work well as there are also a lot of people walking.

Kiwi Esplanade, Mangere Bridge

Kiwi Esplanade, Mangere Bridge

While Mangere Bridge consists of a well connected grid, most streets are ginormously overscaled complete with motorway barriers, painted medians and other armature of the Manukau era.


Kiwi Esplanade

One thing that makes Kiwi Esplanade viable for sharing is that is mostly insignificant from a wider street network perspective. There are better alternatives to get around the place, to the town centre, and the motorway. The street cross section currently reflects this as well. The street is very narrow ranging between 6m – 9m, and there are also speed humps in some sections.

I could see this being a good street where sharing the carriageway with advisory lanes could work. Below is a mock-up of a segment with advisory lanes and dimensions (streetview).


In addition to a speed limit change to 30kph, it would also require traffic calming treatments at intersections (see below for example). This could be achieved by favouring the network alternatives and slowing through traffic (along Kiwi Esplanade) with chokers and/or raised crossings.


Tarmac, Mangere Bridge.

At some point advisory bike lanes will become a useful tool in expanding the core cycle network beyond the main arterials and in conjunction with enabling slow speed, bike-friendly neighbourhoods. At this point I do wonder if their experimentation is a bit cart-before-the-horse.

In the short term I think it would be better to update our antiquated road rules, institute lower speed regimes, and enable a culture that better respects the rights of all users of the street.

Photo of the Day: Urban Surgery 1970s Style.

Auckland Star April 1973. Back in the Dark Ages it was considered appropriate to near kill the patient in order to help them. In the 1970s Central government transport planners nearly succeeded in killing the Auckland City Centre through the subtle act of flattening its densest and most proximate dormitory suburbs, then cutting it off any still standing from the city, and turning city streets into motorway off ramps. The charm and glory of these multi-year campaigns are still with us today on the beautiful avenues of Hobson and Nelson Sts, the terrible road pattern and wasted landuse of Union and Cook St, and the blighted devalued areas of K Rd and Newton. And of course the violated and severing gullies themselves. The scale of this ‘surgery’ can be seen in this spread.

CMJ AK STAR APRIL 1973_01_800px

The accompanying text is fairly flat and informational.

CMJ AK STAR APRIL 1973_02_800px

It seems the desire for a Tabula Rasa, a blank slate, like those postwar planners had in Europe, was so great that we made our own ‘bombsite’.

Happily now we live in more enlightened times and the next city surgery of scale will be much more sophisticated, the City Rail link which as an incision compared to this earlier work is laparoscopic; minimal invasive surgery. No need to maim the patient. Once done no one will even see it, except for that high value resource of people flooding on to city streets not in a car looking for a parking space. And will supply at least as much capacity as the three motorways that meet at this point do today*.  So the CRL will double the accessibility to the nation’s most concentrated, biggest, and highest value employment centre, and fastest growing residential area, seamlessly. After the recovery from a few precise cuts, that is.

CMJ AK STAR APRIL 1973_03_800

*Show your work, as Peter always says:

CRL 24 trains per hour each way 750 per train [not crush load; that’s 1000] ~ 36k [crush 48k]

M’ways 12 lanes @2160 [1800 vehicles @1.2 occupants] per lane hour ~ 26k

Of course the buses on the Bridge land some 9000 souls currently too.

AT August Board Meeting

Tomorrow is the next Auckland Transport board meeting and as usual I’ve been through the board papers to pick out the parts that were interesting to me.

The most interesting details appear to be in the closed session and that appears no different this month. Some of the topics are:

  • Newmarket Level Crossing Project – I assume this will be seeking approval to lodge the Notice of Requirement
  • LRT Alignment
  • Deep Dive – Bus
  • K’Road Value Engineering Outcomes – My guess is this is about the K Rd station for the CRL. AT’s project page now says they’re now only going to build one entrance initially and I’ve heard some rumours that it’s the Beresford Square entrance that will not be built. It seems to me this is incredibly short sighted and a classic case of ‘value engineering‘ engineering all of the value out of the project.

K Rd station Beresford Entrance

  • CRL Communication Strategies update – This is likely to be about communication to manage the disruption caused by the CRL construction.
  • Britomart Development update – presumably the bid by Cooper & Co to develop the site behind Britomart

On to the main business report.

  • Te Atatu Rd – Construction has now begun and will is due to be completed in February 2017
  • K Rd Cycleway – AT say ‘ concept design for stakeholder input is planned for the end of 2015.’ I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with.
  • Nelson St Cycleway – According to the report consultation is due to start any day now on phase 2 which for Pitt St and north of Victoria St. The main issues is whether it uses Nelson St or Hobson St to get to Fanshawe St and down to Quay St. I personally think they should do both options.
  • Beach Rd Cycleway Stage 2 – Construction is due to be completed by the end of this month with a public opening ceremony for 18 September.
  • Otahuhu Bus-Train Interchange – Construction is due to start in mid-September and due to be completed in June next year before the rollout of the new bus network in October.
  • Manukau Bus-Train Interchange – AT are increasing the capacity of the interchange from 16 to 25 bays although two will be for bus layover. They say the key reason for the change is that the various inter-city bus operators will move from the CBD operate from there. Presumably this means that inter-city bus users going to/from the CBD will have to transfer to a train at Manukau. Particularly at peak times this might actually end up a faster outcome.
  • Parnell Station – Works on the platform are due to be completed in October but there is no date yet for when it will come in to use. Also of note is the old Mainline steam sheds are currently being demolished as the site was recently sold to a retirement village company. There’s a bit of an irony in that we will end up with a retirement village on one side of the tracks and Student accommodation on the other.
  • AMETI (Reeves Rd Flyover) – AT say a joint review between them, the council and the NZTA of the timing of Flyover and the busway from Pakuranga to Botany has been  happening with final discussions around funding options due to happen in August/September. The recommendations from the review will go to the AT and NZTA boards in October and the Council Infrastructure committee in November. I wonder how much they’ve taken in to account the Basin Reserve Flyover decision, in particular as they’ve said the Reeves Rd Flyover won’t improve things unless they also replicate similar solutions at Waipuna Rd and Carbine Rd.
  • Mill Rd – The hearings for the Notice of Requirement start at the end of the month. They say there were 286 submissions of which 216 were pro-forma ones in opposition.
  • WiFi on PT – AT will extend WiFi to all PT modes and vehicles – we saw WiFi as a requirement for new buses last week. AT are already trialling it on trains and it was available on the special service they put on for the EMU celebration just over a week ago. A trial will also begin on Gulf Harbour ferries and the Northern Express soon.
  • Active Modes Survey – AT say they’ve surveyed 1,600 Aucklander’s about walking and cycling along with their motivations and barriers for doing so. The high level results are completely unsurprising with concerns over safety from sharing lanes with cars continuing to be the largest barrier to more people cycling.
  • Rail Service Performance – there is a fairly lengthy comment about the performance of the rail system.

Service delivery (or reliability) is the proportion of trains not cancelled in full or part and arrive at their final destination. Punctuality is the proportion of trains that were not cancelled in full or part and that arrived at their final destination within five minutes of the scheduled time. Presented below are the services scheduled (blue bars), total services operated on-time (yellow line) and punctuality percentage (red line) trends.

There was a significant improvement in performance recorded during the month, partly reflecting the changes implemented from 20 July which saw the replacement of diesel trains with EMUs on all lines except on the non-electrified section between Papakura and Pukekohe. The operation of a single common fleet type removed many of the restrictions that previously existed that had complicated service recovery by allowing trains and crews to be swapped between lines thereby limiting the adverse impacts following service disruption.

For Jul-2015 service delivery (reliability) was 96.6% and punctuality was 83.7% compared to the 12 month average of 96.0% (94.9% last 6 months average and low of of 92.9% in April) and 83.1% (79.2% last 6 months average and low of 73.6% in June).

For the period 1-9 August, performance improved further with reliability at 98% and punctuality at 89% across 3,766 services.

A number of days in mid-August have seen performance at more than 99% service delivery and 90-95% punctuality.

While only a few weeks into the full EMU operations, service performance improvement is encouraging and supports the decision to introduce earlier the full EMU services. A joint team of AT, Transdev, KiwiRail and CAF are now focused on delivering the planned improvements

Rail Service Performance - July 15

  • Some other PT comments:
    • The first Howick & Eastern double decker arrives in the first week of September.
    • The first of the new bus shelters have started has been installed. It appears that the focus is on getting a number rolled out on the Hibiscus coast in preparation of the new network which rolls out in October
    • AT have asked Transdev and Kiwirail to review the timetables for the Pukekohe shuttle after complains the transfer time between services was too short.
    • On the roll-out of more bus priority they say that over the last month:
      • Onewa Road T3 lane (city bound) – went live in July
      • Park Road bus lane (hospital to Carlton Gore Road) – consultation completed; construction due to commence in September
      • Parnell Road bus lane (St Stephens to Sarawia Street – outbound) – consultation completed; construction due for completion in August
      • Manukau Road/Pah Road transit lanes – internal consultation completed – consultation underway
      • Great North Road bus lanes (New Lynn to Ash Street) – final concept plans completed – consultation completed
      • Totara Avenue signal removal – improvements to New Lynn bus interchange; construction completed and live
      • Esmonde Road bus lane – construction to commence September.


Notes from Sydney: Light Rail

Last week I had some work in Sydney and while there I was able to grab a quick look at some aspects of that beautiful city. I want to start with Light Rail because Sydney has one line in operation, and is about to start another much bigger project next month, and one that is strikingly similar to what AT is proposing for Auckland. Similar in that it upgrades at capacity bus routes, links significant residential and commercial areas with the heart of the city from areas not covered by other Rapid Transit, links event locations with a major transport hub, serves some big tertiary institutions, and most importantly that it will be the catalyst for pedestrianising the main city street. For like AT’s Light Rail plan for Queen St Sydney’s also comes with the opening up of George St for pedestrians.

Below are some shots from my quick ride on the somewhat curious Dulwich Hill Line. This is mostly on the route of the old Metropolitan Goods Line, extended past the old docks of Darling Harbour for the tourist trade and terminating at the city end at at the busy Central Station. This is where I got on on a weekday morning, so heading against the flow, you’d think.


It arrives at Central on one-way loop to an elevated stop at the main concourse level of the Victorian train, Sydney’s largest. I assumed this was a built originally for Sydney’s previous trams, and so it was. The earlier system was largely about distributing into the city centre from this terminus station, but as Sydney grew a number of previously terminating lines were extended through to new underground stations in the central city and through to the bridge and across to the North Shore. The logical and very successful upgrade for a terminating city edge station, just like Britomart. In addition to the new Light Rail line they are also now planning the third underground city rail route and second rail harbour crossing: the new Sydney Metro.


The lovely CAF Urbos 3 arrived full and left full. On this evidence it looks like it could do with additional frequency.


It runs on city streets till Darling harbour then uses the impressive cuttings of the old Metropolitan Goods Line. So the route was not selected because it is necessarily the best place to run Light Rail, but because it was available. Very much like Auckland’s passenger rail network, and many new or revived urban rail systems globally [See Manchester Light Rail, and the London Overground for example].


This business of running services where there happens to be an existing route can of course lead to poor results if there isn’t a match with the surrounding land use, and this line at first did not perform as well as hoped. But that all changed with a the extension to a good anchor; Dulwich Hill rail station [opening 2014], and intensification along the route. It is now booming.


John Street Square Station with apartments and very urban open space above.



Heading back, and full again; mid morning on a week day.


Approaching Central on Hay St, crossing Pitt. Smart bit of kit.


There are obvious parallels with Auckland everywhere you look in Sydney, it is after all, pretty much just a bigger better version of a similar urban typology: a new world anglophone Pacific harbour city. It can be argued that Auckland is at a comparable point of development that Sydney was at decades ago, and while that doesn’t for a moment mean we should slavishly follow what happened there, there is much that can be learned from this city. There are a number of interesting projects underway in Sydney now, like the new Metro, which is introducing a new separate and fully automated rail system to complement the existing network. This is certainly an option for Auckland in the future, especially for upgrading Rapid Transit to our North Shore. The same universal urban forces are in play here as there, as can be seen with Light Rail in Sydney now: It is is working well simply because it delivers on the classic necessary conditions for this mode:

  • Good land-use match: intensification around stations
  • High quality right-of-way: mostly grade separate or has signal priority
  • Strong anchors at each end of the route: train stations in each case, and destinations along the way.
  • High standard of vehicle and service [sufficient frequency yet?]

The key lesson here is that if any of these conditions are missing steps must be taken to change them, as they did here. And that it is possible to exploit existing rights of way so long as there aren’t other barriers to change, especially to more intense urban land use around stations. Now that in Auckland we are well on the way to fixing the major vehicle and frequency standards on the rail network it is the development around stations that needs work. Especially as we only need to look at the improved performance of stations like Manukau City and Sylvia Park to see, yet again, how closely linked landuse and transport always are.

Looking ahead to the next Light Rail route in Sydney it is pretty certain that this will perform even better because it is designed around need not just route availability. It is hard to disagree with Alan Davies here when he writes:

There are literally hundreds of existing light rail systems in the world. The value of some is questionable, but Sydney’s proposed CBD and South East Light Rail line looks like it’ll be among the best.

And Davies, the Melburbanist, is often skeptical about high capex Transit systems, often questioning the value of ones in his own city.

I reckon that this is probably true for the proposed Auckland Light Rail programme too, with two provisos: That land around the stops is zoned for more intense use, and like in Sydney, that the through-routing of the current terminus station is at least funded and underway first. That’s the first fix.

Notes from Abroad: Hamburg, Bristol, Cardiff, & Zürich

This is a guest post by Warren Sanderson; regular reader, occasional poster, and seasoned traveller.

Hamburg, Bristol, Cardiff & Zurich


Bahnhofstrasse, the main shopping street of Zurich, is kept free for just transit [trams] and people, as Queen St should be.

In August last year I wrote a guest post for Transport Blog commenting on my wife and my experiences utilising public transport in the cities of Gothenburg, Hanover and Hamburg. I don’t normally like to revisit the destination cities we explore a second time until some years have passed, but we came away from Hamburg thinking we hadn’t done everything we would like to do. It is a good base to make day visits by train to the architecturally appealing and adjacent north German towns of Luneburg, Bremen, Stade, Lubeck, Schwerin and Wismar.

So back to Hamburg we went, to our favourite boutique ‘Henri Hotel’ located in reasonable proximity to the Hamburg Main Railway Station.

The very busy Hamburg Hauptbahnhof can be a little confusing at first but the staff in the Tourist Information, the Regional Trains Office and the DB Bahn ticket office all speak English and I found them most helpful. The DB Bahn people will work out a programme for you, with departure time, train changes and gleis (platform) No’s clearly set out, all of which enabled us to easily visit those towns.

Transport Blog commentators last year had drawn our attention to and recommended visiting ‘Miniatur Wunderland’ which we had not visited previously. It is the largest model railway in the world; incorporating roads, towns, port facilities and so on. Furthermore, it has a model airport, which has aircraft taxiing along the runway and even taking off into the air.

1 Miniatur Wunderland

2 Miniatur Wunderland

Note as in real life, that on the elevated motorway, the road traffic has ground to a halt, but the trains still get through on their own dedicated tracks.

Miniatur Wunderland is located in Speicherstadt, the old dark brick warehouse district. It is very popular so allow plenty of time if you visit.

Monckebergstrasse is the city’s main shopping street. It is the Oxford Street of Hamburg rather than the Regent or Bond Street – see the picture below which is getting toward the bottom of the street and with the magnificent Rathaus in the background.

3 Monckebergsrrasse

Monckebergstrasse is a very wide street with very wide pedestrian areas on each side and a busway lane in each direction in the middle which can also be accessed by taxis and cyclists but apparently not by private cars. The pale yellow cars on the left are taxis at their taxi stand. Pedestrians cross easily and dominate the whole street – not vehicles.

In my post last year, I referred to the booklet I had obtained from the Rathaus which was the approved vision for Hamburg, available in both German and English, entitled ‘Perspectives on Urban Development in Hamburg’. One of the proposals to improve urban quality was to roof over the A7 Motorway cuttings northwards to reconnect severed suburban parts of the city.

This year I noticed a few of these road signs (below) which obviously have relevance to the proposal but because I don’t understand German, I am not sure what the message is, so if there is a German reader out there who can translate the message please comment……….

4 A7 Motorway


I have wanted to visit Bristol ever since I first read my father’s copy of Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘Treasure Island’ with its wonderful original engravings by Wal Paget:

6 Bristol Quay Long John Silver

And now I have walked on the same quay as illustrated and found the same Inn where Stevenson found inspiration for the story.

7 Inn at Bristol

In terms of pedestrian friendliness Bristol did not disappoint. Although quite hilly generally the central old town is quite flat with the many walkers and cyclists able to get about easily away from major arterial roads.

The town is big on Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806 – 1859), engineer extraordinary and designer of the SS Great Britain and the Clifton Suspension Bridge – both worth visiting. He also designed Temple Meads Station as terminus for the Great Western Railway and many other transport projects in London and elsewhere.

8 Bristol Back Street Bike Park



During our week in Bristol we made a day trip to Cardiff. I had not visited Cardiff previously and was interested to find that the whole of the central shopping area was car-free. The streets, though often irregular, were quite wide, and busy. What I thought was important was that two larger modern type shopping malls were within and part of the central shopping area and could draw on the same public transport. Thus they contributed to the central areas vitality.

The obvious comparison is with our Hamilton where the Te Rapa development has resulted in the decline of the former ‘golden mile’ of Victoria Street and to me is an abject lesson in bad town planning.

9 High Street,Cardiff


Zurich was the last city we visited before departing for home – yes, wealthy Zurich where it is so easy to get to the airport. My little timetable shows that there are 158 trips from Zurich HB to Zurich Flughafen each day from 5.02 am to 11.17 pm. Sometimes they will be on a regional train and sometimes on an intercity with the latter continuing on to Winterthur and St Gallen. The journey to the airport takes about 11 minutes.

Zurich still has a tramway system which appeared to enjoy good patronage. I noted a couple of acute angled intersections where the plethora of intersecting rails could have been a bit of a hazard for crossing pedestrians but elsewhere the rails were straight and hazard free. I wouldn’t foresee any problems in this regard if a tram system for Auckland went straight up Queen Street and out the length of Dominion Road. And in Zurich the tram goes the length of the Bahnhofstrasse – one of the most elegant shopping streets in the world.



The whole point in writing this post is to indicate to readers that many cities are moving quite rapidly into the 21st century by turning back the motor vehicle tide to make their cities more people friendly.

For instance, the extent of Cardiff’s pedestrian (and bicycle) emphasis really surprised me.

We only spent a short time in London on this occasion but we were close to Paddington so it was an opportunity to get some idea of the extent of the construction needed to incorporate Crossrail’s station requirements into Paddington Station. It was also announced that Britain’s Chancellor George Osbourne has earmarked more than 100 million pounds in his latest budget to develop the Crossrail 2 proposal for rail between Hertfordshire and Surrey.

All this underground rail activity is happening under the aegis of a Conservative government, so it is hard to understand why our ‘conservative’ government is so opposed in principle to investment in Auckland’s public transit, when usage is increasing so rapidly and all the evidence so clearly supports a move away from spending solely on roading.

To make this work Auckland really needs to have a clear vision as Hamburg does, together with a better say in the best way of using our share of the contribution Auckland makes to national taxation coffers. In transport matters Auckland is being poorly served by national government at present.

I am sure that Hamburg’s vision was not reached without much discussion but I believe the ‘Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg’ may have one advantage over Auckland and that is, that it is a ‘Land’ (i.e. Province – effectively a city state) with maybe less conflict than Auckland has with central government. It seems that our government are pursuing short term political goals which are to the detriment of a rational long-term plan for New Zealand’s largest city.

It is quite evident that New Zealand’s transport policies and spending pattern needs reforming and we can only hope that our current government is big enough to realise this and take appropriate action.

Like the CRL, only at a much bigger scale, Crossrail is a relatively short underground link between existing surface routes designed to unlock existing potential capacity.

Like the CRL, only at a much bigger scale, Crossrail is a relatively short underground link between existing surface routes designed to unlock existing potential capacity.