This week, the Herald on Sunday published an article calling out a dangerous new practice: walking under the influence of a smartphone. According to them, careless walking causes literally dozens of injuries a year and should possibly be criminalised:
Now legislation has been introduced in New Jersey that would slap a US$50 ($72) fine and possible jail time on pedestrians caught using phones while they cross. And in the German city of Augsburg, traffic lights have been embedded in the pavement – so people looking down at their phones will see them.
The Herald on Sunday carried out an unscientific experiment at the busy intersection of Victoria and Queen Sts in central Auckland during the lunchtime rush to discover the scale of the problem here. Observing one of the corners, between 1pm and 1.30pm, we spotted 39 people using their cellphones while crossing.
Some people looked up briefly while crossing. Others kept their heads down, oblivious to what was going on around them.
In the past 10 years, the Accident Compensation Corporation has paid out more than $150,000 for texting-related injuries to a total of 272 Kiwis.
About 90 per cent of injuries were a result of people tripping, falling or walking into things while texting.
Incidentally, I have to admit some guilt here. While I don’t usually walk under the influence of a smartphone, I will often walk around reading a book – a habit I picked up during university. In over a decade of distracted walking, I’ve never fallen over, walked into anything, walked in front of a car, or walked into anybody else.
Let’s take the Herald’s suggestions seriously, and ask whether there is a case to ban other activities that risk injury to participants. Their threshold for “enough harm to consider regulation” appears to be around 27 injuries a year costing ACC at least $15,000.
What else fails that test?
I went to ACC’s injury statistics tool to get a sense. Helpfully, they break out injury claims (and the cost thereof) by cause, activity, and a range of other characteristics.
Here’s a table summarising some of the sports that should be considered for a ban. Rugby and league are obvious candidates, of course, as they result in tens of thousands of claims every year and a total cost in the tens of millions. But would you have suspected that humble, harmless lawn bowls was so hazardous? The sport of septuagenarians injures over 1,000 people a year and costs ACC $1m. Likewise with dancing, golf, and fishing. They’re all too dangerous to be allowed. It’s a miracle that we’ve survived this long with all of this harmful physical activity occurring.
||Average new claims per annum (2011-2015)
||Average annual cost (2011-2015)
But it doesn’t stop with sports. Your home is full of seemingly innocuous items that are eager to kill or maim you. Your stove, for example. Boiling liquids cause almost 5,000 injuries a year, costing ACC $1.9 million. We should definitely ban home cooking. Leave it to the professionals, for pity’s sake! Lifting and carrying objects at home is even more dangerous – over 100,000 claims a year. So don’t pick up that tea-tray or box of knick-knacks: call in someone who’s suitably qualified for handling such dangerous objects.
And let’s not even mention the toll taken by falls, except to strenuously argue for a ban on showers, bathroom tiles, and private ownership of ladders.
|Cause of accident
||Average new claims per annum (2011-2015)
||Average annual cost (2011-2015)
|Boiling liquids (at home)
|Lifting / carrying objects (at home)
|Falls (at home)
|Driving-related accidents (on roads/streets)
Finally, it’s important to remember an important bit of context that the Herald doesn’t mention: Distracted walking is a far, far lesser danger than driving cars (distracted or not). In the average year, ACC receives 13,300 claims for driving-related accidents and pays out a total of $173 million for people who have been injured or killed. That far, far exceeds the injury toll associated with texting while walking.
On the whole, you’re more likely to be killed or injured while in a car than you are while walking. This chart, taken from a Ministry of Transport report on “risk on the road”, shows deaths or injuries in motor vehicle crashes per million hours spent travelling. Drivers experience 8 deaths/injuries per million hours. The two safest modes are walking (4.6 deaths/injuries per million hours) and public transport (0.7).
Because different travel modes are substitutes, measures to discourage walking – i.e. by penalising people who combine walking with smartphone use – may have the unintended consequence of killing or injuring more people.
[As an aside, this chart presents a somewhat misleading picture of cycle safety. People on bicycles experience 31 deaths or injuries per million hours – considerably higher than driving. However, drivers, not cyclists, are at fault in the majority of cycle crashes. According to another recent MoT report, cyclists were primarily responsible for only 22% of crashes. Drivers were partially or fully at fault in the remaining 78% of crashes.
Consequently, if we provided safe cycle infrastructure that kept people on bikes away from people in cars, cycling would get a lot safer. If we could completely eliminate the risk of people on bikes being hit by cars, cycling would be about as safe as driving.]
To conclude, there are two things that the statistics teach us.
The first is that although injuries and ACC claims are bad, it’s essential to put risks in perspective. And the relevant perspective is this: Walking is a safe mode of travel. It’s remained safe in spite of the invention of the smartphone and the existence of hoons like me who walk around with their nose in a book.
It’s always worth looking for effective ways to improve safety. That’s why Transportblog’s advocated for safe, separated cycleways, and also why it’s taken a positive view on cost-effective investments to improve road safety, like the recent announcement of safety improvements to SH2. But it’s also important to remember that the best way to improve safety is to make it easier to travel in comparatively safe ways. Like walking and public transport.
The second lesson is that there are many activities that can injure us, from rugby to lawn bowls to cooking. Walking while texting is a recent invention, so it may seem newsworthy. But it’s only one of the many hazards that people choose to expose themselves to. If you’re not living in a padded room, you’re probably risking your life in some way or another.
As humans, we’re very prone to focus on risks from new activities while ignoring the effects of things that are already common. Status quo bias is a very real thing – and it doesn’t just apply to transport reporting. It’s the reason why people can, say, oppose new three-storey apartment buildings while being perfectly comfortable with the three-storey houses next door to them.
What risks do you think we should pay more (or less) attention to?
Welcome back to Sunday reading. As a reminder, the K Road Open Streets event is happening today from noon through 7pm. It sounds like a great opportunity for some premeditated city fun.
‘Showing heavy traffic on the Auckland Harbour Bridge two weeks after opening in May 1959’ (Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 7-A3703)
Here’s Patrick Sisson’s long read take on the state of transportation investment in American cities. Spoiler: the system inherently favors roadway projects over mass transit. “The United States spends 55 percent of available transportation funding expanding one percent of the system, and 45 percent maintaining the other 99 percent.” – “Fixing the American Commute“, (Curbed)
Nearly every city has tried to build its way out of traffic congestion, but the approach hasn’t yet worked. Even Houston’s new mayor, Sylvester Turner, who calls for more light rail and mass transit spending, called out the Katy extension in a speech where he said these kind of building solutions are “exacerbating our congestion problems.” According to Olivieri, this build-first mentality is built into our system for funding transportation.
“State transportation departments that do much of the highway building across the country see themselves as highway builders,” says Olivieri. “They’re removed from city transit organizations. They believe there are economic benefits to building roads. They’re not bad people. They’re just living in a world that doesn’t exist anymore, and ignore a host of negative externalities such as pollution and congestion. Politics lag behind policy in this case.”
Stephen Moss, “End of the car age: how cities are outgrowing the automobile“, The Guardian. Here’s another good one on transportation and cities focusing on European cities.
What is evident is that the cities of tomorrow are likely, in effect, to revert to the cities of yesterday: denser, more neighbourhood-based, with everything you need for work and leisure in one district. There will be less separation of functions, less commuting, less travel generally.
“To me, this last 50 or 60 years feels like an anomaly,” says Hill. “If you haven’t already guessed, I’m a non-driver. I think we will look back on this time and say, ‘Wasn’t it odd that we drove ourselves around?’ In the 1920s and 30s, you’d have gone to the butcher on your high street, and a grocery boy (it would have been a boy then) would have delivered the goods to your home on a bike – and they’d have been there by the time you got back.”
In Hill’s view, that age and those services will return. Neighbourhoods and self-sufficient communities will make a comeback in a new era that will be dominated not by the car, but by the smartphone and the network. The commuter is dead. Long live the hipster.
Surely one more lane will finally solve our congestion problem, right? (Slightly better GIFF. Feel free to copy) pic.twitter.com/uDJwqVT3WI
Ben Schiller, “How Copenhagen Became A Cycling Paradise By Considering The Full Cost Of Cars“, FastCoExist.
When the city decides on a cycling project, it compares the cost to that of a road for cars, and it includes not only the upfront amount, but also things like the cost of road accidents to society, the impact of car pollution on health, and the cost of carbon emitted to the atmosphere. After including these factors, it comes to a rather startling calculation. One kilometer driven by car costs society about 17 cents (15 euro cents), whereas society gains 18 cents (16 euro cents) for each kilometer cycled, the paper finds. That’s because of factors like the health benefits of cycling and the avoided ill-effects of cars.
This story reminded me of the win/win outcome of the Franklin Road cycleway project redesign. It describes how kerb protected lanes can be less costly to build and maintain than conventional roadway space. Michael Andersen, “Surprise: Protecting Bike Lanes Can Cut The Cost of Brand-New Roads“, People for Bikes.
Curb-protected bike lanes, his firm realized, can reduce the huge cost of managing rainwater that falls on pavement and then flows into streams and rivers. That runoff is a major source of water pollution, which is why the federal Clean Water Act requires local governments to minimize it. But in rainy parts of the country, preventing excess runoff from pavement that cars are driving on has also become a major cost factor in road construction…
But their discovery is similar to the one Portland made on Cully Boulevard. When it rebuilt that street in 2011, the protected bike lane along each side reduced costs, because it didn’t require as much excavation as a wider road bed would have. Unlike with a conventional bike lane, there was no need to layer the pavement deep enough to carry a truck.
Last Sunday Peter linked to this excellent post from Bike Portland which argued that before zoning west coast cities would simply build more to accommodate booming population growth. Here’s a related take from Granola Shotgun in San Francisco,”Jiffy Lube Metropolis“. The photos from these blog posts of dense, mid-rise housing reminded me of this tweet (above) showing the Mayfair apartments in Parnell with a few admirers.
Victorian era builders didn’t construct gas stations. At one time these streets were lined with grand homes and businesses that were incrementally torn down and replaced with new auto-oriented establishments. People often forget that San Francisco went in to serious decline for a few decades after World War II and followed the same general trajectory as many other industrial port cities like Cleveland and Detroit. There was a time in the economic and cultural history of the city when traditional buildings were out of fashion and economic liabilities. It made sense to clear away under performing buildings to make way for more productive and profitable structures.
San Francisco’s economy recovered sooner and stronger than most other inner cities. Today real estate in once undervalued neighborhoods is astonishingly expensive. The culture has changed and so has market demand. As a result many aging gas stations, auto repair shops, and parking lots are being converted back to residential buildings – many incorporating retail shops on the ground floor.
And here’s the context for these new buildings. What we’re witnessing isn’t a modern aberration of multi story buildings being imposed on the traditional city. It’s actually a return to the historic pattern after an odd twentieth century hiatus. The car oriented land use pattern was the real anomaly.
Please post additional links in the comments section.
For the second time this week I’m able to say that AT have improved the design of a cycleway, this time on Franklin Rd.
Franklin Rd is one of the most iconic streets in Auckland with its large established trees.
The plans to upgrade Franklin Rd have been fairly contentious over the last year or so resulting in multiple designs, redesigns and debates. There were cycle lanes, then there weren’t, then there were as AT kept changing how it responded to feedback from locals and others who use the street. The same applied for the painted median and parking between the trees.
During the last consultation AT presented three options
- On road painted cycle lanes with a median and cars parked between the trees
- On road painted cycle lanes with no median and cars parked between the trees
- Raised cycle lanes inside of parked cars and no median
In the end they chose Option 1 saying amongst other reasons why it was preferred that “it provides for confident cyclists”
Option 1 from last year
But AT are now back with a new consulting on the plans following their more detailed design work. They’re now proposing to slightly raise the cycle lanes by 50-70mm above the road and on the inside of the kerb line. The kerb itself will be rounded rather than vertical so still easy to mount but will still be much better than what was proposed before of just paint.
As I understand it, one of the key drivers for the change was that the previous design would have required digging storm water catch pits in the tree roots – and AT are trying to avoid damaging the trees. This seems like a much better outcome for both the trees and those on bikes.
In addition to the cycle lanes there are other good changes too such as having raised tables over the side streets and at the intersection of Wellington/England streets where a narrow roundabout will be installed on top of a raised table with pedestrian crossings included and even cycle bypasses.
Positively the design also appears to be acceptable to local residents including Waitemata Councillor candidate Bill Ralston.
While I’m aware Bill hadn’t opposed them before, some others had and that AT have been able to come up with a solution that is acceptable to the various interest groups is a great sign.
In addition to the cycle lane changes, AT are also consulting on the street lighting. Traditional street lighting would require regular and ongoing tree maintenance and so they’re also considering using a catenary system – something they say could also be used for the annual Christmas lights further enhancing the street.
They are consulting on these changes with it open till 10 May.
Well done AT
Last week Auckland Transport made the latest round of changes to streets in advance of the construction works for the City Rail Link. As mentioned in my post the other day, these changes impact me quite a bit as my commute normally involves transferring between buses and trains at Britomart. Below are just a few personal observations I’ve made over the last few days and I’m keen to hear your experiences of the changes.
Train to Bus
For my trip to work I catch a train to Britomart and then transfer to the Northern Express. In the mornings, the NEX runs every 7-8 minutes and so every second bus is effectively on the same timetable pattern as the western line. Due to the timetabling of services, previously I usually arrived in town just a few minutes before the next NEX departure so a quick dash from the train platform to the bus and I was on my way again with minimal delay.
Now, instead of walking across the road outside of Britomart I now have to walk to Albert St and the timing difference means I just bus I would have previously caught is just pulling away from the stop. That’s a little frustrating but given the frequency it’s not a massive deal. This should also all change when the Western line gets a frequency bump in about two weeks so I suspect could see pretty much back to as they were – with a slightly minor and not terrible walk.
Given lower Albert St is where many buses will leave from post CRL, I don’t think the short walk is terrible – or at least it won’t be once the permanent lane through the Commercial Bay development is completed. It’s certainly not the disaster some like George Wood would have us believe
Bus to Train
My trip back to the city is generally a little varied. I’ll either catch a bus direct from Takapuna and then transfer to either a City Link or a NEX on Fanshawe St or I’ll go to Akoranga and catch a NEX from there. For the purposes of this I’m only referring to these services from about the Nelson St intersection towards Britomart.
City Link – Previously this used to travel down lower Hobson St then along Quay St before heading up Queen St. This part of the trip used to infuriate me as lower Hobson St and Quay St were often jammed up and it could sometimes take over 10 minutes to travel about 500m and the reason I’d transfer to a NEX if possible. The change to using Customs St West with a right turn into Queen St has been a fantastic change and it feels like it’s significantly sped up the service. The stop is just up from the Customs St intersection and even with a short walk from there to Britomart instead of being right outside, it is a much more pleasant journey.
Of course on Queen St also now has bus lanes and it was good to see AT out monitoring them the other day. Given how AT have acted in the past, I suspect they will start with an educational approach first.
NEX – I’ve had mixed results with the NEX so far. In the afternoon peak the downtown carpark can disgorge a lot of cars onto Customs St West who then want to loop around the block to get to Hobson St – presumably that’s faster/easier than using the dedicated ramp to Fanshawe St. In one experience the bus was held up from being able to turn left at Albert St for a set of lights or two as a line of cars in front of my full bus took their turn to do so. That plus the short walk to Britomart was just enough to see a western line train departing as I walked in the building. However in another experience there were only a few buses and we weren’t held up so I suspect it could be a bit of a hit and miss situation.
A few other related observations.
- Crossing lower Queen St outside Britomart was quite easy, sometimes a bus or two to dodge but fine so long as you were paying attention. Crossing lower Albert St is not the same as for one general traffic is allowed on it which they weren’t on Queen St. And because it’s open to cars and quite a wide road there are inevitably some idiots out behind the wheel trying to see how fast they can get to the next set of traffic lights.
- Of course crossing at the lights is always an option too and given the numbers of people who will now be getting off NEX services and probably heading southeast of the bus stop I wonder if AT should consider converting the Albert/Customs St intersection into a Barnes Dance like the intersections to the east of Albert St.
- By contrast to Albert St, the new/currently temporary space outside of Britomart has been a welcome improvement. Walking to/from the station and having more space without having to dodge buses is fantastic. I also like that AT are thinking about temporary activation of the area – such as this which was being painted the other day.
Overall the changes seem to have gone fairly smoothly and I haven’t seen any real issues with the changes either personally or on social media (not saying there haven’t been). I’ve also noticed that AT have had a lot of ambassadors around directing people who might need it to the new bus stops which is useful. So all up sounds like AT have been fairly successful here. Were you affected by the changes and if so what are your thoughts on them?
This is a Guest Post by David Shearer MP.
NB we welcome guest posts from anyone, all are judged on their individual merits and relevance. It is always good to hear what politicians of all flavours would like to see happen in our cities, especially when they are neither campaigning nor just complaining.
Western Springs through new eyes
MP David Shearer
Recent talk of a stadium on Auckland’s waterfront costing hundreds of millions is all very well, but how about seeing an old treasure through new eyes and planning for the future of Western Springs. With the amount of use the area gets, I can’t think of better bang for the ratepayer buck.
At the moment Western Springs is a collection of disparate elements – but it could be a beautifully-designed whole. It’s crying out for it. Think about what’s currently there:
The Auckland Zoo is in the middle of a $120million overhaul, projected to attract a million visitors per year within the decade – and it’s already pulling in 700,000.
MOTAT has new leadership, great ideas, 250,000 visitors a year and an abundance of prime land. It also has a bold architectural plan, conceived by the late Ian Athfield, awaiting funding and action.
There’s the speedway, the Western Springs soccer club, the Ponsonby Rugby Club, and the Auckland Performing Arts Centre (TAPAC) – each one a drawcard in its own right.
Add to that Pasifika, Auckland City Limits and other concerts, not to mention the thousands of families of all ethnicities who stroll around Western Springs Park on weekends, enjoying the special ecological features and Meola Creek.
Taken together, it’s a huge chunk of urban land, possibly the most-used in Auckland. Eden Park gets much more attention and has far fewer people using it.
As Auckland’s population increases, our open spaces will become increasingly more precious. Preparing for that means seeing and treating Western Springs as a destination.
Part of that is understanding the area as an ecological whole. To the west of Meola reef is a volcanic lava flow that extends right out into the harbour. In the other direction it extends across Meola Rd into Western Springs. Its waterways flow through to Chamberlain Park and beyond. Together, it’s a wide greenbelt, an environmental treasure that could do with the kind of design that will help Aucklanders really use and enjoy it from one end to the other.
I’m a fan of living bridges linking our green spaces. A cycle and pedestrian bridge across Meola Road could link these two parts. Another to cross the multiple road lanes of Great North Road and the North-western Motorway into Chamberlain Park would enable an uninterrupted ‘green ride’ through these landscapes.
Western Springs and environs showing potential locations for new cycle and walking links
At the moment, every big event within Western Springs needs a special transport plan. The place buzzes – yet it can be inconvenient and inefficient to get to resulting in congestion and parking chaos.
Surely it qualifies for smart modern infrastructure and transport. In the short term, at the very least, the Great North Rd bus route should be upgraded, with expanded timetables servicing Western Springs, the zoo and MOTAT.
The area is actually handy to trains, though at the moment you wouldn’t know it. Baldwin Ave Station is close and an improved pedestrian/bike route between Western Springs and the golf course would connect people to it and go a long way to addressing the access problems that now exist.
Meanwhile, the Zoo, MOTAT, TAPAC and other parts are currently atomised, focusing on their own individual development, simply because there’s no big-picture plan for them to work within. Could light rail help? What about a pedestrian/cycleway underpass at St Lukes? Could the vintage tram route be expanded to make the trams truly functional and useful?
Our waterways – like Meola Creek – have been taken for granted over decades, parts of them neglected and built-over, but they’re still there, waiting to be rediscovered and cherished by a new generation of Aucklanders.
The waterways are the living link between all these areas: Chamberlain Park, Western Springs and the Harbour. The water runs down from one of our precious maunga, Mt Owairaka to the sea.
I’d like to see urban designers grappling with these issues: pulling the disparate parts together into a modern, user-friendly precinct.
The natural environment is unique and should be preserved and enhanced: cycle ways, pedestrian paths, water flows and thoughtful, effective public transport.
The local communities, and the many using this space are passionate about it and should have a big say in the form of the design. That enthusiasm was able to save the Pohutukawa grove on Great North Road opposite MOTAT last year. It was a lesson in how well-loved the area is, and how invested locals rightly are in it. They are best insurance against lazy design.
With the City Rail Link on its way and a safe network of cycle lanes slowly taking shape, it feels like Auckland is growing up.
But perhaps – in reaching for more big, expensive projects – we’re at risk of overlooking some of the beauty that’s already here.
I think it’s time for Auckland’s planners to look at Western Springs with fresh eyes and deliver us a precinct that will be another jewel in Auckland’s crown.
Possible cycle and walking connections to Baldwin Ave Station. Existing NW cycleway in blue, Potential links across the golf course and bridge across SH16 and Gt Nth Rd, purple, and Linwood Ave and St Lukes Rd in red.
Postscript: The purple routes above are consistent with the masterplan the Albert Eden Local Board published recently, below, among other things these would improve the walk/ride potential for Western Springs College and Pasadena Intermediate enormously. The red route, which needs upgrading, is the obvious way to connect the train network to both the permanent attractions of MOTAT and events at the Park, although then the problem that AT/NZTA designed the new supersized St Lukes bridge with only half a thought for any user not in a vehicle then does come even more glaring than ever:
It doesn’t seem to take much to get residents along the Devonport Peninsula to quickly cursing Lake Rd and over the years I’ve seen many comments across all forms of media and politicians calling for the road to be upgraded as a priority – and by upgraded the implication is for it to be widened. One such example is below from a month ago.
But Devonport-Takapuna Local Board member Jan O’Connor said Belmont was not an apartment area.
Building that number of extra homes would have a major impact on the already congested Lake Rd, the only route in and out of the peninsula, O’Connor said.
“Our board has really opposed any redevelopment until the Lake Road issue is addressed,” she said.
“It’s been like this for many years, it’s not something that’s just cropped up.”
Local residents Lesley and Myles Opie said the old navy housing area was a “shambles” and needed upgrading, but over 300 new homes would create unmanageable traffic.
“It’s going to be a massive increase in cars,” Myles Opie said.
As an aside, the 300-350 homes Ngati Whatua plan to build would represent just a ~3.5% increase over what’s on the peninsula now. Compared to the levels of growth in many other parts of the city that’s a tiny change. There is also not a huge amount of growth allowed for within the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan.
Some other examples from a quick google search include this, this and this.
A lot of the commenters have also blamed the painted cycle lanes for causing congestion problems on Lake Rd even though the addition of lanes in the late 2000’s didn’t remove any vehicle lanes.
Those hoping for their own personal expressway up the peninsula are likely to be disappointed though if Auckland Transport’s plans for the corridor go ahead. They are about to start an Indicative Business Case to look at improvements along Lake Rd and that will build on the work already undertaken for the Corridor Management Plan which was completed in December 2014.
For some reason AT don’t publish their Corridor Management Plans (CMP) but they should be public in my view. However, the Lake Rd CMP was included in the agenda (27MB) for a meeting of the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board last month (unfortunately due to the way the document is uploaded the images are low quality and can be difficult to read). CMPs incorporate a wide range of factors to create a 30 year strategic management plan including what if any changes might be made.
The Lake Rd CMP area
My first thought is well done AT (and consultants), the vision is fantastic and exactly the kind of thinking that is needed across so much of our urban area. So what does the Lake Rd CMP say?
The network role of the corridor was determined through a workshop process with technical stakeholders drawn from Auckland Transport, Auckland Council and the NZ Transport Agency.
Cyclists and pedestrians have been identified as the highest priority along the entire length of the corridor given the existing popularity for cycling and walking for recreation and commuting purposes to work and schools, their potential for growth and strategic policies requiring their increased support.
Public Transport has been recognised also as a high priority along the northern half of Lake Road, given its future use as a frequent bus route and the ability for this mode to increase the person carrying capacity of the corridor. South of old Lake Road this priority drops back to low as this section of Lake Road services few buses (and no frequent route).
Traffic has been identified as medium priority along the length of the corridor. This level is not so much a reflection of existing or future demand, but rather a strategic choice to provide greater focus and support for active modes and public transport to maximise the people moving capacity of the corridor.
Freight is generally identified as low priority as there are comparative minor levels of industrial and commercial activity along the peninsula.
I’ll cover the modes a little more shortly but first here are some demand forecasts for the peninsula over 30 years.
Population and employment growth are far lower on than for the rest of Auckland. According to Stats NZ there are about 27,000 on the peninsula and there is expected to be less than 10% growth over 30 years.
PT and Active modes are also expected to grow at a much faster rate than general traffic – although they start from lower levels.
Here are the strategies for each mode.
They say “a significant proportion of the land is relatively flat and with a well-connected grid of side streets in comparison to many other parts of Auckland” and that there are a wide range of destinations that are often in a short proximity to each other and so highly walkable. The plan includes increasing the frequency and quality of crossing opportunities, widened footpaths where there are current deficiencies, removal of shared paths where separated cycle-lanes can be installed and improved amenity elements (tree planting etc.)
AT have recognised that the painted cycle lanes are not great for many people who may want to bike such as those less confident on the road and children. They are proposing to substantially improve them including separating them from traffic where possible.
Public transport will be improved through high quality, better spaced and located stops and transit lanes where possible. While not part of the Lake Rd CMP, the map includes a potential bus bridge across Upper Shoal Bay connecting Akoranga to Takapuna which comes from a previous study into transport for Takapuna but they say would be relevant for the Lake Rd CMP.
General Traffic, freight and parking:
Due to the focus on active and PT modes there is very little suggested to change conditions for general traffic. They say that a substantial upgrade to traffic capacity such as four laning the section between Jutland Road and Bayswater Ave is unlikely to be appropriate, citing the high cost relative to benefits as well as the impacts on other modes and urban amenity.
Lake Rd already has low levels of on street parking. The CMP says it recommends retaining parking on the street through the Belmont local centre to “provide support to the economic viability and success of this local centre” but also say the design needs to be balanced with the objective of achieving continuous cycle lanes through Belmont shops junction.
Urban Design amenity and place-making:
They say that while some parts of Lake Rd have retained their heritage landscape qualities, the rest of Lake Rd would benefit from regular street tree planting although that needs to avoid compromising the footpath width. They also say it would bring a number of benefits transport-wise such as visually narrowing the street corridor, thereby slowing traffic and providing a buffering for footpaths and potentially cycle lanes from moving traffic. Trees would also enhance residential property values and the local centre functions at Hauraki corner and Belmont Shops.
The CMP divides up Lake Rd into six distinctive segments each with its own strategy. The preferred spatial allocations for each segment are also shown.
Segment A – Esmonde Rd to Jutland Rd
Segment B – Jutland Rd to Bayswater Ave
Segment C – Bayswater Ave to old Lake Rd
Segment D – Old Lake Rd to Seabreeze Rd
Segment E – Seabreeze Rd to Ariho Tce
Segment F – Ariho Tce to Albert Rd
Sections B-D are all essentially the same and an potential alternative version for them is below. The CMP says this would have greater benefits for walkers and cyclists plus urban amenity but would also likely have higher costs due to requiring kerbs, drainage and other utilities to be moved.
At the Belmont shops the CMP gives two potential plans for how to improve either bikes or buses. Both would see the slip lanes removed and the angle parking on the eastern side of the road replaced by parallel parking. The differences between the two are both south of Bayswater Ave, one having a transit lane with a shared path and one having a single lane with a protected cycle lane.
Overall the CMP looks great and would really help in turning Lake Rd into a complete St that catered for everyone.
As mentioned AT are about to start an indicative business case which will build on the CMP. This week the local board will decide on its feedback on the scope for it, the main components of which are listed as:
- assessment of potential transit lanes to improve people-carrying capacity of Lake Road;
- assessment of better pedestrian and cycle facilities within the peninsula to encourage more short trips by foot or bike;
- analysis of intersection improvements to optimise traffic flows within the peninsula; and
- analysis on travel behaviour change opportunities, to reduce and better manage bulk movements within the peninsula.
Given there’s so much else that needs to be done around the region, much of it in areas with far higher growth I’m not sure of the priority of upgrading Lake Rd but at least the thinking on what would be done is heading in the right direction, perhaps just not quite the direction some locals might expect.
Good morning and welcome back to Sunday Reading. Here are a bunch of links I found interesting over the last week. Please share your own links and thoughts in the comments below.
Edward Humes, “The Absurd Primacy of the Automobile in American Life“, CityLab. This was a widely shared, fact-filled polemic about the use of the car for transportation.
Then there is the matter of climate. Transportation is a principal cause of the global climate crisis, exacerbated by a stubborn attachment to archaic, wasteful, and inefficient transportation modes and machines. But are cars the true culprit? Airplanes, for instance, are often singled out as the most carbon-intensive form of travel in terms of emissions per passenger-mile (or per ton of cargo), but that’s not the whole story: Total passenger miles by air are miniscule compared to cars. In any given year, 60 percent of American adults never set foot on an airplane, and the vast majority who do fly take only one round trip a year. Unfortunately, air travel is not the primary problem, contributing only 8 percent of U.S. transportation-related greenhouse gases. Cars and trucks, by contrast, pump out a combined 83 percent of transportation carbon.
Adele Peters, “Paris Is Redesigning Its Major Intersections For Pedestrians, Not Cars“, Fast Co Exist. Paris, like many European big cities continues to wind back the dominance of cars on city streets with car-free days and a now a major reallocation of street space (image above).
Each of the new designs give pedestrians at least 50% of the space in the square, taking away lanes of traffic even though each of the streets is a major route in the city. At the Place de la Bastille, the square will reconnect with a curb on one side, creating a new green space for people to sit. At the Place de la Madeleine, trees will mark off more pedestrian space and a new weekly market will be added.
Zach Shaner, “Driving for Urbanists – 15 Do’s and Don’ts“, Seattle Transit Blog. As someone who rarely drives and occasionally gets in the wrong side of the car and switches the wiper blades on when indicating, this advice is spot on. I particularly like the “don’t honk your horn” rule.
14: Don’t look at your phone, period. Turn off the ringer and stash it in the glove box until you turn off the car. It can wait. Drive simple cars with the least amount of distracting tech. If you need to stay connected during your travel time, there’s this great thing called transit that allows you to browse and tap and text to your heart’s content.
From the “Free Range Kids” advocate Lenore Skenazy and traffic guru Sam Schwartz here’s an explanation for why the kids aren’t driving like they used to- “Forget the car: Young adults are opting to use their feet“, New York Post.
Call it the Back-Seat Rebellion. Helicoptered kids who spent their childhoods ferried from school to playdate to soccer are now young men and women voting with their feet . . . by using them. They are so sick of cars, they can’t abandon them fast enough.
But one other reason young people aren’t driving as much is that they’ve already been driven enough for a lifetime. What holds allure is not driving — experiencing the fun and freedom they missed out on as micromanaged kids who never got to walk to school or ride their bikes till the streetlights came on.
Queen Street at Greys Avenue (Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1-W1356)
Joe Cortright provides a nice recap of recent research on the influence of neighbourhoods on providing an environment for adult economic success. “Why mixed-income neighbourhoods matter: Lifting kids out of poverty“, Strong Towns.
There’s a hopeful new sign that how we build our cities, and specifically, how good a job we do of building mixed income neighborhoods that are open to everyone can play a key role in reducing poverty and promoting equity. New research shows that neighborhood effects—the impact of peers, the local environment, neighbors—contribute significantly to success later in life. Poor kids who grow up in more mixed income neighborhoods have better lifetime economic results. This signals that an important strategy for addressing poverty is building cities where mixed income neighborhoods are the norm, rather than the exception.
Barbara Eldredge, “This German Affordable Homebuilding Plan Be a Model for the U.S.?”, Curbed. Baugruppe is a development model where a group of people come together to build collectively. This model removes the developer and other costs. This model is used in Germany where it can save up to 25% on the overall costs. I hear there are similar groups already working in Auckland.
Imagine getting your friends together, pooling your money, and building a rad apartment building tailored precisely to your needs. Units would come in different sizes and configurations, depending on what each family wants, and shared community spaces, such as a library or indoor garden, could also be added to the floorplan, depending on the group’s interests.
“Here in Seattle, we want a bike-only, car-free, net-zero Baugruppe with a bike shop in the building,” Eliason told Curbed. “You’re not going to find a developer anywhere in the U.S. who will built that.”
Sarah Mikhitarian, “Less You and Me, More We: How Land-Use Regulation Impacts Inventory, Rents and Roommates“, Zillow. Zillow the on-line real estate and analytics company sifts through its data and compares it to an index of land use restrictiveness (Wharton). The relationship of land use regulation on rents, housing stock, and household composition is interesting, if not surprising.
More tightly regulated land use in these cities is associated with more rapidly rising rents, more acute shortages of homes for sale and more adults living with roommates in the face of rising housing costs and fewer housing options.
While a number of factors impact growth in rents and the number of homes for sale in a given market, local housing and land-use regulation are inextricably linked to a city’s ability to ensure it has enough housing to meet demand.
The YIMBY movement is growing stronger around the world. There is a conference in Bolder, Colorado in June. Here is a great profile of Sonja Trauss the head of SF Bay Area’s Renter’s Federation (BARF). Conor Dougherty, “In Cramped and Costly Bay Area, Cries to Build, Baby, Build“. The New York Times.
Across the country, a reversal in urban flight has ignited debates over gentrification, wealth, generational change and the definition of the modern city. It’s a familiar battle in suburbs, where not-in-my-backyard homeowners are an American archetype.
In San Francisco, though, things get weird. Here the tech boom is clashing with tough development laws and resentment from established residents who want to choke off growth to prevent further change.
Ms. Trauss is the result: a new generation of activist whose pro-market bent is the opposite of the San Francisco stereotypes — the lefties, the aging hippies and tolerance all around.
Ms. Trauss’s cause, more or less, is to make life easier for real estate developers by rolling back zoning regulations and environmental rules. Her opponents are a generally older group of progressives who worry that an influx of corporate techies is turning a city that nurtured the Beat Generation into a gilded resort for the rich.
The City Rail Link gets a step closer tomorrow as the next round of changes for the city centre kick in as work ramps up to the start of construction.
The biggest changes will see all of the bus stops around Britomart move.
Changes are coming to bus services in downtown Auckland from this Sunday 17 April.
Construction work is about to start on the City Rail Link (CRL) and this affects bus services on Albert St and lower Queen St in particular.
AT Metro Bus Services Manager, Brendon Main says Auckland Transport is moving bus stops now to minimise disruption to passengers.
“Some parts of the downtown area are being closed off so we are have to move some buses. On our website we have set-up an interactive map which will help people find if their service is affected and where it departs from.”
Auckland Transport also has signs at bus stops in the area and will have ambassadors at stops to help customers.
Mr Main says Auckland Transport wants to make it as easy as possible for passengers but this is a big change and will need some patience.
“The CRL is the biggest construction programme ever in the central city so there will be some disruption during the construction phase. At the same time there is a lot of building work going on in Albert St so the buses will have to work around this.
“All we can ask is that people follow the signage and talk to ambassadors so that we can make this as easy as possible for our customers.”
The changes to routes and stops are shown below
There are a few other changes to such as to the 020/005 and 991x/992x routes. There is also an interactive map showing where stops are moving from/to.
I’m sure there is bound to be some confusion and teething issues while these changes bed in so I won’t be surprised to hear about issues come Monday morning but hopefully the issues will be minor.
Perhaps somewhat ironically (or depending on your view perhaps appropriately), as one of the biggest supporters of the CRL I’m also one of the most impacted by these changes. I work in Takapuna and pass through the city to get there. The first round of changes back in October last year removed direct buses to Takapuna from near Britomart resulting in me requiring an additional transfer to get to/from work and now buses from Britomart will be a little further away. But as frustrating as it can be at times, I’m also acutely aware of just how important and transformation the CRL will be.
In addition to bus stop changes, also going live tomorrow are (finally) bus lanes on Queen St which turned green 1-2 days ago.
Other recent changes include the closure of the underpass at Britomart which needs to be removed so the CRL tunnels can be built. It’s not being reinstated as after the CRL is finished the space outside the station will be a public plaza so there will be no buses to dodge.
I’m looking forward to the actual construction work starting. I’m not sure just yet of the exact date but I believe it is likely to be within the next month or so. I believe the demolition of the Downtown Shopping mall starts early June.
Combined with all of the other work going on in the city it’s certainly a busy time.
Wayfinding is an important part in helping people navigate cities and something Auckland hasn’t been particularly good at in the past. Auckland Transport is leading a project across the council family to try and improve that and come up with a region-wide signage solution. They list the benefits as
A consistent signage system will:
- Make it easier for locals and visitors to explore Auckland.
- Give Auckland’s signage a consistent and modern look, supporting our aspiration to make Auckland the world’s most liveable city.
- Help promote active travel and healthy lifestyles.
AT are or will be soon trialling the proposed new signage in four locations across Auckland and are seeking feedback from the public on it. Here are the locations:
- Grafton Gully cycleway (will be installed by the middle of the year)
- Wynyard Quarter (being installed now)
- New Lynn (this includes Avondale and Fruitvale Rd train stations)
- Northcote shopping centre
I’ve seen some of the signage at the train stations but only from a passing train and so haven’t had an opportunity to study it up close. Even from a distance though, I’ve been pleased with some of the changes at the train stations, for example the inclusion of a line map showing only what stations are left.
Below are some images provided by the team working on this project.
If you want to make a submission, they are open till April 29. There will also be two open day type events.
- Thur 14 April 2 – 4pm – Outside the New Lynn Public Library in Memorial Square
- Wed 27 April 10 – 12pm – Outside Viaduct Events Centre, Karanga Plaza
Street signs have had a varied history in recent years. The legacy councils all had their own designs. The 37% of streets covered by Auckland City, Franklin and Papakura councils all used blue signs while the remaining 63% of streets covered by Manukau, North Shore, Rodney and Waitakere all used green signs.
In October 2013 green signs started appearing on some streets of the old Auckland City Council, something AT said was caused by a contractor making a mistake. They also said they would make a formal decision in mid 2014 on what colour to use. Then just a month later they announced all signs would go green as they were replaced as part of normal maintenance.
But yesterday he disclosed that an “executive” decision was made on October 25 to go all green – although by gradual process. “It will be done slowly and over many years with no additional cost to ratepayers.
“When a blue sign reaches the end of its useful life – for instance due to vandalism, fading, rusting – it will be replaced by a green sign.” He said 63 per cent of the city’s signs were already green.
I recall at the time some residents from suburbs near the city aghast that the blue would be changed out.
Last year as part of the Dominion Rd Parallel Cycle Routes project, AT conducted a trial of a new design but many complained they were difficult to read. The signs used a dark blue background
New signs peppering streets around Auckland’s Dominion Rd may have to be “re-skinned” to make them easier for motorists to read, the city’s transport authority admits.
Auckland Transport said yesterday that some drivers had complained lettering on the dark blue “way-finding” signs is not large enough for them to make out.
“Initial feedback is that the typeface … is too small, particularly if you are driving,” said marketing general manager Mike Loftus. “This is certainly something we will be reviewing.”
Based on the image above and on AT’s website it seems we’re now back to a lighter blue with the darker signs used for PT and walking/cycling. I wonder how many more times AT will change their mind about the colour?
One of best things Auckland is getting as a result of the great upgrade that is the City Rail Link is, at last, a proper urban public square in precisely the right place. The section of Lower Queen St in front of the grand old CPO that is now the Britomart train station, once void of all vehicles, will become the most important bit of paving in the city. Or at least it certainly has the potential to become the symbolic and functional starting point of the whole city: Not only will every protest or celebration will start or end there it is also where the city conceptually starts, down on the water’s edge. And out in front of a well used big public building that looks and feels enough like a northern european Rathaus, Italian Palazzo Publico, or north american City Hall, that relates to this public space way more successfully than our actual Town Hall ever has. That grand old ship of a building has always been rather closed off and remote, wedged up the hill too far from shore, with its entrance on the wrong side for the subsequently added public space.
Additionally it is certain to be full of people; they are delivered here everyday in ever increasing numbers by train, bus, and ferry. And in the 21st Century, I argue, the big Transit Centre is really the where the public interface with both each other and engage physically with local government in the way populations used to at Town Halls and big Post Offices. Those bureaucratic functions of city and state more usually take place online now, so the only routine way we collectively share that kind of interface is at the central station.
In fact I’ll go so far as to say that the new space, will it be know as Britomart Square?, will in fact help redeem the always awkward carpark roof that is Aotea Square, by giving it a balancing other self. These two places will act like the alpha and omega of the heart of Queen St, forming a shape like the cartoon drawing of a dog’s bone, or weights on a bar: in turn making this difficult-to-love gully floor into a more contained and bounded city spine. This, the flatter section of Queen St, will at last have somewhere to be from and to. Of course the redemption of Queen St also requires the painfully obvious removal of pointlessly circling lost private vehicles, a task that all our elected leaders and city apparatchiks have thus far failed to achieve, to the on going bewilderment of everyone. But I digress.
Now that Auckland is re-discovering the value of the urban public realm and is starting to reverse the decades of the ‘public squalor and private affluence’ philosophy imported from the US last century, a change that replacement of the dreadful and menacing downtown bus centre and carpark with the gleaming Britomart Train Station perfectly illustrates, it matters enormously how well this new public space is formed.
So here is the plan in its latest publicly released form. I am hearing rumours that the use of Galway and Tyler Sts for buses with them then entering the new public square as shown above may no longer be the plan; we can only hope that this is case. So apart from removing all [or almost all] vehicle traffic from lower Queen St the new public space is formed by the sale of the existing QEII Square to Precinct Properties who plan to rebuild the western street edge up to three stories [19m], as shown in the render below.
With a promised kink to the current line of the old Air NZ building, now the HSBC building, being the only relief in the line of new glazed shop fronts facing and defining the Square’s western edge.
The plan above identifies some waterside options [A, B, + C] for new public space that the Council is exploring to replace the loss of QEII square. Improvement and increase to these areas would all be welcome, and of course we’ve already paid a fortune to buy Queen’s wharf from ourselves, yet none are really urban civic public spaces like the piazza being promised here. Lower Queen St, D, was always public space, like every road. And in fact has been a people space [ie without traffic] at various times in the past:
This is a condition I can remember and was about as successful as the dreary and shaded QEII Square it connected to, but at least the unbuilt expanse of QEII Square meant in the afternoon once the shadow of the then Air NZ building moved onto Quay St it was sunny and bright.
Architect and urbanist Graeme Scott, Chair of the Urban Design Forum, fears we could be making another sub-optimal public place here with this current plan but also believes that with a relatively minor hack the potential shortcomings could be substantially improved. In his submission to the Private Plan modification to rezone QEII Square last November he writes:
So rather than the ‘pedestrianised street’ as proposed in the Council and Precinct deal an actual Square in shape, and critically one that doesn’t increase the shading problems already caused by the HSBC building, this is achieved by restricting the new building on the downtown site back to the line of the current HSCB building:
Where #21 is the existing Zurich House #1 is the HSBC, blue shading is the part to be built on by Precinct. Scott also feels the lane through to Albert St [Pink ] is too narrow on current plans so here it is shown at a 12m width. The resultant new public space [Green] is both less shaded and more complex and offering a section of north facing wall backing on to Zurich House which will be especially valuable in the morning and less susceptible to wind coming down Queen St.
This of course means less gross floor area for Precinct to use to get a return on their development and no doubt a renegotiation of the deal agreed to by Council last year would be required. But on this issue, without getting into specifics Scott says:
I find Scott’s arguments compelling.
First that it is very important we work hard to get this place right. I understand that the pressure to conclude a deal with Precinct over this site must have been furious, but now that the dust has settled I think it is time to take another look at the options and most importantly the public realm outcomes here. The plan change process is not complete, so while I’m sure the desire, especially by Precinct, to move forward as currently planned is no doubt strong, the public interest must be protected too, because, as Scott says, once it’s gone; it’s gone.
Second, his solution is looks both powerful and subtle; the essence of the deal remains, but the outcome is substantially improved for everyone.
*****Update: a couple of additional images showing the bulk of the scheme as currently planned  and the variation proposed by Graeme Scott :
1. Bulk of the current scheme
2. Bulk of the Scott scheme