In this recent post Matt asked why we were still building dangerous intersections. One part of his post caught my eye, specifically proposed changes to the intersection of SH1 and SH26 in the Waikato. The location of this intersection is shown below.
You can see that the intersection exists firmly within the Hamilton urban area. Moreover, I understand the area to the east is planned for residential growth in the future. I.e. there will be more and more residential development to the east.
The reason this caught my eye is because the proposed changes, in my opinion, seem likely to result in a horrific clusterfuck of an intersection that will, at a minimum, destroy urban amenity and, potentially, result in pedestrian carnage. In my opinion, this roundabout design is completely inappropriate for an urban area. And unlike NZTA I don’t agree t hat potential delays to vehicles are sufficient reason to provide wholly unsatisfactory facilities for pedestrians. Facilities that are so lacking that they seem likely to increase the risk of injuries to pedestrians who need to cross at this intersection.
The proposed changes are illustrated below.
Now I should mention that the NZTA press release for the changes mentions an additional pedestrian crossing is to be located on SH26 to the east, which I presume (although can’t be sure) is beyond the extent of works shown above. The press release also noted the presence of a pedestrian underpass on SH1 to the south, which is being retained in the new design.
What NZTA are proposing for the southern and eastern approaches to the roundabout is relatively poor practice and ill-suited to an urban area such as this.
But perhaps most importantly, the proposed pedestrian facilities don’t seem to address what happens on the western approach to the roundabout. As anyone can easily see from StreetView below, NZTA’s beautiful junkspace landscaping is *already* being severely trampled beneath the feet of hapless pedestrians as they scamper across the existing road. QED there’s an existing problem that needs to be resolved, not ignored as the proposed design has done.
Anyway, I was sufficiently motivated by this proposal to start digging for more information.
The background study for these intersection changes was completed in 2008. Given that it’s now almost 8 years since the study was completed, I thought I’d go and look at traffic volumes since that time. In the figure below I’ve totalled the AADT on the two closest counts on SH1 and SH26 over time (NB: This will double-count many vehicles, which is why the total AADT shown here is significantly higher than the figure of 37,000 vehicles per day using the intersection that is quoted in the NZTA in their press release. Nonetheless it’s likely to be broadly indicative of general trends in AADT).
The volumes bobble around a bit, although current AADT is about 3% below the level achieved in 2008, i.e. the time that the report supporting the proposed changes was developed. Is it reasonable to assume that vehicle volumes will increase or decrease from here?
Well, there’s some growth out this way so it’s plausible to suggest there may be more demand. On the other hand, there’s one major question that I’m not confident is addressed by the studies associated with this upgrade: The Waikato Expressway, specifically the Hamilton section.
For those who aren’t familiar with this project, it’s part of the RoNS programme.
While I’m no fan of the RoNS programme per se, if these projects are to go ahead then I would at least expect NZTA to maximise their potential benefits, especially with regards to re-configuring parallel routes to support more livable urban places. In this context, the Hamilton section of the Waikato Expressway is high-speed, high-capacity route that seems likely to shift vehicles away from the existing SH1 and away from this roundabout. Construction of the Hamilton section is expected to start in 2016 with a target opening date of 2019.
I note that the NZTA website states that the Hamilton section of the expressway will:
- Connect the Ngaruawahia section of the Expressway, completed in late 2013, to the Cambridge section, due for completion in late 2016.
- Reduce traffic congestion and improve safety on Hamilton’s local road network by significantly reducing through traffic.”
And yet NZTA’s proposed changes to the SH1 and SH26 intersection (which appear to have been formulated prior to the RoN being confirmed) are designed to increase capacity.
One has to wonder why the NZ Transport Agency is spending $2 million to create a situation that is more dangerous for pedestrians than the present one, while at the same time spending the best part of half a billion dollars building a high-speed bypass around the same intersection.
Call me a simpleton if you will but I would have thought the more logical sequence of actions would be:
- Complete the Hamilton section of the Waikato Expressway in the next 3 years as planned; and
- Monitor changes to vehicle volumes in response to growth (which apparently is quite low at the moment) and expressway; and
- Develop options for the intersection which respond to these changes, but which are also appropriate for an urban area.
In terms of #3, this really brings us full circle. I cannot understand why NZTA would think the proposed design is appropriate for an urban area. I can tell you that in my opinion it’s most certainly not. While I’ll reserve my full and final judgment until I have more detailed information to consider, the proposed intersection seems to compromise pedestrian safety to a level bordering on negligence.
I know that’s a big call so let me present some reasons why:
- The design does not seem to meet the present need for a pedestrian crossing on the westbound SH1 approach, e.g. to access the adjacent school. There is already demand for this pedestrian movement, as we can see from StreetView. This demand will only increase as the area develops in the future.
- The approaches are wider than the current facility. The western approach on SH1 , for example, is three lanes wide. This will increase the distance pedestrians will have to cross before they reach the landscaped sliver of land in the middle of the road.
- The design incorporates features that seem likely to increase vehicle speeds. The western approach on SH1, for example, now includes what is effectively a “slip lane” for vehicles travelling through. This features will enable/encourage vehicles to maintain their speed on their approach to (and exit from) the intersection. This will increase risks to pedestrians who (legitimately) need to cross the western approach, and the severity of accidents.
I draw two *preliminary* conclusions from all this. First, the proposed changes to the intersection is unacceptably dangerous for pedestrians and should not proceed as designed. Second, the proposed intersection has been designed without consideration of the Waikato Expressway and thus are likely to represent poor value for money and low strategic fit.
I’d really like to know what others think: Am I mis-reading the situation here? Or is it as bad as it looks? An outdated and seemingly dangerous design being imposed on what is very much an urban area, just prior to a major expressway bypass opens? What is going on?
The AT board meet today and as I do every month, I’ve gone through the papers to pull out anything I’ve found new or interesting.
First up the closed session which normally contains the most interesting papers and for which we only see the agenda. In the items for Approval/Decision we have
- AIFS Contract – I assume this will be the contract to develop integrated fares.
- Draft SOI – This is AT’s Statement of Intent which is basically what they say they will achieve for the next year and it needs to be signed off by the council. It will be interesting to see just what targets are set for areas like Public Transport as last year they lowered them but have now significantly exceeded most of them.
- AMETI NoR – I guess this means we’ll soon see the Notice of Requirement for the Panmure to Pakuranga busway.
- Rail Operators Contract Commercial Framework
- Light Rail – timing implications
- Advertising Media Services Agreement
In the regular business report we have
Walking and Cycling
- The hearing for the Notice of Requirement for the Waterview shared path has taken place and AT have provided additional information to the commissioners hearing it. Presumably they should have approval fairly soon.
- They expect to award the contract for the construction of first stage of the Glen Innes to Tamaki Dr cycleway between Merton Rd and St John Rd in June.
- The contract to construct the Nelson St cycleway is expected to be announced by the end of this month with construction starting in July.
- At Carlton Gore Rd they say the majority of works will be completed by late June with lighting being finished in July.
Devonport Marine Square – The improvements should be finished by June and they say AT and Council are currently planning opening events tentatively scheduled for 5 and 7 June.
Otahuhu Bus-Train Interchange – AT say the detailed design is nearly finished however they say the delay in confirming funding (was reliant on the council providing more in the Long Term Plan) has pushed out completion to May/June next year and that will impact on the roll out of the new network in the South.
Electric Trains – At the time of writing the report there were 51 in Auckland with 46 having provisional acceptance and 36 in operational service. They say the final three vehicles are due to be shipped from Spain in Mid-June. Additional weekday services from Papakura will begin 8 June. They are still targeting the end of July for full introduction of EMUs which is a few months earlier than earlier plans. They are also looking at adding onboard digital information and advertising screens to add to the EMUs.
Newmarket Crossing (Sarawia St) – AT say they are progressing the project and will be seeking approval to lodge a notice of requirement in early July.
Parnell Station – Works are continuing on the station platforms as can regular train users along this section may have noticed. AT say it is likely the old Newmarket Station Building will be brought to Parnell and refurbished by the end of this year.
Bus – Negotiations have been completed with Ritchies to buy 18 double decker buses to use on the Northern Express. NZ Bus will also buy 23 double deckers to use on the 881 and Mt Eden Rd services subject to formal signoff and NZTA agreement. They say the single deck buses freed up will be used to respond to capacity limitations elsewhere on the network.
Parking – AT say they’ve started a communication programme to a variety of stakeholders to outline the details of the new Parking Strategy that they were seeking feedback on last year. They also say occupancy at off-street parking facilities is over target occupancy levels so they are reviewing pricing and they expect to implement any changes in July.
Lastly a separate paper covers off Auckland Transport’s presentation to the Council’s Finance and Performance Committee. Much of it isn’t going to be new to regular readers however there are a couple of slides that address the issue of where money is being spent. They include a series to bust some of the common myths that have come up over transport spending and one in particular addresses the question of whether the plans are too City Centric. I think it’s good that AT are actively trying to ensure the right information is out there and suggest they probably need to do it to the wider public too.
Last night the first official Auckland Bike Rave was held (the earlier one was just a trial). It had been delayed a week after rain the week before and thankfully the weather held out this time. Around 300 people young and old turned up for the event which started in Mission Bay and made its way to the Harbour Bridge – with a detour around the Viaduct due to the Wynyard bridge being closed due to maintenance. A number of bikes also had trailers to carry speakers to add to the atmosphere.
Overall it was a fantastic event and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves and it seems so too did those we passed. On the way there were a lot of toots and cheers from passing cars. Through the city there were lots of smiles as people enjoyed the site lots of lots of bikes decked out in colourful lights and many in costumes. I happened to be wearing a suit and one of my favourite comments from someone not on a bike was “How can you ride a bike in a suit”. In many ways it highlights that one of the issues we have is that cycling is seen by many as an activity only undertaken by those wearing Lycra and doing long rides.
One of the bikes decked out in colour
One of the most impressive bikes was probably that ridden by our friend Niko made a large scorpion like contraption to hold up a disco ball.
Here’s a video I made of all riders passing by along Tamaki Dr. In real time it took about 7 minutes for everyone to pass by across the three waves of people.
There are some more photos on twitter and facebook. If you have some photos or videos please chuck them or links to them in the comments below. Overall it was a great event and one day it would be great to be able to continue on over the harbour bridge thanks to Skypath.
Lastly I’d like to a huge thanks to those who organised the event. A lot of time and effort goes in to planning events like this not to mention wrangling 300 people. Also thanks to the sponsors Lescykill
p.s. the next event will be some time after winter.
This is a Guest post by Wellington Architect Guy Marriage
Wellingtonians get a hard press in the Auckland papers sometimes, but last Thursday we thoroughly deserved it. We are normally a fairly resilient lot, and put up with more than our fair share of howling wind and torrential rain at times, but regularly battle through with trains and buses all performing admirably. Even our regular rush hour traffic jams only just live up to their name, and are normally well over within the hour. We know about Auckland’s horrific traffic, and sympathies, we really do. But last Thursday, we suffered a total melt-down, and for a supposedly heavily resilient city, that was a pretty big fall from grace. So what happened?
As you may have heard, broadcast all over the evening news, we had a bit of excess rain. About 8 times more rain in an hour than we get in a month, or some such unbelievably wet statistic like that. And then the big wet went on and on, and eventually we had some slips, where our glorious hills decided they didn’t want to be vertical any more, and so they poured out over the flat bits along the edge of the water. Unfortunately for Wellington, all of our escape routes out of the city run along the same flat stretch of road to the Hutt, and so a small slip on the Hutt Road blocked off a route north along State Highway 2, diverting all the SH2 traffic to SH1. Doubly unfortunate really, because on the other side of the hills, SH1 was also blocked off, and that meant they had to send all the traffic back to SH2, over SH58. There is only one other road, the Paekakariki Hill Road, which is narrow and windy, and is frequently blocked by slips anyway, so inevitably that blocked up too. No way in, no way out. The capital was blocked off from the rest of New Zealand. Did you miss us?
The road was therefore bumper to bumper traffic jam from Wellington all the way to Porirua, and also at a standstill over the hills back to the Hutt Valley on the other side. If you’re not from Wellington, then none of that will make sense, and the nearest I can give you as an example is if the Harbour Bridge was closed, and the NorthWestern motorway was closed as well, and all the traffic between Manukau and Auckland was diverted via Puhoi, and then all the cars stopped moving. Yes, exactly, a stuff-up in traffic terms of monumental proportions, one considerably worse than the average Friday night jam in Auckland, and we will inevitably face calls for yet more roads to be built, just in case this happens again.
But wait, there’s more. Surely none of those road closures matter, as Wellington is the most public-transport oriented city in the nation, is it not? Well, yes, but on Thursday even that let us down as well. Every single train to every single destination was cut, and the central Wellington Railway Station was closed down. That’s a station that normally is about 3 times busier than Britomart, and we have shiny new trains too for the most part. But that accursed rain had deluged rocks and washed out gravel over every set of tracks. Replacement buses normally suffice when there is a traffic setback, but with all the roads and all the rail out, there was no way that the few remaining charter buses could keep up with the demand. The city actually took the unheard of step of telling all commuters from out of town to stay in town, spend the night with friends, to rent a room or borrow a couch, and give up entirely on moving anywhere. I’m not sure if that has happened to any city in living memory before, outside of a war zone. Even when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, or when Super-Storm Sandy hit New York, they were still able to move people in and out of the city. But not Wellington, not last week. The only methods of transport still working were the planes (if you wanted to fly to Auckland and drive back down to Upper Hutt) and the ferries, which gave you a choice of sailing through the storm to Picton, or in a much smaller ferry, riding the waves up to Petone beach. Except of course that Petone beach has a damaged pier, and one of the small East-West Ferry boats was out of action, so that left just one small catamaran sailing back and forth to Petone all evening. I was fully expecting my floor to be full of refugees from the storm, but it was, miraculously, fugee-free.
Not that it really made the slightest bit of difference to Wellingtonians however. Within the city itself, there was a fair bit of wetness, more than usual, but nothing was broken. Everything still worked, everyone got home. Buses still ran, taxis still taxied, and cyclist continued to ride on their non-existent cycle network. We haven’t got a cycle network yet, because some pathetic councillors went feral, and have slowed everything down for reasons known only to themselves. We are, it seems, the only city in New Zealand with a pro-Green, fervently cycling Mayor, and yet we have not a single functioning separated cycle lane anywhere of any use on any major traffic route, which seems just a little bit odd. While the usual dips and hollows were fuller of water than usual, it seemed to me that the city performed admirably well, and lived up to its resilient reputation. You could have even thrown in a moderate earthquake or two, and the city would have shrugged them off as well, due to the steady stream of strengthening projects that have been going on. We’re a city that is like a brand new iPhone 6, already with a sturdy waterproof, shockproof rubber case on, and you could drop us from the upstairs balcony and we wouldn’t break, at least not completely. But we might bend a little if you sat on us.
But what this points to is that while Wellington City might be tough enough in parts, its the Regional Council and NZTA that were shown up as monumentally unprepared for disaster. I think we have just seen the biggest case for abolition of the Regional Council, right there. What if it had been a real, serious disaster, not just a few hours of torrential rain? The Civil Defence motto down here is “Get Through.” Clearly, that is not something that we yet can do.
NZTA have started work on the billion dollar highway known as Transmission Gully, an ironic name as they could only start work there when they had removed all the transmission lines, in case they fell over while they were digging out the gully road. One day, after an inevitable cost inflation to (probably) nearly two billion dollars, there will be a new road north, two lanes each way, all the way, and a new Petone to Granada link road – and you know what? If both of those roads had been built already, those other traffic snafu may well have happened just the same. The Petone to Grenada route will have to involve the moving / removal of some eight million cubic metres of rock, which won’t be an easy task. The Transmission Gully route still relies on sending all the traffic along the waterfront and up the Ngauranga Gorge, both of which were heavily affected by last week’s rain, with several small slips/rockfalls and a lane taken out of action in the Gorge. Transmission Gully is also sitting firmly on an earthquake fault line and highly susceptible to slips as well, so there is a lot of work to be done securing hillsides before that route will ever be “safe”. We need NZTA to try a whole lot harder to battle-harden the existing network and we need Kiwirail and GWRC to make sure that public transport is a whole lot more resilient down here.
This is a guest post from Donna Wynd
As a social scientist, I often look at transport ‘solutions’ and find my eyes rolling to the back of my head. Transport is a sector dominated by men who are, predominantly, trained to see transport as an engineering or technology problem. Engineers in particular are trained to solve problems: toasters, particle colliders, milking machines are all solutions to specific problems. Traffic flow is no more or less a problem than reheating lasagne.
Engineering solutions tend to focus on the here and now whereas the social and environmental impact of transport networks and infrastructure stretch across space and time: they influence behaviour, and our interactions with others, yet there seems to be little recognition of this. Much of my work ultimately involves public health issues such as housing, education, and social assistance. Transport, linking as it does so many disciplines, is clearly another of them.
In other words, transport is not just about relieving commuter congestion; it is about our ability to access work, services and leisure, our physical and mental health, our physical environment, and the relationship between all these things. As such, transport has significant public health consequences beyond widening a stretch of road. In Auckland, there are two aspects of this that seem to be particularly relevant, and I will focus on those: our obesity epidemic, and the demographic changes Auckland will experience over the next 50 years.
Obesity is something we all have an opinion on but is not well understood, even by many health professionals. In part, this is because the causes and effects of overweight/obesity are numerous and complex. Are people obese because they because they eat the wrong type of food, don’t exercise, are poor, or have unfortunate genes? All of the above.
However, the evidence points to a strong correlation between obesity and car dependence (there’s a cute graphic here).
Suburbs with services that are difficult to get to other than by car tend to have heavier populations. We know from our own experience in Auckland that such suburbs are often very hostile for cyclists and pedestrians. We also know the picture is further confused by the strong correlation between low-income and living in outer suburbs with few transport amenities other than roads. Inner-city areas with good public transport tend to have leaner, wealthier inhabitants. In part this is because transport choices are incorporated into real estate prices, thus setting up a cycle whereby low-income families are forced into more distant (from the central city) suburbs.
In general, it is also easier for residents of suburbs closer to the central city to cycle or walk to work. By contrast, almost no one who lives in the Mangere-Otara suburban belt, and who works at Highbrook or the airport walks or cycles to their jobs. A lack of protected cycle ways and high speed limits on local arterials put the frighteners on most would-be cycle commuters. Yet it is the residents of these suburbs that have the highest rates of obesity in the country and correspondingly high rates of associated diseases, especially diabetes. Plus, these areas are perfect for cycling because they are flat.
One of the tragedies of our transport system is that it doesn’t have any incentive to engage with other sectors to reduce car dependence and improve public health (indeed, it could be argued that transport planners have a vested interest in maintaining car dependence). However, while Auckland Council is blackmailing the public into supporting motorway tolls in order to fund the completion of the $207 million Auckland regional cycleway, obesity is costing our health sector millions. A 2012 paper by Boyd Swinburn and his colleagues estimates that obesity cost over $620 million in direct costs to the health sector in 2006 alone (we’ve gotten fatter since then), plus a further $98-225 million in lost productivity. Then there were the non-monetary costs including disability, and loss of quality of life. In addition there are the welfare costs associated with people unable to work because of diabetes, heart disease, the impact of strokes, the list goes on and on. People with obesity-related disability often also need subsidised housing. Given these enormous public and personal costs, putting off building decent cycling and pedestrian infrastructure (including improved access to public transport) is more than poor transport planning: it is a dereliction of duty.
I’m not suggesting that completing the cycle network and making our pedestrian facilities more accessible and attractive will solve our obesity problems. But it will help, and in a way that is cost-effective, friendly, and will help reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
Overlaid onto the obesity tidal wave is the upcoming grey tsunami. New Zealand is an ageing society, something that importing younger workers will not reverse.
Older people have different transport needs to younger persons. Within 20 years it is likely that many of the current roadbuilding fraternity will be ruing the lack of alternative transport choices in Auckland as their mobility wanes. Older people don’t like driving as much, and as we age our ability to drive is reduced. Accordingly, an older, non-working, population has greater need for disability-friendly public transport, and local facilities that are easily accessible by foot. Or, if you’re my Mum, you’ll start biking to the shops to get the bread and milk when you’re in your 70s.
This means planners should be thinking about a population with higher rates of disability and a greater need for non-car transport options now. Unfortunately, the Auckland Plan, although purporting to look 30 years down the track, largely assumes today’s needs and priorities will be those in a generation’s time. The emphasis is on roading and congestion rather than the implementation of an accessible, multi-modal transport network.
Why is this a public health problem? Because the elderly still need to get to services, especially medical services, and lack of transport is a contributor to social isolation and exclusion. The 2003 report by the Social Exclusion Unit in the UK noted that “transport problems can be a significant barrier to social inclusion”, and that this may lead to a cycle of exclusion and undermine the wellbeing of communities. In addition, we know that low-income communities have a disproportionately high rate of pedestrian casualties (particularly among the young and elderly). The report notes that “the social costs of poor transport were not given any real weight in transport project appraisal. So the distribution of transport funding has tended to benefit those on higher incomes,” an observation that holds true in Auckland [emphasis in original].
The World Health Organisation notes that as a reflection of power relations, social exclusion makes it difficult for people to meet their basic needs, ignores their human rights, and undermines social cohesion. It also has a physical impact, notably through stress mechanisms that can have negative impacts on people’s health. Given the enormous costs to the health system of an ageing population, it is in all our interests to minimise the risk of injury and social isolation arising from poor transport planning. And for those with a political bent, it should not need stating that change will come one way or another because old people vote.
As with obesity, transport planners alone cannot deal with the problems of an ageing population. But a recognition of demographics should inform planning and decision-making.
Other public health issues associated with transport include the extraction and transport of fossil fuels, and public safety. Incorporating a public health perspective into our transport planning processes will pay off economically, environmentally and socially. In short, focussing on health and mobility should be the primary focus of transport planning.
Takutai Square, Britomart, Winter solstice 2014.
Five years ago Gehl Architects enlisted a team of volunteers to document public life across the city centre. The work culminated in a summary report (1, 2) and a great Auckland Conversation event.
Since that time there have been remarkable changes across the city. Here are a few things that stand out:
- Shared spaces across the city
- A resurgence of retail and hospitality offerings
- Introduction of global flagships stores on Queen Street
- Two urban supermarkets (how did we survive without these?)
- Britomart Quarter (see photo above)
- Wynyard Quarter
- HOP ticketing
- Massive non-car travel increases into the city
- EMU’s and rail electrification
In addition to all these changes it seems like the city has finally achieved a critical mass of scale and concentration making it actually feel like a proper city. The streets are packed every day of the week and on weekends, events are happening all the time, and people seem to be genuinely proud of the place. This trend is unstoppable.
Importantly, while the global winds are pushing in this direction, this is not something that “just happened” (Asheville Just ‘Happened’ to Develop a Nice Downtown—or Did It?) . There has been a concerted effort, investment and leadership push that has delivered most of what we now take for granted.
This is how James Fallows describes the disconnect between what people see on the ground and how it got that way (Nice Downtowns: How Did They Get That Way):
It’s tempting, if you haven’t seen the varied stages of this process, to imagine that some cities just “naturally” have attractive and successful downtowns, and others just don’t happen to. It’s like happening to be located on a river, or not.
But in every city we’ve visited with a good downtown, we’ve heard accounts of the long, deliberate process that led to today’s result.
Auckland Council’s Auckland Design Office is working with Gehl Architects to update its research survey later this week and is looking for volunteers.
A follow up survey has been set for May 12th – 18th, 2015. To successfully deliver the survey volunteers are invited to participate in observational analysis across the city centre; counting, mapping, tracking and recording the behaviour, movement and activities of people in public spaces…
If you are interested in the urbanism, survey methods, and meeting interesting people, this is a great opportunity.
More information can be found here (pdf), or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
A few months ago Auckland’s first Bike Rave was held which was a pilot to see if the idea could catch on. It turned out to be a great success – see more about it here.
With the pilot successful it’s now it’s time for another edition and it’s being held next week.
Come be a little rock n’ roll with us again Friday, May 15th.
We’re traveling from Mission Bay to the Harbour Bridge, so those who missed last rave will still get a chance to rage while gandering across at the pretty Auckland lights and water.
So don your smartest human sky tower costume, indulge in a glow in the dark unicorn bike frame, or turn your cargo trailer into a pop-up disco for one. Go go go.
Glow in the dark dogs & lizards in baskets are most welcome.
Flock to Mission Bay @ 8pm.
*Rainy date is a week later.
You can find out more about the event here. So far over 1,000 people have said they will attend and even if only half turn up it would be a huge event. I’m certainly looking forward to it as I ended up missing the first one.
There’s more information here https://www.facebook.com/bikeraveAKL
For those of your outside Auckland, there’s also talk of a Wellington event soon
A few weeks back Peter had an interesting post about retrofitting Albany. In his post he suggested that we know that certain neighbourhood street networks lead to better urban outcomes. They are more walkable and easier to serve by public transport, etc. – yet, we continue to churn out dysfunctional neighbourhoods.
Zooming in a bit lower from the neighbourhood structure, I thought it would be useful to consider what we know about residential streets. Here is a list of features of residential streets that are often considered desirable features:
- Narrow widths,
- Short blocks,
- Continuous street trees (between the footpath and kerb),
- On street parking that is often occupied,
- Lots of intersections, preferably X-type.
Lets take a closer look at narrow streets. While outdated road manuals tend to require wider lane dimensions, more sweeping curves, and clear sightlines, we know that that these designs increase vehicle speeds, increase stopping distances, and lead to more crashes as well as more severe crashes.
Narrow streets, in particular ones with parked cars and continuous street trees, slow vehicles. This is something that can be observed by using the street and experiencing how the geometry and complexities require much more attention which in turn slows drivers.
We know that narrow and slower streets lead to safer streets. A study surveying 6000 streets in Longmont, Colorado, (Residential Street Typology and Injury Accident Frequency) found:
“As street widths widen, accidents per mile per year increases exponentially, and the safest residential street width are the narrowest (curb face).”
Specifically they found that a typical 36-foot (11m) wide residential street has a 487 percent increase in accident rates compared to 24-foot (7.3) street.
Regression analysis showing the number of crashes by street width.
Here is an 11 metre wide street in Favona (Mckinstry Ave). It is representative of a 1970s-era neighbourhood street in Auckland. This street type is common across Auckland and New Zealand.
The most dangerous street type – 11m
And below is a 7.3m wide street in Balmoral/Mt Eden.
The safest street – 7.3m
The following is a quick look at the accident data of those particular streets over the last 15 years from the NZTA CAS database. This is a screenshot of crash data in the Mt Eden neighbourhood north of Balmoral Road.
CAS crash data (NZTA) Red= fatal, Yellow= Severe, Blue = minor injury
Looking at the residential streets (not Dominion or Sandringham Roads) there are very few (11) crashes and all are classed minor injury.
Here is the same scale screenshot of the Favona neighbourhood.
CAS crash data (NZTA) Red= fatal, Yellow= Severe, Blue = minor injury
What stands out immediately is the sparse and branching street network. The difficulty in providing public transport and the requirement for car ownership and associated carparking space represents an unfunded liability both for the residents of this area and the rest of the city.
Another liability is the safety issue associated with these types of streets.
Not counting Buckland Road (it’s an arterial), the equivalent study area has about 12 minor injury crashes, but significantly one fatal crash on Mckinstry Ave.
This unscientific snapshot seems to be consistent with the Longmont research. At some point I’ll run a GIS analysis of the crash data to test international research.
Besides confirming what we know, it would be good to start developing solutions to make these wide and curvey streets safer, and of course to stop building them like this in the first place.
In a month the resource consent hearings for Skypath begin and while we don’t know what the outcome will be, the project had a big boost this week from the release of the council’s RMA report into the application. The project received massive feedback from the public – both directly and through the submission form from Generation Zero. All up over 11,500 submissions were received of which only 159 were opposed and 5 neutral. Many of those opposing the proposal have tried to make it appear that all of Northcote Point was opposed to the project however the map below shows most did not even bother to submit.
Of course in consent hearings the total number of submissions is less important than the content of those submissions and the impact the project has. The council’s planners have considered analysis of the proposal from a number of experts and most importantly, overall they have concluded that the project should be granted consent. Here’s their executive summary.
The report also delves deeper into the key issues including covering the key points of complaint from local residents such as the visual impact and parking. Below are a few points I’ve taken out of the report.
The council and its experts believe that Skypath will not be a negative and that it will actually improve visual, aesthetic amenity which will have positive social effects on the community.
On the landing, the design for Northcote has changed slightly and it now appears that it will take up less space – further reducing any impact on neighbouring properties. It is now more of a bean shape rather than an oval like previously suggested. The mitigation measures for Northcote are below (click to enlarge)
And the Skypath Trust have released some new pictures of what things would look like inside the landing, a few are below. There are some more images from outside here.
Parking has always been another hot button topic. Residents have long claimed they will be swamped by cars as a result of Skypath despite being reminded again and again that it is possible to manage parking through measures like residential parking schemes – one such scheme already exists just across the water at St Mary’s Bay. I also like this comment from the planner and it’s something we should really see more of
The biggest issue for most supporters will likely continue to be the toll and the opening hours. The toll could make the Harbour bridge probably the first in the world not only to toll cyclists to cross but to do so while allowing cars to cross for free. Unless the Council or Government (more likely) step in and agree to take over the project a toll is the only way the private investors could pay for the construction. As for the operating hours, they are suggested to be limited to between the hours of 6am and 10pm for noise and security reasons. That seems a bit too narrow to me and Imagine if we operated our roads like that. Over 3,000 people mentioned the opening hours in their submissions saying they should be extended with only one person wanting the hours reduced.
Lastly this map highlights the walking and cycling connections on both sides of the harbour that already exist or are planned.
Auckland Transport are running a trial to see what kind of bike parking people prefer which should hopefully lead to much more bike parking around the city, especially at bus/train stations and ferry terminals.
Auckland Transport in association with Cycle Action Auckland (CAA) is asking what sort of bike parking Aucklanders want.
Auckland Transport has set up a bike parking trial at the Downtown Ferry Terminal next to the stop for the Airport Bus.
Walking and Cycling Manager Kathryn King says the trial is about giving cyclists something they want and they will use. “We want to make sure bike stands meet the needs of the city’s growing cycling community. We’re looking at factors like ease of use, safety and security.”
CAA’s Barbara Cuthbert says it’s important that cyclists make their views known. “This trial to test and comment on new cycling facilities is a first for Auckland. It’s a hugely valuable prelude to AT’s plans for new bike parking facilities at bus and train stations and ferries.”
The trial runs to the end of the week and Auckland Transport staff will be on site each morning from 7 to 9.
Auckland Transport’s current annual budget for bike parking is approximately $400,000.
The trial is only for this week so if you want to have a say make sure you do quickly (details on the link above). There are five types of bike racks AT are looking at
and an example of them being used in Rotterdam
And here’s an example of this type of rack in use at the Akoranga Busway station
Sheffield rack with sleeve