Our Waterfront has started to dramatically improve in recent years with the likes of the development at Wynyard and the area has become an attraction in its own right. Like many people I generally access the Wynyard by walking there from the CBD however every time I do I’m struck by how amazingly pedestrian unfriendly this intersection is. It’s one of my least favourites in Auckland and I even find it far more annoying than the fact we have cars parked on prime waterfront land just to the west of this place.
Perhaps I’m just incredibly unlucky with the phasing of the lights as one of the key reasons I unlike it so much is because I can’t think of a time when while walking that I’ve ever had anything remotely resembling pedestrian acknowledgement let alone priority. Pedestrian phases on the Northern side are incredibly long and pedestrians are made to feel like they are much less important than cars accessing or leaving Princess Wharf. Tourists clearly seem to think the same, they can often be seen wondering why they are being held up for so long at this one intersection – which unless you Te Wero Bridge is open is the only real obstacle between the Ferry Terminal and Wynyard Quarter.
Speaking of Princess Wharf, why does it need an entrance that is effectively four lanes wide.
I can understand that upgrading Quay St isn’t something that can necessarily happen straight away but until that time Auckland Transport really need to get down here and sort this intersection out, even if it’s just in the short-medium term. Quay St is one of our primary tourist routes.
What do you think needs to happen to this intersection (yes I’m sure many of you will mention the Lower Hobson St viaduct). Is there something that can be done in the short term before any upgrade of Quay St occurs?
On Saturday we finally saw the first glimpses of information on the Journey to Work (JTW) data from the 2013 Census for Auckland (we received the national figures a few months ago). This morning Stu looked at how effective investment in each mode has been since 2006. For this post I’m going to look at how the trends in Auckland have been changing over time and I’ve managed to find the data from as far back as 1996.
First up we have the total number of people in each category.
One thing that surprises me about this figure is just how little the “Worked from home” figure has changed over time. As a percentage of the total it has remained unchanged at 7% despite great advances in the ease and ability of people to work at home. It also defies the claims of those who argue we don’t need to invest in PT because more and more people will work from home in the future and not need to travel.
I’ve also simplified that by looking only at the modes that required transport and grouping similar ones together. I have included the “Other” column with PT as I understand much of patronage in that bucket is related to the ferries. You’ll also notice that I’ve dropped the “Working from home” and “Didn’t go to work” columns to only look at those who are going to work.
So all modes had an increase but the fascinating thing is that there was a larger increase in PT than there was in Private Vehicles. Converting the figures above to mode share percentages we get.
and the simplified version
Private vehicles clearly still dominate the figures for how people get to work although that is slowly starting to change as more people use public transport, walking and cycling as those options improve. During the last census cycle we’ve had big improvements to the rail network and the construction of the Northern Busway, both of which have driven a lot of growth. By the next census AT should have completed the current tranche of projects that will really revolutionise PT in Auckland. These include Electrification, the New Network, integrated ticketing/fares and other customer experience improvements. Combined those improvements could quite possibly push private vehicle usage below 80%.
Further if the current trends continue then from these numbers we might be able to say that 2001 (or sometime around then) was the point when car dominance peaked in Auckland. Imagine just how much further that share would drop if we were to build the Congestion Free Network.
Lastly just to try and put the changes in perspective. What would have happened if the growth that occurred had of been at the same mode share percentage as 2006. By my calculation it would have meant we would have had just over 11,300 more private vehicle trips, 9,000 less PT trips and 2,300 less active trips. Most of the growth of active and PT trips has been to the city centre and so to accommodate those extra 11,300 private vehicles trips on the road network would have needed 2-3 extra lanes of road capacity, in other words effectively we would have needed another motorway to the city centre.
Auckland’s journey to work data from the census was released yesterday by the council on their site www.censusauckland.co.nz. Journey to work is a useful metric but it does have some serious flaws in that as the name implies it’s only recording how people got to work whereas there are generally a lot of other trips at peak times, like to school. In Auckland for example tens of thousands of students enter the CBD each day to go to the Universities or other education providers and those students all have a big impact on transport networks. This can be quite important when looking at PT trends as students tend to be much stronger users of PT than other parts of the population.
I’ll go through the data and how it’s changed over time in the next few days but here are some images from the maps showing the results which in themselves are quite telling.
First up travel to work by car, truck, van or company bus. Unsurprisingly the lowest car use is in the areas surrounding the central city as well as the lower North Shore. Whenuapai West will stick out on many of the graphs which I assume is due to airforce staff having very localised trips. The area around Pakuranga/Howick/Botany really stands out as being quite car dependant which is unsurprising seeing as the PT network in that part of the city have been so poor.
Next we have trips by public bus. What I find most interesting – and completely unsurprising – is that the areas with the strongest bus usage also happen to be the same areas where the most bus priority and frequency exists. Of the dark blue areas, those that surround Dominion Rd happen to have the highest bus usage.
On to train and that is obviously focused primarily on the areas next to the rail network.
For cycling the highest use is once again focused on the inner suburbs and on those along Tamaki Dr
Like many of the other measurements walking to work is something primarily seen in the inner suburbs although there are some stronger patches in some of the suburban centres.
Lastly Other under which ferries sit and because of that it’s unsurprising to see the areas with ferry service stand out strongly.
As mentioned earlier I’ll be looking into the results in more detail in coming days however what is quite clear just from looking at these maps is that the areas with the higher quality PT, walking and cycling links also happen to be the ones with the lowest car usage. In other words giving people high quality alternatives will see more people choosing not to drive.
In November last year after a coronial review of 13 cycling deaths Coroner Gordon Matenga said
“The best recommendation I can make to improve cycling safety in this country and to prevent further cycling deaths, is to recommend that an expert panel, drawn from stakeholders with a unique interest and expertise in cycling and road safety, be established to consider the available evidence and together, recommend the way forward for safer cycling in New Zealand,”
He also said it is something that should be done by the NZTA to ensure that central government agencies were involved.
Today the NZTA have announced the panel
The NZ Transport Agency has selected a group of ten New Zealand-based experts to develop recommendations for making the country’s roads safer for cycling.
The Transport Agency was asked to convene the panel in response to the findings of a coronial review of cycling safety in New Zealand, released in November last year by Coroner Gordon Matenga.
NZ Transport Agency Director of Road Safety Ernst Zollner said the agency had canvassed the views of a wide range of stakeholders with expertise in cycling and road safety as part of the process of establishing the panel.
“There is a huge amount of passion and a great depth of knowledge on cycling and cycle safety in New Zealand. We’re looking to harness that passion and knowledge to encourage cycling as a transport choice by making it safer. This panel is tasked with developing a comprehensive and practical set of recommendations for central and local government to achieve that.”
The panel is expected to meet for the first time next month and will aim to deliver its recommendations by the end of September.
Mr Zollner said the Transport Agency and other members of the National Road Safety Management Group would also continue existing work to improve the safety of cyclists in New Zealand by investing in separated cycle paths, improving the safety of roads and roadsides, making intersections safer, reducing vehicle speeds in urban areas to reduce the risks that motor vehicles can pose to pedestrians and cyclists and promoting safe cycling through a range of education programmes.
The Transport Agency recently launched a Share the Road education and advertising campaign designed to personalise and humanise people cycling so that motorists see beyond the bike. More information is available via www.nzta.govt.nz/about/advertising/other-advertising/share-the-road.html
New Zealand Cycle Safety Panel – Profiles
Richard Leggat (Chair)
Richard is the Chair of Bike NZ and the New Zealand Cycle Trail and is a board member of Education NZ, SnowSports NZ, NZ Post and Tourism NZ. Richard is an enthusiastic recreational cyclist and is actively involved in his children’s sport. Following an economics degree Richard worked for apparel manufacturer Lane Walker Rudkin before switching into the finance sector and working as a share broker initially in Christchurch, followed by four years in London and then Auckland.
Sarah is the first New Zealander to win an Olympic cycling gold medal, which she won in the individual pursuit at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, setting a world record. When she left Athens at the end of the Games, Ulmer held the Olympic title, the Olympic and world records, the Commonwealth Games title and the Commonwealth Games record for the 3000m individual pursuit. In mid-2011, it was announced that she would be the official ‘ambassador’ for the New Zealand Cycle Trail. In the 2005 New Year Honours, Ulmer was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to cycling.
Marilyn has more than twenty years of involvement in cycle skills training, originally in Canada (CAN‐Bike I and II, Cycling Freedom) and has also trained in the United Kingdom and New Zealand. Marilyn has developed and delivered cycle skills and road safety programmes for adults and children in a variety of settings and regularly undertakes work for councils, cycle advocacy groups, schools, holiday programmes, Police and community groups, as well as offering one‐to‐one training. Marilyn heads up the regional cycle skills training programme Pedal Ready.
Mike joined the Automobile Association in September 2005 as General Manager Motoring Affairs. Mike started his career with Mobil Oil NZ where he held the position of Marketing and Communications Manager. Immediately prior to joining the AA, Mike worked as a consultant specialising in tourism, issue management and communications. Before that Mike worked with the Office of Tourism and Sport, and as its Director saw through the establishment of the Ministry of Tourism. Road safety is a particularly important issue for the AA, and it has lobbied strongly on issues like young driver training, cell phones, alcohol and drugs and road engineering.
Dr Hamish Mackie
Hamish is a human factors specialist with seventeen years of research and consultancy experience in a range of areas where the interaction between people, their surrounding environments and the things they use are important. Over the past eight years Hamish has focused on self-explaining roads, high risk intersections, school transport and other areas where a ‘human-centred’ perspective is essential.
Originally a power systems engineering officer, Simon helped to found ‘Kennett Brothers Ltd’ in 1993, a business devoted to cycling books, event management, trail design and construction, and strategy development. In 2004 he co-wrote and published ‘RIDE’ – a history of cycling in New Zealand. In 2007/08 he coordinated the Cycling Advocates’ Network networking project under contract to NZTA. Since 2009 Simon has been the Active Transport and Road Safety Coordinator at Greater Wellington Regional Council.
Dr Alexandra Macmillan
Alex is a Senior Lecturer in Environmental Health at the University of Otago’s Department of Preventive and Social Medicine. She also holds an honorary senior research position at the Bartlett – University College London’s global faculty of the built environment. She trained in Medicine and is a Public Health Physician. Alex’s teaching and research focuses on the links between urban environments, sustainability and health. Her PhD included futures modelling of specific policies to successfully increase commuter cycling in Auckland. In London, she extended this work to understand the factors influencing trends in cycling in London and Dutch cities.
Professor Alistair Woodward
Alistair is Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Auckland. His first degree was in medicine and he undertook his postgraduate training in public health in the UK. He has a PhD in epidemiology from the University of Adelaide, and 30 years’ experience in road safety and injury research. He has studied the epidemiology of head injury, the effectiveness of helmets for cyclists, the relation between vehicle speed and injury severity, the effects on health and the environment of increasing walking and cycling, and the health impacts of transport policy. He initiated the Taupo bicycle study, which has followed 2,600 cyclists for eight years to learn about factors that promote and inhibit everyday cycling, including injury.
Axel holds an ME (Civil) from Canterbury University and has been active as a traffic engineer and transport planner in New Zealand since 1998. He specialises in urban traffic engineering, traffic signals, road safety, intersection design & modelling and industry training. He is a director of ViaStrada Limited, a traffic and transportation consultancy specialising in sustainable transport based in Christchurch. Clients of ViaStrada are mostly road controlling authorities in New Zealand, but some work (mostly research) is undertaken for Australian clients, for example Austroads. Axel instigated professional industry training, and the Fundamentals of Planning and Design for Cycling workshop has been taught since 2003, which is part of the curriculum at Canterbury University. Advanced courses were added later, and he has taught nearly 1,000 attendees in total.
Dr Glen Koorey
Glen is a Senior Lecturer in Transportation Engineering at the University of Canterbury. He has a particular interest in the areas of road safety and sustainable transport, including speed management and planning & design for cycling. Glen is a Member of the Bicycle Transportation Research Committee of the US Transportation Research Board and over the past 15 years has investigated many aspects of cycling safety in New Zealand. His wide-ranging research and consulting experience also includes sustainable transportation policies, planning & design for walking, crash data analysis, and the design and operation of rural highways.
There are some really good people on this list which is great to see. It gives me hope that we might get some really positive outcomes from this process.
Images like the one below used to be common not just in Auckland but in many cities all around the world.
Queen Street, Auckland. Smith, Sydney Charles, 1888-1972 : Photographs of New Zealand. Ref: 1/2-046201-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23203589
Of course the laws of physics still applied so pedestrians needed to watch our for cars and trams or even horses however there was nothing really to stop them from crossing the road or using it when they wanted. These days things are different, people are far more likely only to cross at a crossing instead of Jaywalking. In New Zealand the law states that the offence of jaywalking applies if you cross the road within 20 metres of a fixed crossing and if, as a pedestrian, you cross at a red light. The fine is a relatively modest $35 for adults and $10 for children.
In America though Jaywalking is banned in most cities, but why? An article in BBC News magazine earlier this month delved into the history of the concept of Jaywalking – which is actually more interesting than you might think.
The California Vehicle Code states: “No pedestrian shall start crossing in direction of a flashing or steady “DON’T WALK” or upraised hand symbol.” It also forbids crossing between controlled intersections, or “jaywalking”.
Late last year, police began a concerted effort to enforce the rules in central Los Angeles. Pedestrians had been “impeding traffic and causing too many accidents and deaths”, one traffic police official said. Fines range from $190-$250 (£115-£152).
Then in New York officials responded to several pedestrian deaths last month by issuing a flurry of tickets for jaywalking. The campaign quickly ran into controversy when an 84-year-old Chinese immigrant who had been stopped for jaywalking suffered a gash to his head during an altercation with the police.
Enforcement of anti-jaywalking laws in the US is sporadic, often only triggered by repeated complaints from drivers about pedestrian behaviour in a particular place. But jaywalking remains illegal across the country, and has been for many decades.
As mentioned though, at some point in the past, pedestrians could cross the road wherever they wanted – plus in many cases they had the right of way in the street environment, which has also changed over time. So how did this change happen? How did the concept of “jaywalking” come into being?
The BBC article continues:
“I don’t know how this got to Syracuse, but in mid-western slang a jay was a person from the country who was an empty-headed chatterbox, like a bluejay,” he says.
The word was first used to describe “someone from the countryside who goes to the city and is so dazzled by the lights and the show windows that they keep stopping and getting in the way of other pedestrians”.
The use of jaywalking as a term of ridicule against pedestrians crossing roads took off in the 1920s.
A key moment, says Norton, was a petition signed by 42,000 people in Cincinnati in 1923 to limit the speed of cars mechanically to 25mph (40kph). Though the petition failed, an alarmed auto industry scrambled to shift the blame for pedestrian casualties from drivers to walkers.
Local car firms got boy scouts to hand out cards to pedestrians explaining jaywalking. “These kids would be posted on sidewalks and when they saw someone starting to jaywalk they’d hand them one of these cards,” says Norton. “It would tell them that it was dangerous and old fashioned and that it’s a new era and we can’t cross streets that way.”
The invention of the concept of ‘jaywalking’ seemed to be intricately connected to a shifting of the blame for vehicle/pedestrian accidents away from drivers and towards pedestrians. The auto industry seems to have played a key role in this shift:
Clowns were commonly used in parades or pageants to portray jaywalkers as a throwback to rural, ignorant, pre-motor age ways.
Another ruse was to provide local newspapers with a free service. Reporters would submit a few facts about local traffic accidents to Detroit, and the auto industry’s safety committee would send back a full report on the situation in their city.
“The newspaper coverage quite suddenly changes, so that in 1923 they’re all blaming the drivers, and by late 1924 they’re all blaming jaywalking,” Norton says.
Soon, he adds, car lobby groups also started taking over school safety education, stressing that “streets are for cars and children need to stay out of them”. Anti-jaywalking laws were adopted in many cities in the late 1920s, and became the norm by the 1930s.
In a way the rest is history – streets became more and more designed around the need to shift as many cars as possible through them. Pedestrians were either ignored completely by traffic engineers and the models they worship, or later included (and I quote from the article): largely for their role as ‘impedance’ – blocking vehicle traffic.
I also found some old newspaper clippings from NZ papers, like this one from the Auckland Star, about methods used in the 1920′s to enforce jaywalking laws which involved police driving around in cars and using loud speakers to publicly humiliate anyone breaking the law.
Perhaps most interestingly, jaywalking seems to have had absolutely no impact on improving pedestrian safety:
The UK is among those countries where jaywalking is not an offence. But the rate of pedestrian deaths is half that of the US, at 0.736 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2011 compared to 1.422 per 100,000 in America.
I wonder how many tickets are issued in NZ for jaywalking?
In my post yesterday about the AT board meeting I omitted discussing one crucial agenda item – although I’m sure some of you picked up on it. It was
Presentation by Cycle Action, Generation Zero and Transport Blog on cycling Auckland
Both we and Cycle Action Auckland were invited late last year by the board to present to them on the Congestion Free Network and on Cycling. Both us and CAA believe there are huge synergies to be had between PT and cycling and so we agreed to combine our presentations into one (for which we were also given additional time than had we done them separately).
I also have to say a huge thanks to Lance Wiggs and his wife Su Yin for heroically helping us last minute to vastly improve the presentation.
You can see the presentation here (7MB) but as you will see it has a lot of photos and not a lot of text.
The general thrust behind the presentation was that
- Auckland has the right ingredients to make it one of the best cities in the world. What we need to do now is make that a reality and make Auckland more liveable.
- On top of that there are a lot of great things going on already with the likes of Wynyard, shared spaces, electrification, integrated ticketing/fares, new bus network etc.
- That we are at a tipping point, we’re seeing trends change with less people choosing to drive and more opting for PT, walking and cycling.
- That investments in a more liveable city are already paying off e.g. in Fort St where Hospitality spending is up 400% since the shared spaces were created.
- That the CFN builds on what AT is doing and does so primarily by re-prioritising the projects they already have.
- That the CFN is much cheaper than what is currently planned which will reduce/remove the need for much of the funding shortfall that the council will need to find.
- That the impact of the CFN can be greatly boosted by improving cycling (not just about feeding the CFN though).
- That improvements to PT, walking and cycling can make it easier for kids to get to school, thereby helping to improve traffic.
- That this is also what other cities are doing. As Patrick says, if a city like New York can do this stuff with the demand for space that they have then we certainly can.
- That it doesn’t have to be done with expensive road widening.
- That the boards leadership is needed to help make these improvements and that ultimately they are the ones responsible for/have the control to make Auckland the world’s best city.
The presentation was well received and we had a number of comments from board members afterwards saying they thought it was done very well. I could also definitely see a few of them nodding in agreement with what we were saying.
Perhaps one of the funnier moments was that we had talked about how parking needs to be addressed and that in some cases it should be removed. At the end of the presentation it was mentioned that a group from Freemans Bay were in the audience and who might disagree with us however they also approached us saying how much they agree. They could see that by improving the PT network we have that less people would want to or need to drive to inner suburbs to park their cars on residential streets (also known as hide and ride).
All up we were very happy with the outcome and the main thing is it is something that will be in the back of the minds of AT board members who will shortly be having internal discussions about their future strategy.
Now we just need to work out who we should talk to next, perhaps we should also try to present to the NZTA board (I know at least some have already heard about it).
Update: Google Drive doesn’t seem to be playing very nice with the images so have used Dropbox instead. Links updated or click here.
Patronage for January is out and there’s (mostly) positive news.
Auckland public transport patronage totalled 70,391,404 passengers for the 12-months to Jan-2014, an increase of +0.2% on the 12-months to Dec-2013. January monthly patronage was 4,653,153, an increase of 157,453 boardings or +3.5% on Jan-2013, normalised to ~ +3.3% accounting for one additional weekday and two less weekend days for rail in Jan-2014 compared to Jan-2013 (due to track closures). No normalisation required due to equivalent business days for bus and ferry.
Rail patronage totalled 10,661,048 passengers for the 12-months to Jan-2014, an increase of + 0.5% on the 12-months to Dec-2013. Patronage for Jan-2014 was 588,574, an increase of 50,087 boardings or +9.3% on Jan-2013, normalised to ~ +7.6% accounting for one less rail operational day in Jan-2014 compared to Jan-2013.
The Northern Express bus service carried 2,313,967 passenger trips for the 12-months to Jan-2014, an increase of +0.4% on the 12 months to Dec-2013. Northern Express bus service patronage for Jan-2014 was 146,740, an increase of 9,636 boardings or +7.0% on Jan-2013.
Other bus services carried 51,784,795 passenger trips for the 12-months to Jan-2014, an increase of +0.3% on the 12-months to Dec-2013. Other bus services patronage for Jan-2014 was 3,410,157, an increase of 154,385 boardings or +4.7% on Jan-2013.
Ferry services carried 5,631,594 passenger trips for the 12-months to Jan-2014, a decrease of -1.0% on the 12 months to Dec-2013. Ferry services patronage for Jan-2014 was 507,682, a decrease of -56,655 boardings or -10.0% on Jan-2013.
Perhaps the most pleasing aspect is that the 12m rolling figure for total patronage grew for the first time in over a year (although it may have done so in December but AT haven’t released those figures). This is pleasing as we’ve been seeing rail patronage recovering but bus patronage still has a way to go.
On rail patronage, we’re still not quite back to the peak (which was in April 2012) but we are getting closer to it and with the first electric trains just over two months away I’m guessing we might see it met/surpassed by the end of the financial year (June) and we may even crack the 11 million trips on rail mark.
The biggest disappointment was that compared to Jan 2013, ferry patronage was down 10% although with some strong growth over the last year or so the 12m rolling figure is still positive. Here are the graphs.
As mentioned rail patronage is climbing again and you can see it in this graph.
For some time now the AT reports have also been including bus patronage by sector being divided into North, West, South and Isthmus. The isthmus will definitely have some cross with the west and south as many routes of the routes from west/south pass through the isthmus and pick up passengers along the way, that patronage would be counted based on the sector the bus route assigned to. However when combined with patronage on the rail network it does provide an interesting proxy for patronage by area.
Unsurprisingly the Isthmus has the highest patronage (12m rolling total is 25.8 million) which will likely reflect it both having a higher population but also generally a more direct and higher frequency bus network, particularly along routes like Dominion Rd, Mt Eden Rd etc. This is followed by the south (17.4 mil), north (13 mil) then west (8.7 mil). What’s interesting is when you index the results back to the earliest date the data is in the reports which is Aug 2010 – just before AT came into existence. The west stands out due to the massive jump from the RWC but otherwise seems to generally follow the north and south areas in terms of growth. By comparison the Isthmus seems to do its own thing to a much greater extent. I’m not sure why it is different.
Lastly cycling numbers were down slightly on Jan 2013 however there has been continued strong growth in cycling numbers over the last year so the trend is still pointing up.
Some good news today that the NZTA have agreed to pay for just over half of the project to create cycle routes parallel to Dominion Rd.
The NZ Transport Agency has approved $3.2m in funding to extend Auckland’s cycling network.
The money will be used to construct cycle routes on less busy suburban streets that run parallel and adjacent to Dominion Road, one of Auckland’s busiest arterial links between the CBD and suburbs on the western side of the city and Auckland International Airport.
The Transport Agency’s funding is a 53 percent share of a $6.1m project led by Auckland Transport to provide 5-and-a-half-kilometres of cycleway on the parallel routes either side of Dominion Road.
The Regional Manager for the Transport Agency’s Planning and Investment Group, Peter Casey, says key considerations behind the Agency’s decision to provide funding include the benefits the project will deliver in terms of safety and travel choices for people.
“The Transport Agency is committed to reducing traffic congestion by providing options so that people don’t have to rely on using cars,” Mr Casey says. “The new routes will encourage more people to cycle. They will be available for less confident cyclists as an alternative to the more challenging Dominion Road, and by the large number of children living in the area.”
Auckland Transport says the funding decision is an important step for the project.
“It’s great that we can get worked started on this project,” says Auckland Transport’s Manager Community Transport, Matthew Rednall. “These are important links for growing cycling for Auckland, and for providing cycling facilities between schools and local communities.”
Construction is due to start later this year. The project includes safety upgrades at intersections, improved lighting and signage, and construction of speed humps and “islands” to slow motorised traffic.
The cycle routes are part of a much wider AT project to upgrade Dominion Road itself, which is also supported by the Transport Agency to help improve Auckland’s public transport system.
I know this has been a fairly controversial project amongst many in the cycling community who want to see dedicated cycle infrastructure on Dominion Rd. AT say it was dropped as an option as much of Dominion Rd would have needed to be widened to accommodate it at a cost of up to $50 million. The parallel routes involve a mix of
- New traffic lights at major intersections.
- Destination signage.
- Raised tables and other measures to slow vehicle traffic.
- New sections of shared paths or widening paths.
- New links between streets for cyclists and pedestrians.
You can see the proposed designs on this page.
To me the biggest area that really needs to be addressed is on the eastern route at King Edward St/Burnley Tce where riders are forced to either Sandringham Rd or Dominion Rd due to there being no through route but that is something that is unlikely to be cheap either. One other small benefit of this approach is at least this part of the project appears to be starting as soon rather than having to wait for the rest of the upgrade works to happen.
This weekend has been a particularly big one with so many events on and with the exception of the Big Day Out, Auckland Transport haven’t exactly be doing a stellar job when it comes to event management with the recent cricket matches in particular being quite shambolic. As such we knew that this weekend would be a real test for AT but it was one they said they were prepared for and were confident of being able to handle the crowds.
Well unfortunately that appears not to have been the case with lots of reports streaming in last night about all sorts of issues, many of which are reminiscent of the RWC opening night. Below are some of the issues that we saw.
The CBD was packed with people from both the lantern festival and from those coming and going from the Nines or Eminem concert yet pretty much nothing was done to improve pedestrian priority. This was particularly evident around the intersection of Victoria St and Kitchener St where huge numbers of people were walking and trying to cross the road. The picture below doesn’t really do that justice but you can see a pretty busy Victoria St. You can also see some traffic cones out and there was someone there who was supposedly meant to be making things work better however their focus seemed to only be on stopping the pedestrians to allow cars to flow. Once again traffic management seems to mean that moving cars is more important than moving people.
This is the response we got from Auckland Transport when we suggested that they should have closed the intersection.
But it was other parts of the CBD too, Fort St which should have been humming with people was allowed to be taken over by cars trying to rat run somewhere.
It seems that once again despite probably tens of thousands of people trying to walk around the city cars were treated as king and pedestrians as the least important.
Buses seemed to have a patchy night. There were some reports of them working well but also lots of reports of them failing and too infrequent. Northern Express services in particular seemed like it was only to standard weekend frequencies with some buses 30 minutes apart, completely inadequate for the numbers of people in town. When this photo was taken after 9pm there were an estimated 300 people waiting (more around the corner) for a bus that was a long way away.
Here’s another one
There were issues with other bus services too.
Of all the modes about the quietest noise was about the rail network which seemed to generally work ok – although there were a few complaints. This is perhaps the most surprising because my understanding is that there was a chronic shortage of drivers (for various reasons) which may explain why the timetable looked so light.
I get the feeling now that while Auckland is still very much a car city that Aucklanders are quite prepared to catch PT to large events and people are learning to enjoy big city events. The problem we now face is that our management of our transport networks for anyone but those in cars is woeful leading to very poor outcomes and probably holding a lot of people back from using PT altogether. What is needed is for AT to be more bold, to put more pedestrian priority in place or even close intersections/streets to vehicles. They also need to a much greater provision of PT services. With big multi event days like this weekend it means not just a couple of extra services tacked on to a regular timetable but a proper set of frequent services. The question is if anyone will be held accountable for the constant event issues that keep arising.
I also can’t help but think that many of the long talked about city centre ideas would have helped greatly with all of this including the Victoria St Linear park, a bus only Queen St with wider footpaths and a proper east/west bus corridor on Wellesley St.
This is 254 Ponsonby Rd.
254 Ponsonby Rd
A low rise and rather miserable example of provincial modernity currently home to a large car park and drive-through, the food retailer Nosh, and a Liquor King.
254 P Rd in context
Just another piece of dross-scape left over from the great auto-age. But what is important about this piece of commercial property is that we own it. We the people that is. The Council bought the site in 2006 for, I believe, around 7.5mil, with the idea that it is a good place for some kind of public space.
It’s ours!: So what should we do with it? There are a few options outlined in the Ponsonby Rd Masterplan here. Discussed in a previous post here.
A small group of very local residents are determined that it must be a public park in its entirety and are running a media campaign to this end which is being reported like this: Battle for Suburb’s Future.
And I kind of agree, this is a bit of a test case about Ponsonby Rd’s future. If this site is deactivated down to simply grass and trees making what would surely be Auckland’s most expensive park per square metre then the idea of Ponsonby Rd being any kind of centre of urban vitality and intensity will have suffered another blow. And the opportunity to patch a gap in the continuity of the streetscape will be missed.
The main argument for this being gardened at public expense is a rough calculation that Ponsonby has proportionately less parkland than other areas. Is this a valid metric for land use decisions?, looks like a crazy bit of bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo to me. Areas are different, I would hope and expect to see more parkland in outer suburbs and more intensive urban land use in inner city areas. Doesn’t Ponsonby self-describe as a funky inner city area quite unlike most or even all of the rest of Auckland? Do we really want to level it out so that it’s the same as everywhere else? Street culture can only develop from intensity of activity; for Ponsonby to retain its vitality it needs to build up not water down its land use to suburban levels.
Most would agree that city open space is great and hip inner city retail and dinning areas need it too, but living in the area I already enjoy Western Park, Grey Lynn Park, Cox’s Bay Park, Victoria Park and the nearby Tole Reserve [part of which is shown above], but I certainly didn’t come to here all those decades ago because of its supply of open space. Quite the reverse, what is unique and valuable about the area is its built intensity as described in this previous post. We have raised three kids in the area and never once experienced a lack of parks or swings and slides. Vermont St has a park, so does Brown…
But even if we agree that the main problem faced by Ponsonby Rd is a lack of open space [which certainly isn't clear], then we have to ask if this is the best place for it? To answer that we need to ask what sort of open space is ideal for urban centres like Ponsonby Rd? And what is the best use of public money to meet these ends. I agree that Ponsonby Rd’s physical qualities are poor and need investment but this looks awfully like all our eggs in one very expensive basket and with a very questionable result. How about improving the quality of the entire streetscape of this strip? The street, surely that is locus of the public realm in urban places. More trees along the the length of the street [those that are already there are great], raised pedestrian tables on side streets, fine grained and activated ‘laneway’ types of public space, narrowing the tops of streets like Mackelvie St, these sorts of things strike me as much more valuable than one bland plot of inactivity.
Because it is on one of Auckland’s premier shopping streets the land is valuable and potentially generates a healthy rate income for the city. The latest figures we can find is a capital value of 7.5million and the current rundown building pays 57,800 in rates pa. So there is a tremendous opportunity here to fund a whole lot of public realm improvements in the area as well as getting much better use of this site by redeveloping it rather than just making and maintaining a park on this site.
254 Ponsonby Rd
In considering what should happen here it’s important to note that the site has two distinct qualities in terms of its adjacent properties: commercial neighbours up at the Ponsonby Rd end and residential ones down at its western end. Furthermore its Ponsonby Rd face has real public realm responsibilities that the current building certainly completely ignores. So even if it was to be developed to its maximum extent the scale of structures at the bottom end of the site would be governed by those residential neighbours and the top end by its. Especially in terms of massing, height, and proximity to boundaries.
So it’s impossible to put a tower block on it even if that were desirable, but it does give us the opportunity to fix one the many ‘broken teeth’ in the line of commercial buildings on the strip. I, for one, would really like to see a structure at the Ponsonby Rd end of this site at least of a comparable volume to the adjacent Edwardian shops, right up to the footpath to repair the continuity of the built edge. Preferably separated from that building with a narrow laneway down to another running between O’Neill and Tole Sts and a properly urban courtyard towards the middle of the site connecting to all three streets . The western end is ideal for residential at a similar density as its neighbours [and how hypocritical would the neighbours be to complain of that?]. So the protected centre of the site would be public space with connections to existing streets and opportunities for sophisticated paved courtyards and planted, all served by retail.
This would enable commercial activity to continue on the site, it would create a more fine grained public realm, continue the built wall edge to the Ponsonby Rd footpath, with cover from the elements and for pedestrians and the bus stop, remove the awful vehicle crossing currently at the top of the site, and of course release to the city a whole lot of capital and future rating income to make improvements all along Ponsonby Rd’s length or perhaps to concentrate that effort somewhere better nearby.
Ponsonby Rd with St Johns
And I think there is a somewhere else that would make for a much cleverer use of these public funds, including some really much better open space. And it’s just across the road: St Johns:
St Johns Ponsonby
Built in 1882 this timber ‘carpenter’s gothic’ Gothic Revival methodist church is desperately in need of love. Its spire makes it the tallest building on Ponsonby Rd yet somehow it is easy to overlook. It has a Category 2 listing with Historic Places, yet I seriously doubt that the church, no matter how much they love this building, have the resources to maintain it. Maybe it is still used richly by the church but if so this happens very subtly, and certainly doesn’t happen in any public way involving the local community. It seems like it needs a new use in order to justify maintenance let alone restoration. It is fenced off from Ponsonby Rd and has a bunch of very unfortunate additions on its sides and rear and sits in a sea of tarmac on a fantastic site gently tipping towards the city, offering fabulous views, especially at dusk. Instead of a formless park on the 254 site we could have this restored and repurposed Victorian building sitting in an urban space like the new one surrounding St Patricks in the city.
Its latest valuation is 3.94mil and pays just 207.80 in rates [presumably just for the carparks occupied by local businesses]. I have no idea if the church would be happy to sell, or if there is a way it could still serve them along with new uses but I do know that Ponsonby Rd lacks any theatrical venue [despite its artistic reputation] or other kinds of performance or public meeting space. By taking this on we could get not only a historic building of extremely high value, but also the funds to at least begin to restore it, reconnect it to both the street and the community, a new venue for all sorts of activities, and new open space of value [especially if the additions are removed]. Furthermore this is on the northern and more residential side of the street, so the open space ca be added without causing a break in the activation of the streetscape on the commercial side of the strip.
This idea looks like a huge win/win to me. Financially, certainly, but also in terms of built heritage, public amenity, and it means open space without de-intensifying this urban centre.
I have no idea if the St Johns idea is possible, so it certainly isn’t a case of the Nosh site or St Johns but I do think we need to be creative with opportunities like this. It is, after all very easy to be in favour of preserving our built heritage but it is much more powerful to come up with a means to actually do so. Which essentially means finding vibrant new uses for valuable old buildings.
I understand the concern the direct neighbours will have about any change to the 254 site, especially because it is in public ownership, but having people in houses just like them next door and a whole lot of retail options at the main street end of the site is almost certainly a better outcome than a vapid and windswept public park with all the informal nighttime recreational activities that this will attract, and clearly is better than the car park they currently have now. But also they are not the only ones affected by what happens on this site. The Ponsonby Rd frontage in particular is something owned by us all.
There are a lot of pressures on the whole Ponsonby area, a lot of competing claims and different points of view. And fair enough, but the number of sites for development has already been shrunk to a narrow strip along the ridge so to reduce this further is to undermine the very source of Ponsonby’s identity and success; it’s intensity.