Six digits quayed in

While AT have been proposing some rubbish lately with Mt Albert and some of their cycleway projects, there has been some good news too on Quay St.

Firstly, on Sunday an important milestone was reached with the cycleway counter tipping over 100,000. That’s pretty good given the cycleway only opened five months ago on July 8 and also only two months after reaching the 50,000 trip milestone. What’s more a lot more work is still needed to connect it to other routes, such as Nelson St – which should start construction early next year.

Quay St Cycleway Opening 2

Back in July, John Key and Simon Bridges kicked the cycleway counter off

The numbers using the cycleway, at least in the mornings and evenings are starting to be impressive. Just yesterday I was transferring between a bus on Albert St and a train to head home in the afternoon and in the brief walk along Quay St a quick chat to a friend I bumped in to, I must have seen a dozen or more bikes glide past. This is of course reflected in the numbers. As shown below, recently the cycleway has more frequently been seeing counts of over 1,000 per per day and with warmer weather now here, that’s likely to continue for some time so we could see the tally pass 200k by around the end of summer.

The second piece of good news relating to Quay St is that AT will start work in February next year to extend it further east to just before the intersection with the Strand. The works are planned to to be finished by the middle of the year. For perhaps the first time with a cycleway project, there’s also no consultation for this one, AT are just getting on with it

quay-st-cycleway-extension

The plan is to use the same basic design as what already exists and like completed section, comes mainly from narrowing down the un-neccessarly wide median and traffic lanes. AT say the changes include

  • Minor alterations to bus stops between Plumer Street and The Strand to ensure safety for passengers waiting for and transferring on and off buses.
  • The design for this first stage of construction requires a narrower centre (median) island, which means we’ll be shortening the right turning lane on Quay Street that gives access to the western entrance of the apartment complex near The Strand.
  • A temporary ramp will be installed to connect the cycleway back onto the existing shared path where this first stage of works stops at the eastern end of Quay Street near The Strand intersection. The existing bus stop will shift a short distance towards The Strand.
  • To create room for the cycleway, we plan to move the traffic lanes and narrow the median island in the centre of the road. Changes to the median island mean relocating around 14 trees as it will become too narrow to support them. One additional tree will also be relocated from the berm, between the existing shared path and the cycleway. It will make way for the upgraded bus stop east of Plumer Street. An arborist is currently assessing the health of the trees and identifying those that can be relocated. At the same time, we are working with Auckland Council Parks to identify suitable locations for those trees.
  • Around 18 car parks will be removed from the northern side of Quay Street, opposite the shopping area and apartment complex near The Strand. The complex is served by off-street carparks.

quay-st-cycleway-extension-impression-2

You can see the plans for the project but here are just a couple of images from it showing the design that is planned.

quay-st-cycleway-extension-plan-1

quay-st-cycleway-extension-plan-2

The plan is to extend the cycleway along Tamaki Dr in 2018 as part of the Eastern Path project

Photo of the Day: Our Out of Balance Centre City Streets

Vincent and Pitt, Thursday 5:49 pm. Every corner occupied with people wanting to cross, including eight on this silly little delight of a ‘pedestrian refuge’, or nine if you include me, as I stepped back into the vehicle priority slip lane to take the shot, including at least one genuine princess. There appears to be one vehicle using the intersection and another a long long way in the distance up Pitt street.

vincent-pitt-6pm-thrus

Auckland Transport have a lot of work to do to fix the dated modal priority that dominates City Centre streets as it is no longer fit for purpose. This design dates from a time when very few lived in the city, fewer worked there and those that did didn’t stay on to recreate in the city either. It is also from before the time that the economic and social value of well designed walkable streets were so well understood. People not in cars need more space and time afforded to them from the people that control this critical part of our public domain. The value of this in supporting the modern urban services economy and the social well being of everyone is overwhelming.

After all transport infrastructure is simply a means to economic and social ends; not an end in it self.

Mt Albert upgrade under threat

Hot on the heels of last weeks flurry of consultations, we now have another one to add the mix and it’s one that could definitely use some help to stop Auckland Transport going rogue with a nonsensical and dangerous plan.

You may recall that back in November, the Albert-Eden Local Board undertook consultation on plans to revitalise the Mt Albert town centre. The plans were decent and included some great changes such as removing the slip lane onto Mt Albert Rd for southbound traffic, but as always, it had some areas that could be improved, particularly related to the lack of bike infrastructure. In February it was announced that overall, the plan had 94% support from respondents with the provision for bikes being the main objection and so the plans were adjusted to include raised cycle lanes the length of the town centre. Here’s what was confirmed at the time.

mt-albert-town-centre-upgrade-feb-16-design

Since then the first part of the plan, the direct connection to the town centre from Mt Albert Train Station was completed.

Now, suddenly, Auckland Transport are back with an unusually short consultation on one aspect of the plan, for northbound on New North Rd, that is completely at odds with the stated goals of the project. It’s worth noting that this is a local board led project, they want Mt Albert to be more people friendly town centre. AT say this about the upgrade

Mt Albert Town Centre upgrade is an Auckland Council and Albert-Eden Local Board joint project that will be delivered by Auckland Transport to revitalise the heart of one of Auckland’s older suburbs. It aims to celebrate its unique character while creating a clean, safe, pleasant and lively environment both day and night that locals can enjoy and take pride in.

There’s not a lot of information online but based on what we’ve experienced in from AT in the past it’s clear from the language what must have happened. Essentially it appears that as the project has progressed, the traffic engineers have got hold of the plans and grabbed their traffic modelling tight like a child clinging to their favourite blanket or toy. The problem with this is we’ve seen over and over again the traffic modelling been proven wrong yet it still gets used, after all the computer saying no to an idea is easier to explain. So when there’s even the slightest hint of inconvenience for car drivers, even if a proposal does all sorts of other wonderful things, the engineers put their foot down. I’ve heard of projects being delayed for months, possibly a year or longer and all at huge cost just to show that a proposal won’t cause the sky to fall.

At issue is how to deal with right hand turns from New North Rd to Mt Albert Rd. They say that all up are around 1,200 right turn movements at the intersection currently. There four options are suggested.

  • Option 1: Right turn at all times
  • Option 2: Right turn banned part of the time
  • Option 3: Right turn banned at all times
  • Option 4: Changed layout with right turn allowed at all times

I’ll cover each of these below but Option 4 is AT’s preferred option.

Option 1: Right turn at all times

This combines the right turn lane with a straight through lane. The issue is AT say the models show a 50% increase in delays in the morning peak and 300% in the evening peak. Something doesn’t seem right with this as in the evenings when most traffic is southbound, why would northbound traffic delay the intersection.

mt-albert-town-centre-dec-16-consultation-option-1

Option 2: Right turn banned part of the time

This would prevent right turns being undertaken during busy times but AT say they don’t actually know how long that would need to be. They say it would also cause confusion for drivers

mt-albert-town-centre-dec-16-consultation-option-2

Option 3: Right turn banned at all times

This option just does away with right turns altogether and surprisingly doing so has some big benefits including reducing intersection delays by 10-30%. It would also have the benefit of having more people use Richardson Rd/Owairaka Ave which would help get some traffic out of the town centre.

mt-albert-town-centre-dec-16-consultation-option-3

Option 4: Changed layout with right turn allowed at all times

As mentioned this is AT’s preferred option as it gives right turn movements a dedicated lane but it does so at the expense of the cycleway which instead stops dead at the bus stop and cyclists are then expected to mix with traffic.

mt-albert-town-centre-dec-16-consultation-option-4

What’s notable about this consultation is not just what AT say but what they don’t say. Nowhere in the consultation do AT talk about the benefits of having a safe bike lanes as part of the solution or what is lost by removing them in option 4. All that is really focused on is having turning options or not. Also not mentioned in the information is the impact on carparking as you can see that the first three options actually retain more carparking than option 4 does due to squeezing in that turning lane. They don’t even mention clearly that option 4 would perform worse than option 3 from a traffic movement perspective.

Just back on the bike lanes, AT say this as one of the benefits of the town centre upgrade.

A safer, more appealing environment for pedestrians, cyclists, commuters, road users and retail and restaurant businesses.

Do they really think that cutting out the bike lanes will make it safer for users. I wonder if the engineers who proposed this daft idea would be prepared to look a parent in the eye and tell them with a straight face that it’s safe for their child to use. These plans will do nothing to get people who aren’t currently brave enough to cycle in the city to try ride a bike.

Putting aside the design for a second, the timing and details of this consultation are also odd. It went up on AT’s website quietly on Friday night and three different dates are listed for when feedback closes. One comment in the timeline section says December 13, the “Have your say” section lists the date as Thursday December 15 while the paper feedback form says Friday December 16. The timeline section also says feedback will be received and analysed while also stating that construction starts in January. That’s got to be a record turnaround time, especially once Christmas and New Year are taken into account so perhaps suggests AT have already decided on the outcome and are only going through the consultation motions to be able to tick a box. In a final bit of poor form, the only way currently visible to make a submission is to print off a form and send it to AT, even though the form itself says you can do it all online.

Overall this appears to be a sham consultation to justify a shoddy option, one that is at odds with the stated goals and visions of the Mayor, Council, Local Board, those who have previously submitted, because it removes more parking probably the retailers and of course it’s even at odds with AT’s own policies and vision.

Hopefully AT can put up an online version of the feedback form today as it’s important we get submissions in to stop their dangerous preferred option. Given Option 3 also improves traffic at the intersection by 10-30% and other options for regional trips already exist via Richardson Rd/Owairaka Ave, it appears Option 3 is probably the best of what has been suggested.

*UPDATE: From AT: page now has online form: https://at.govt.nz/projects-roadworks/mt-albert-town-centre-upgrade/#feedback

Sunday Reading 4 December 2016

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Marti Friedlander (1928-2016) Kids Playing in the Street, Ponsonby. (Te Ara)

Welcome back to Sunday Reading. Here is a collection of stories I found interesting over the past couple of weeks. Add your links in the comments section.

There has been interesting housing news coming from the Australian big cities. In addition to a massive wave of apartment supply coming on-line, there is a growing issue about “settlement” and the ability to secure loans from places outside Australia, namely China. Michael Heath and Enda Curran, “Getting Chinese to Buy Your House Isn’t Easy Anymore. Just Ask Cate Blanchett“, Bloomberg.

As Chinese citizens embark on an unprecedented buying spree of foreign property, the Blanchett case illustrates how such money flows have created an economic and political backlash, both in China and abroad. Nowhere is this clearer than in Australia, the developed nation most exposed to China.

Chinese authorities are stepping up capital curbs just as myriad restrictions in Australia have made mortgages tough to get for foreigners, putting buyers from China in a sandwich squeeze that could dent the property market down under. While that’s not unwelcome for Australia’s central bank, which is keen to take some steam out of rising prices, it shines a light on the struggle to digest China’s cash exodus as it flows further afield into locations from Malaysia to Florida.

Many European cities are moving rapidly to de-car their central city streets. Here’s Berlin where they are removing cars on their famous street in conjunction with the introduction of new mass transit systems. Hmmm. Feargus O’Sullivan, “Berlin’s Most Famous Street Will Go Car-Free“, City Lab.

It’s hard to overstate the symbolic significance of the move. Unter den Linden is the most famous street in Germany, a kind of Teutonic Champs Elysées that contains museums, libraries, monuments, a university, and two opera houses. The East Berlin avenue, whose name means “under/among the linden trees”, used to function as an east-west highway through the city’s heart and was the focus for military parades from the era of Napoleon to that of Gorbachev. Banishing cars from such a central space won’t just remove private motorists from the city’s tourist heart, it suggests a change of heart that could steadily see such traffic increasingly sidelined.

The city is currently expanding the U55 subway line, which is bringing back trains from the 1950s, so that it joins up with an existing line that currently begins at Alexanderplatz. This line will run underneath Unter den Linden, and current construction work on the project has forced partial lane closures up and down the avenue. The disruption has already seen car traffic on the avenue drop significantly. Before construction began, 30,000 cars traveled the avenue each day. Now, that number is just 8,000. That decrease is an important precursor to the ban, showing motorists that they don’t need to keep Unter den Linden for themselves.

Disappearing traffic is a thing. Coming to a city near you soon. Charlie Sorrel, “When Paris Closed A Major Road To Cars, Half Its Traffic Just Disappeared”, FastCoExist.

If we look at the numbers another way, you’ll see that overall traffic has actually been reduced. Before the closure (measured in September 2015), 2,600 vehicles per hour passed on the low road. But after the closure, only 1,301 extra cars are being seen on the Boulevard Saint Germain and the high river road combined. That is, half of the cars that used to use the now-closed road have disappeared.

Some of these cars will have found alternate routes on other roads, but many of those passengers and drivers will now be using alternative forms of transport to get to and from work.

Stephen Joseph, “1986 was the year of car dependence. Thirty years on, have politicians learned nothing?“CityMetric.

The M25 became an illustration of a truth, increasingly accepted during the 1990s and 2000: that it’s not possible to build your way out of congestion, because road building simply generates traffic. When the Labour Government came to power in 1997, it scaled back the road programme and commissioned a series of “multi-modal studies”, including one for the M25. The main consultant on that study described widening the M25 as being like “digging a ditch in a bog”, and recommended forms of road charging or traffic restraint instead.

All of these lessons appear to have been forgotten. We are back to an era of road building, with a widespread belief that it’s possible to meet demand for road use by building and widening roads. The “predict and provide” forecasts and models that justify road building, based on extrapolating past trends, are still in place, despite noises about moving to a range of scenarios instead. There is serious talk of double-decking the M25 to cope with future traffic growth, especially around Heathrow with its proposed third runway. Issues of air quality and climate change are ignored, because of a belief – one not founded in any serious research – that by 2040 all cars will be electric, and possibly driverless too.

One of the key factors in Vancouver’s success story was the decision not to build an inter-city motorway network. Here’s an inspiring story about how Vancouver provides lifestyle options through rapid transit, buses, high density housing and increasingly cycling.

Vancouver’s Multi-Modal Success Story from STREETFILMS on Vimeo.

Protected bike lanes attract a wide range of users since they remove the key barrier to cycling – traffic stress. Not surprisingly, they are also safer. Separation by design follows the principles of Sustainable Safety and forms the basis for European cycleway design. Because of the legacy of vehicular cycling advocates in English-speaking countries, separated cycle facilities are rare. There is now a growing evidence base about the safety of separated facilities. It’s only taken us 40 years to figure this out.

Dudley, “Why Protected Bike Lanes Save Lives“, CityLab.

The transformative virtues of protected bike lanes have been the focus of much research lately. A 2014 study from Portland State University determined that segregated bike paths are not only demonstrably safer for riders, they have the power to lure lapsed riders back aboard their bikes. And in a new paper in the American Journal of Public Health, “Safer Cycling Through Improved Infrastructure,” the authors John Pucher and Ralph Buehler demonstrate that those cities that have invested heavily in fully protected bike paths over the last decade or so have reaped the biggest safety improvements and ridership boosts. “It is not simply a matter of expanding bicycle infrastructure,” the authors write. “The specific type of bicycle infrastructure matters. Several studies show the crucial importance of physical separation of cycling facilities from motor vehicle traffic on heavily traveled roads.”

For bicyclists, the swift erosion of America’s driving abilities is yet another reason to admit that the cause of “vehicular cycling”—the safe-biking philosophy that says bikes should ride assertively rather than cower at the side of the road—is increasingly compromised by reality, and thus the intra-cyclist civil war that’s raged for decades over the issue should be put to rest. “Vehicular cycling doesn’t work: Where there aren’t bike facilities, there are more accidents and more injuries,” says Pucher. “There’s all sorts of weird cultural factors behind the defense of vehicular cycling, but all the evidence shows that separate facilities are much safer. In particular, you’re much less likely to get killed, because most crashes don’t involve motor vehicles. And when you look at what planners are actually doing, there’s a very clear preference for separate facilities.”

 

 

Electric cars, autonomous cars, ride sharing on-demand transport , etc have captivated people’s imagination on how they will change city life. Something overlooked in the hype, is how they have already changed city life. For example, along popular late night destinations (K Road, Ponsonby Rd) there are a swarm of taxis and Ubers. Meanwhile. the kerbside is still relegated to free, long term and overnight parking making pick-up and drop-off difficult if not dangerous.  The rise of the ubiquitous small parcel delivery vehicle  seems also to have gone unnoticed while thought leaders navel gaze about the future at conferences.

Benjamin Reider “Our Amazon addiction is clogging up our cities—and bikes might be the best solution” QZ.com

This causes a different kind of traffic problem than in the past. Just a few years ago, delivery in urban centers was about dropping off large volumes of goods at shops. Today, it’s about delivering small numbers of parcels to different addresses, often directly to consumers. City centers today are congested partly because delivery trucks are blocking traffic while trying to deliver boxes.

An additional part of that problem is that the consumer often isn’t at home at the time of delivery. The number of failed deliveries to consumers makes grown people in e-commerce weep: Estimates for failed first deliveries range somewhere between 10 and 30%. This means that a van has to make not one but two trips (or more) to deliver those sneakers to you.
And if you decide you don’t like those sneakers? You can send them back. Three trips.

Alex Steffen, “Tesla’s City Problem“, Medium.

I am well aware that Tesla wants to brand itself as desirable, first, and then sustainable and smart. The idea, though, that “desirable” means “suburban” is way out date with current cultural reality, and completely out of touch with the demands of the future.

Here’s what I’d love to see Tesla show instead: urban life made hipper and more awesome through the adoption of its cars, batteries and solar technologies. There’s plenty of scope for imagination here.

A suburban Tesla is an improved means to an unimproved (and unsustainble) end.

It’s Cycleway Consultation Season

It seems it’s consultation season for bike related projects with not one, not two but three currently now underway by Auckland Transport and all could do with submissions to improve them.

Herne Bay cycling and walking improvements – Closes 18 December

This project came out of AT’s recent consultation on improving cycling options in the inner west of the city. AT say the original plan was for cycling connections via Clifton Road, Argyle Street and Sarsfield Street however they’ve now opted for area wide traffic calming measures using speed tables. All up 22 speed tables are proposed at intersections and mid-block, as shown below.

••••••Hernebay-A4

Here are some examples what is proposed. More can be seen on the AT website.

herne-bay-treatment-1

herne-bay-treatment-3

In a location such as this, an area wide traffic calming effort, if done properly, should deliver a good outcome and across a much wider area than a single cycleway as planned before. It will also have benefits not just for cycling but for pedestrians and a wider range of residents too.

But of course there are things that could be better with  the first thing that springs to mind being that there are no ways for bikes to bypass the speed tables, like Auckland Transport proposed recently for Northcote Point, one example of which is below.

northcote-point-speed-cushion

Further, while the traffic calming will likely help in reducing speeds, it surely wouldn’t hurt to back that up with an area wide change to speed limits.

Our friends at Bike Auckland have a few other ideas too.

There are two open days planned for the consultation, the first being today, details below.

  • Thursday, 1 December, 11am to 2pm at The Governor, 228 Jervois Road, Herne Bay.
  • Saturday, 10 December, 11am to 2pm at the Leys Institute (Ponsonby Library), 20 St Marys Road, Ponsonby.

Consultation closes December 18.

Westhaven to City cycle route – Closes 18 December

Many of the cyclists using the Herne Bay roads above, along with those from the future Skypath as well as other locations, will be heading to the city. Currently, upon passing the motorway noose the options are usually to take the scenic route via North Wharf and Te Wero Bridge, wind around Gaunt St and Viaduct Harbour Dr or to brave Fanshawe St. While only anecdotal, I notice a lot picking the later as it’s the most direct route.

AT are now proposing to upgrade Viaduct Harbour Dr to make it more bike friendly and they’re currently consulting on the section as far as Market Pl.

westhaven-to-the-city-route-map

Unfortunately, what AT are suggesting is a complete turd of a solution for a route that will likely have high numbers using it. The plan, like above is to just calm traffic using speed tables as well as some paint while making no changes to the road. That might be appropriate in an area like Herne Bay but in my view, is completely inappropriate in this location which is likely to have higher volumes using it including children. Based on what’s proposed, they’ll stick to using the footpath – a view some have already expressed on social media.

Below is an overview of the plans but more detailed versions can be found here.

westhaven-to-the-city-route-plan

One example of why this is such a rubbish idea can be seen in this more detailed view of the plan on the part of Customs St West north of Pakenham St East. As you can see people on bikes are meant to cycle on the road behind angle parked cars who could start reversing out without being able to see if any cyclists are coming. Would the people who proposed this be prepared to let their 8-year old child ride on the road here, I certainly wouldn’t (if I had one).

westhaven-to-the-city-route-plan-1

AT have already ruled out using Fanshawe St for a direct connection but I think they need to go back to the drawing board and look at as an option again. The road must be one of the widest in Auckland with the corridor in places over 38m wide. For the section east of Halsey St this width includes a massive 4.5m wide flush median. If ever there was a road that could do with some boulevard treatment, it would be Fanshawe St. That boulevard would include improved footpaths, cycleways, a separated urban busway and then the general traffic lanes

And Fanshawe needs some love too, while it is designed and treated like a giant motorway on/off ramp, it also had surprisingly high volumes of pedestrians who would also benefit from making the area more people friendly and less sterile. What’s more, given the width I think that could likely be accommodated without having to compromise on the number of traffic lanes

fanshawe-st-now

This idea is something we might flesh out in a later post but let’s get this option back on the table because what’s proposed won’t get anyone new cycling on Viaduct Harbour Ave and there is already the scenic route available via the waterfront for those that want that.

Like above, the consultation closes on December 18

Parnell cycleway and residential parking zone – Closes 23 December

The government’s Urban Cycleway Programme identified a route from Tamaki Dr up to Newmarket. To facilitate that, AT are looking at putting protected cycleways along St Stephens Ave and Gladstone Rd.

parnell-cycle-path-map

We along with others like Bike Auckland and Generation Zero met with AT over this project some months ago when at the time they were planning to just install painted lanes. We told there was no point in having a fight over removing the parking they would need to if they were just going to put a bit of paint on the road. Thankfully they’ve taken that feedback on board and the proposed solution includes physically separated bike lanes. In some locations these cycleways will have parking outside them while in other locations there will be no parking. AT say that all up just 95 carparks are affected.

parnell-cycleway-artists-impression

This isn’t to say the proposal is perfect, for example at bus stops the cycleway just stops and cyclists would have to wait for it to depart again.

parnell-cycleway-plan

In this situation, a solution like floating bus stops, where the stop is pushed into the general traffic lane and the bus stop and bike lane become a shared area might be more appropriate, but that would mean AT getting over their fears about buses stopping in general traffic.

To go with the cycleway, AT is proposing a residential parking scheme for the area. They say that just 10% of cars parked on the street are from locals with most assumed to be commuters. They also think the scheme will help locals deal with the loss of the parking on Gladstone Rd.

parnell-residential-parking-zone

If you want to talk to AT about the plans, they’ll be at La Cigale French Market (69 St Georges Bay Road, Parnell) on Saturday 3 December from 8am to 1pm.

Consultation closes 23 December.

 

What do you think of what AT has proposed?

Assorted bike related news

A few of bike related things from recent days.

One

Lightpath turns one in just over a week (December 3rd) and in its first year has seen over 200,000 bike trips across its magenta surface. So the other day it was fantastic to hear that it had won the transport category of the World Architecture Festival, and it looks like it had some strong competition.

Te Ara I Whiti ©Patrick Reynolds 2016

Te Ara I Whiti ©Patrick Reynolds 2016

Awesome work from everyone who helped make this project a reality.

Two

 

Next, I’ve noticed of the last few years there has been almost no coverage from the paper of many of the important transport transformations that have been underway. They’ve ignored changes like the roll out of electric trains, cycleways and the new bus network. So it was interesting yesterday to see a paid article in Herald from the council about transport. The article focused primarily on cycleways but also mentioned PT near the end.

at-paid-herald-article-nov-11

I thought the more than a casual mention of paying people to cycle, even by employers, was an odd angle and certainly something I don’t think could even really be considered until after a more comprehensive network of safe protected cycleways have been rolled out. If we did start to move down that route though, we’d surely also want some way of expanding this to encourage kids to ride to school too.

Actually, a few quick back of the envelope calculations show it isn’t all that expensive either. According to Stats NZ, there are 210k people in Auckalnd between the ages of 10 and 19. If you could get an impressive 20% of them to ride an average of just 3km to school, then with around 190 school days a year it would only cost around $12 million annually. That’s peanuts compared to how much we spend on transport in Auckland as in the year to the end of June the NZTA and Auckland Transport combined spent over $1.4 billion on transport

I also thought the comment about keeping the number of cars arriving in Auckland constant but having additional growth taken up by other modes. While I’m not saying that even just maintaining the status quo is an easy thing to do, having that as a goal sounds remarkably unambitous. How different and more agressive would transport plans need to be if we set the goal of reducing car use, not just on a per capita basis but in real terms too.

Three

The Tūpuna Maunga Authority has decided that in 2017 they’ll extend the ban on cars up the summit of Maungawhau/Mt Eden to five more mountains across Auckland. These are:

  • Maungakiekie/One Tree Hill
  • Maungarei/Mt Wellington
  • Ōwairaka/Mt Albert
  • Puketāpapa/Mt Roskill
  • Takarunga/Mt Victoria

That will leave the mountains open for people on foot and bike, although they say automated barriers will allow those with limited mobility to drive up. One of the reasons given for this change is to improve safety for people who currently walk up the mountains and they say there has been an increasing number of near misses.

 

November 16 AT Board Meeting

Tomorrow the AT board meet for their penultimate meeting of the year and it looks like it will be a big one with a lot on the agenda of their closed session.

Closed Session

I’ve added my thoughts after many of the items.

Items for Approval/Decision

  • Panuku Framework Plans – I assume this relates to AT working with Panuku Development Auckland on plans for the areas they’re focusing on redeveloping.
  • Dominion Road Bus Lane Improvements – When AT announced they were looking seriously at light rail for Dominion Rd, the planned upgrade that was about to go ahead was put on hold but now that ATAP appears to have pushed LRT out, it’s important that AT make some improvements to the bus lanes now. Hopefully this means they’ll be extending the lanes, including through intersections rather than stopping short like now and extending the hours of operation.
  • Road Stopping
  • Clonbern Road Carpark – AT have indicated previously that there’s a redevelopment proposal for the carpark they own on Clonbern Rd, Remuera.
  • Execution of Deed by Directors – Lease of upper levels CPO – Presumably this is for after the CRL works have finished.
  • Execution of Heads of Terms – Lease of Land
  • 2017 Annual Fare Review – It will be interesting to see if AT propose any fare changes given they’ve just made some with the introduction of Simplified Fares. If they do make changes, past years indicate they would be implemented in January.
  • Rail Operator – In the main board report it is mentioned that AT are currently conducting a periodic efficiency audit as part of the rail passenger services contract terms of reference
  • SaFE

Items for Noting

  • CRL Procurement Update – I assume this item related to AT holding a day long industry briefing on the main works of the CRL later this month before tender documentation goes out next year.
  • MRT/LRT Update – One of the outcomes from ATAP was the use of the term Mass Transit instead of Light Rail for several projects. Essentially the NZTA are busily trying to show that a bus only solution to capacity problems can be found but my guess is they will do so by ignoring the capacity issues on city centre streets.
  • Parnell Station Update – It appears that Kiwirail have already started some works to move the old Newmarket Station building to the site, presumably this will update progress.
  • Procurement Update

Business Report

Moving on to the items that got my attention in the main business report, in the order appear in the report.

AT say the handheld devices used by ticket inspectors to check HOP cards are at the end of their life and they have a project underway to replace them.

The Mt Roskill Safe Routes is now complete and due to be officially opened on Wednesday while the first stage of the Glen Innes to Tamaki Dr path – from Merton Rd to St Johns Rd – will open on 16 December.

In a piece of great news, it appears AT have agreed to remove the left turn slip lanes from Nelson St onto Fanshawe St as part of the project to extend the Nelson St cycle lanes. Dealing with this intersection is what has delayed the project by so long as I understand some of the traffic engineers were more concerned about vehicle flow than the safety of people. Construction of this section is planned for March 2017

2016-11-nelson-st-slip-lanes

The Nelson St/Fanshawe St intersection

AT are hoping mediation will solve the appeal by Cowie St residents against the bridge that will replace the Sarawia St level crossing. If it doesn’t, the environment court appeal is set down for February.

The Half Moon Bay ferry terminal is progressing with the wharf works due for completion in January and the land side works in April.

As mentioned this morning, double deckers are due to be rolled out on Onewa Rd in February next year. AT say DD mitigation works also planned for Gt North Rd in Feb 2018 and Manukau Rd in June 2018.

AT say they’re on track to meet their target of rolling out 19km of bus lanes this financial year, despite them later in the report claiming to have a target to roll out 26km this year.

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The roll-out of the new bus network in West Auckland is scheduled for 11 June 2017. AT are in the middle of assessing the bids for the Central and East networks and have now gone to tender for the North Shore services.

We’ve mentioned before that AT are finally looking at boosting capacity of services prior to the regular March Madness. There’s a little more detail about what this entails.

  • For the NEX they say approximately 25-35 extra peak trips will be added in January-February 2017 – but it doesn’t say what timeframe those extra trips are over i.e. per week/month.
  • They say Birkenhead Transport have the fastest growing bus patronage after the NEX and as well as double deckers being added in February, eight additional peak trips will be added to the timetable.
  • On rail they say “Further line speed, interlocking works and signalling works to improve journey times are being targeted for the March/April 2017 timetable recast.” – although this does also suggests the new rail timetable might be being pushed out a little.

On Friday 21 October, they say for the first time ever had 100% punctuality and reliability on trains.

I continue to hear more and more complaints about Skybus since they took over the commercially run airport service around a year ago. Being a fully commercial service they sit outside of AT’s control so it’s interesting to see that they continue to be the worst performing bus company in Auckland.

2016-11-bus-performance

A trial a Park & Ride run by Wilsons Parking will take place on Esmonde Rd at the Harbourside Church. It will be interesting to see how popular this is, perhaps cars stuck as part of traffic on Esmonde Rd, and seeing buses wizz past in the bus lane might decide to pull off and park up.

A trial park and ride facility is being prepared for opening on 28th November at Esmonde Road, Takapuna. The facility is owned by the Harbourside Church and will be operated by Wilsons Parking Ltd. AT Metro are facilitating the additional bus stops, services, promotion and planning of this initiative and will be monitoring the uptake and impact of this site on traffic patterns in and around Takapuna. The initiative is also linked to parking consultation activities in Takapuna and offers alternative parking options for both inbound and outbound vehicles

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Forward Programme

An indication as to some of the things going up to the board and board committees in the next month.

  • Electric Vehicles in transit lanes
  • Train Capacity
  • Mangere future streets
  • Strategic PT Network
  • 2016/17 Budget realignment
  • MRT/LRT Update

There’s certainly a lot going on.

Stunning Lightpath Timelapse

Lightpath is only 11 months old but already feels like an important part of Auckland’s fabric. As of the end of October nearly 200,000 trips by bike had been made over it and many more will have walked it. The path is great by day but perhaps even more impressive at night when then LEDs kick in and dance around, following users as they make their way across the structure. Here is a stunning timelapse video showing lightpath as the sun sets over Auckland by James Garman.

The view from Hopetoun Bridge of Auckland’s CBD, this is about 1 hour condensed down into 30 seconds. To the left you can see Auckland’s Harbour Bridge and some sails passing under.

h/t BikeAkl

 

New Amsterdam

The current cycleway revolution in Auckland has a serendipitous feature for one of Auckland’s most cherished but badly treated areas: All routes lead to Karangahape Rd. Both the recent city by-passes: Grafton Gully and the Pink Path, have one end in the K Rd precinct, our only current cycling ‘superhighway’, the NorthWestern, is about to get its city termination moved forward from Newton Rd to the K, and the coming real on-road separated cycle lanes on Great North Rd also lead straight to the K. Oh and the cycle friendly ridge level link of our very own Pont Neuf, Grafton Bridge, leads bike riders there from the other end.

Yes Karangahape Rd is the ground zero of Auckland’s bike riding revival which surely offers a real opportunity for the area to at last both thrive and remain true to its very specific identity. It would be a shame for K Rd to either slide back into decline or to try to keep up with its glossier rivals by seeking to become something its not. And as Ponsonby Rd becomes ever more upmarket and seemingly determined to drown itself in more and more parking and therefore driving, this offers K Rd a great opportunity to brand itself as a street and people place and not a car place. This happy confluence of street culture and improving bike infrastructure is already having an effect on the numbers that access businesses on the street by bike, as can be seen below:

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And in the data:

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But this is despite the lack of any safe cycle routes on K Rd itself, nor clearly enough parking places. But happily our Transport Agency is on it:

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The plan is to add cycle lanes each side with temporary barriers, or at least without expensive excavations of the existing curb line and stormwater systems. And improved bus priority which is already clearly vital to the area. It is wise to start with a changeable pattern as there is a longer term opportunity to further tune down through traffic once the CRL station opens way off in 2023. Then this important section, between Pitt and Queen Sts should become one lane each way for buses (and emergency) and otherwise be for people on foot and bikes only. For more on the plan and links to make a submission go here.

To this end I think the K Rd business association should push for a regular traffic closure of this short section between Pitt and Queen every Sunday. This won’t be particularly disruptive, except to through traffic, and that should be the desired outcome; an assertion over place through movement. And of course a way to brand the area as street not arterial, and uniquely street.

So the whole upgrade is clearly a great opportunity for the businesses in the area to market themselves as being at the leading edge of the new city with the bike as the symbol of all the current new urban changes underway: The rise in city centre living, the ongoing revolution in Rapid Transit ridership, in short the return of the City.

The wider point is that the driving era destroyed this place and the walking/biking/transit age we are now in is its best chance at redemption. Go the K.

Skypath and East-West; good, bad and ugly

To borrow a sports analogy, yesterday was a bit of a “game of two halves”. There was good, bad and ugly all thrown in from different sources. I thought I’d highlight them both in this post.

The good fantastic

After decades pushing the vision and years of hard work by some amazingly dedicated people, yesterday it was confirmed that Skypath will be granted consent.

Skypath Consent - From Westhaven

Consent was initially issued in July last year however as expected, some of the groups who have long opposed Skypath appealed to the Environment Court. Earlier this year two of those groups dropped out, the Herne Bay Residents Association claiming it would never happen anyway, and the Northcote Point Residents Association (NRA) who saying they couldn’t afford the costs that would sought against them if they lost. That left just the Northcote Point Heritage Preservation Society (NPHPS), a group set up only a few years ago and run by many of the same people as the NRA, to challenge the project in court.

In their appeal, the NPHPS sought some absurdly strict conditions placed on the project, likely in a bid to make it not viable. Our friends at Bike Auckland have more details, including the council’s response but below are the conditions the NPHPS wanted.

  • limiting entry to between 6am – 7pm (with exit permitted until 10pm), and
  • imposing a daily maximum limit of 1440 movements in and out of the Northern landing (NB this number has been revised upwards from earlier proposals, which were in the low hundreds), with trips to be booked online.

Insane, imagine trying to suggest someone impose those kinds of conditions on a road project, or perhaps even the Harbour Bridge.

Thankfully today Judge Newhook verbally confirmed that the consent would be issued. There may be a refinement of the conditions, such as allowing for the impacts on the point to be reviewed after construction but not the crazy demands the NPHPS tried for. Anyone out there who doesn’t think that if costs are awarded against the NPHPS that they’ll fold, not paying their debts?

All up awesome news and well done to everyone who’s been involved in getting this over the line, especially Bevan Woodward who has been pushing the project from the start.

The bad and the ugly

Yesterday evening I attended a community workshop/discussion about the East-West Link (while Auckland Transport tried to change the name to East-West Connections, the NZTA are using East-West Link). The purpose of the event was to discuss the project and issues in advance of the NZTA notifying it to the Environmental Protection Authority, something they intend to do in early December – just a month away. The EPA process was also used for Waterview, Puhoi to Warkworth and the Basin Reserve and means that a binding decision will be made within nine months of notification.

Given how much work goes into preparing for an EPA process, it means there’s unlikely to be a lot, if any change from what they showed. This suggests that the event was more of a box ticking exercise while also making sure they’re prepared in advance for the main issues that people will criticise them on. They did claim the design will evolve as the over the course of the process, like it did with Waterview but it’s unlikely to change all that much.

A key feature of the evening was the NZTA showing some of their latest designs for the project and there appear to have been some changes since we last saw them. For now we’re stuck with some phone photos but I’m sure they’ll release higher quality versions online in time.

The first and most obvious thing you may notice in the images below are the connections around Onehunga. I’ll come back to that in more detail later. Next you may notice the large areas of reclamation that are now proposed, this is quite different to the stark straight lines we saw in some earlier designs. These serve both to deal with stormwater and serve as mitigation to plonking a giant road down over what is currently a bit of a hidden gem. Through these areas are meant to be walking and cycling connections, including a boardwalk over the water between those two areas that jut out.

One of the big changes not really evident from these images is that the road had been pushed back and is now almost all on the existing land along the waterfront (where the cycleway is). This is mainly due to the difficulty they would otherwise have had in getting consent to reclaim land. There will still be some reclamation though, mainly for a bund to help stop stuff leaching into the harbour like it currently does.

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Further east you can see the connections to SH1 which includes upgrades through to past Princess St. The section over the port car storage area through to Gt South Rd is about a 1.4km long viaduct – one of the reasons the project is so expensive. One aspect they did confirm is that it has apparent the design allows for grade separation of the rail junction.

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Here are a couple of cross sections. The cycleway on the foreshore side but next to the road was described as a ‘high speed cycleway’

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As mentioned, here’s a closer look at the design at the Onehunga end, perhaps best described as a sea of roads. One thing that I did learn was that the area past the port will actually be in a bit of a trench so will be partially hidden from the port area. The graphics are shown over the motorway bridge for clarity but they will be under it in real life.

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and here’s a more artistic view of it.

east-west-onehunga-interchange-design-artistic

Unfortunately, the photos I took of the design elements (highlighted by the pins) didn’t really come out well. It’s also not clear just how rail of any kind will get through this area if it’s getting to the airport.

The East-West Link is clearly a project that is going to be something that sees a lot of discussion over the next year so.