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Photo of the Day: Red II

Eyelight Lane by Swedish artist David Svensson, commissioned by Auckland Council.

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Photographs by Patrick Reynolds.

Improving K’Rd

Below is a plan developed by the Waitemata Local Board working closely with the Karangahape Rd Business Association to improve the area:

K'Rd improvements

This is their accompanying text:

Over the next few decades the Karangahape Road area will experience a dramatic increase in growth, especially in the wake of the completion of the Central Rail Link. This will encourage many more people to frequent the area for shopping and entertainment – the creation of an entrance to the Underground rail Station in Mercury Lane would for example enable people from Avondale, New Lynn, and Henderson to easily travel into K Rd at night to attend theatrical performances at the Mercury Theatre . More people will live in the area as well.

In years to come the area surrounding Karangahape road will be inevitably rebuilt with higher residential units. A higher residential population is to be welcomed from every point of view – it will benefit the area economically and socially as well as improving the general environment ecologically by reducing commuting times and pollution. The increase in the number of residents in the area will probably bring a greater mix of people; at the moment there are few elderly folk or children for example but that may change swiftly after the completion of the CRL and more residential units.

The perceived and real safety and visual attractiveness of the streetscapes will be a crucial part of any development for the K Road area. In particular the volume and speed of traffic will need to be addressed. Karangahape Road is an important traffic route and the Business Association would not like bus routes (for example) to be rerouted away from the area, but certain things should be examined. Some roads in the area are prone to high traffic speeds as they have become to be virtually treated as part of the On‐Ramps for the Motorway System. These areas are very pedestrian unfriendly and it is vital that traffic calming solutions be implemented sooner than later.

This is an good summary of the challenges for the urban form of the area and the ideas on the map above are really good.

K'Rd

 

As the local board are calling for ideas for both K’Rd and Newton it would be good to get readers’ feedback on the suggestions so I’ll start the ball rolling with a couple of thoughts:

~The main entrance to the K’Rd station is planned for the top of upper Beresford St, this will involve the permanent closure of this road to through traffic [already restricted to one way onto Pitt St] and the creation of a public square around the station building which will be great, so the lower part of Beresford St will provide the road access to the buildings of Beresford and Day Sts. I find it strange the Business Association seems to be ignoring this. Only mentioning a Mercury Lane entrance.

~The connection of the abandoned motorway lane to Day St behind the old Rising Sun pub as well as to the new Grafton Gully cycleway and cyclelanes on Nelson St is a great plan. Also I think that the connection of Day St to K’Rd for traffic should be removed and this lane two-wayed back to Beresford. This should also link west across to Howe St under the existing bridge for a more direct and alternative route for pedestrians and cyclists.

~The narrowing of the top of Howe St would only be possible if the 020 bus is no longer fighting its way up that street.

~I don’t shared the Association’s enthusiasm for removing footpaths for on-street parking.

~Always yes to more street trees. But please not only palms, although I think the Nikau already on K’Rd are great.

~This area will see a rise in both residents and retail activity and the streetscape needs to improve with these changes. The CRL station will completely change the area; this will be Ponsonby’s station too [and especially Auckland Girls Grammar's], so the pedestrian amenity over the motorway should be better than just the narrow paths on the Hopetoun viaduct and the quality and liveliness of the Ponsonby/K’rd block will become more important. There is already a new major apartment building under construction in upper Howe St with surely more to come so perhaps something can be done to the terrible design failure of the block between Howe and Hereford Sts.

~Keeping the Link and other buses moving through here needs to kept in mind too. People from Ponsonby and other inner western areas will use these to connect with the much more useful and import rail system at K’Rd post CRL as well as to head into the City and Grafton and Newmarket as they do now.

~More and better pedestrian crossings are required. The really big elephant in the room with regards to traffic volumes, hinted at in the copy, is the motorway onramp at the  K’Rd and Symonds St intersection. Without this ‘attractor’ traffic volume would surely be much more manageable through these city streets. I’m sure highway purists at NZTA would be happy to close this as the city onramps all affect the effectiveness of the system and its all important flow. These are signs of the strange hybrid network that is our urban motorway. Weirdly I guess the best chance for this being closed would be if the disaster of additional lanes across the harbour were built then pressures further into the system like this onramp would probably have to be cut simply to keep the CMJ from total infarction. What a horrible price that would be to pay however.

~ I like the ambition of caping the CMJ at the two high and narrow points, however I suspect the cost and difficulty of constructing the necessary serious engineering while keeping the m’way system below functioning makes these plans unlikely to be fulfilled. I do think however that cantilevering lightweight structures from the existing structures of the Upper Queen St, Symonds St, and K’Rd bridges on either side would almost certainly be both structurally and financially viable as well as architecturally exciting and offer interesting and useful commercial space; shops, cafes, and bars etc [great views- especially form the K'Rd bridge]. Like a 21st century version of the shops on Ponte Vechio in Florence or the old London Bridge! Or more prosaically like 21stC versions of the clip-ons on the Harbour Bridge. These would provide both weather and noise protection as well as interest for pedestrians and therefore go a long way to helping to repair the severance caused by the huge place-destruction of the motorway system.

~Great ideas on new parklets and re-forged pedestrian connections are to found on the map above too; these are necessary and affordable improvements that should be explored and made quickly.

~And AT really needs to come to the cycling party by giving over the outermost lane of the over-wide and over-fast Ian McKinnon Drive to connect Upper Queen St to the northern end of the new Grafton Gully route under Newton Rd. Here. Planters, maybe some barriers, a bit of paint, and a chat with their colleagues at NZTA to form the short connection under the Newton rd bridge with a two lane: Proper joined up off road network all the way from the sea to the heart of the west!

Let us know what you think.

Skypath Open Day- TODAY!

If you’re interested in finding out about more about Skypath (particularly if you’re a local) then you might want to make your way to one of their open day sessions this Saturday. They also say they’ll have information packs available and want more feedback before a resource consent application is lodged which is likely to be in May. Further they are expecting the application will be fully notified so that people will have a chance to submit on the project as part of the consenting process, something I’m sure many of the locals will do.

Skypath Open Day

Skypath Images

Images thanks to Reset Urban Design

Photo of the Day: Euskotren Tranbia

As well as the Metro and an excellent bus system -Bilbobus- Bilbao also has a small tram system. Running CAF built Urbos 1 Light Rail vehicles, the route covers different sections of the city to the faster and longer reaching Metro, offering a highly visible distributor from a couple of Metro stations it connects with to important destinations like the Guggenheim Museum. It runs both on the city streets and on dedicated and grassed corridors by the river. The Quay side has a wide promenade and cycleways on both banks. The revitalisation of Bilbao is built on the back of investment in high quality public realm with thorough attention to Transit and Walking and Cycling networks. The Guggenheim Museum is really the icing on the cake of this rebirth, not the starting point.

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Photographs by Patrick Reynolds.

Khartoum Place upgrade in full swing

The Khartoum place upgrade is well under way and shaping up to be an even greater set of urban spaces for our rapidly developing city.

First up, down on the Lorne St side we can see the new owner of the old new gallery building  has changed its format in response to the opening of the new old gallery (ahem).  They’ve just finished a fit out that has reconfigured the ground level into a series of retail outlets. The best bit is the new cafe opening out onto the square, complete with tables already in use. It is part of the Gloria Jeans chain, arguably the McDonalds of coffee shops, but to their credit they have put a lot of effort into a slick fit out that is more artsy hipster than suburban strip mall. This really livens things up compared to the old inactive frontage. There are also new shop fronts right along the Lorne St and Wellesley St frontages which is already activating the block with commerce and activity.

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I can only assume that the councils investment in the upper Lorne St streetscapes, the art gallery and now Khartoum place is what spurred the property owner into investing in their building stock. Good job council, investment in quality urban spaces is clearly paying economic dividends already.

Now on to Upper Khartoum place itself. We can see the new stairs linking the upper and lower levels of the square are built and already in use. I think this is a great design, it opens up the square somewhat and provides a critical sightline to new gallery extension. But thankfully it doesn’t detract from the sense of enclosure one feels in the shady “outdoor room” of the lower square.

Earlier plans nuked the whole suffragettes memorial and fountain stairs, to be replaced with a single broad and long staircase melding the two halves of the square. Personally I’m glad that plan got shelved in favour of the less drastic change and keeping the square in two distinct halves.

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While the new staircase is in there is a lot more to do reconfiguring and repaving the upper part of the square. Council indicates the works should be completed by August, and will look like this when done.

Auckland’s missing pedestrian legs

A recently discussed on the blog, Auckland Council is making great strides in some of the more high profile City Centre Masterplan projects, with work recently starting on the O’Connell St and Upper Khartoum Place upgrades. However what I believe has been missing are much smaller scale interventions that can make things better for pedestrians. The Masterplan includes 9 outcomes, one of which is ‘A walkable and pedestrian-friendly city centre – well connected to its urban villages.’ This comes with 7 targets:

Target 1: More kilometres of pedestrian footpaths/walkways

Target 2: More kilometres of cycleways

Target 3: Reduction in pedestrian waiting times at intersections

Target 4: Reduction in use of left-turn slip lanes

Target 5: New mid-block pedestrian crossings

In this post I will focus on Target 3, reducing pedestrian wait times. While there are countless small interventions that are required, one obvious one I’ve noticed recently is the number of traffic lights that are missing pedestrian lights on one leg of the intersection. Coming across these while walking can be extremely frustrating, and if you are really unlucky have to wait for 4 or even 5 pedestrian lights, rather than making 1 simple crossing. One of the worst examples is the intersection of Halsey and Gaunt Street, where there is no crossing on the western leg.

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Intersection of Fanshawe and Halsey Streets

I recently timed how long it would take to cross what is only 30 metres direct. However one has to wait for 4 separate legs, not helped by the offset crossing on the eastern side where you cross Fanshawe Street. It took me over 4 minutes to cross here, which is just plain crazy. It is not like there are no potential pedestrians here, to the south east is Victoria Park and the Greenkeeper Cafe. Directly opposite is a major new office development under construction which will house the Fonterra headquarters in the first building, with more buildings planned. Clearly no one is going to bother heading to Victoria Park for their lunch break when 1/3 of the time is spent painfully crossing the road. Ideally people should be able to cross the road for their 10 minute morning coffee break if they want, not use it all up waiting!

However this example is far from unique, and I have mapped all the pedestrian crossings with missing legs below. Amazing there are 23 in the CBD alone! The three with green markers have had Barnes Dances added which has fixed the issue. So this could be a quick fix for some if the intersections with high pedestrian volumes. However Barnes Dances not desirable for all intersections, and they work best when they are double phased like on Queen St. So Auckland Transport really just need to bite the bullet and add pedestrian crossings to these missing legs. Of course these missing legs are even m0re prevalent outside the CBD, so these need to be worked on in other major pedestrian centers as well, could be a good job for local boards to get into as they have the ability to request Auckland Transport investigate matters like these.


View Missing Crossing Places in a larger map

If Auckland Council and Auckland Transport really want to get more people walking around our city and commuting to work, having walking stations set up around the city is not going to cut it. They need to get on with fixing these missing crossings, and make it easier for pedestrians to get around our city centre. 

Caption Contest: John Key cycling

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Image source: Peter Smit (@PWMSmit) https://twitter.com/PWMSmit/status/448754406432178176/photo/1

Prime Minister John Key with Peter Smit, Councillor for Transport, City Councillor of Leidschenveen-Iepenburg, The Hague.

Comments to be funny, not rude.

February 2014 Patronage

The patronage results for February are out and overall they’re looking pretty good. It was helped in part by some of the major events that occurred like the Eminem concert and the NRL 9′s however even accounting for those the results were positive.

Auckland public transport patronage totalled 70,824,030 passengers for the 12-months to Feb-2014, an increase of +0.6% on the 12-months to Jan-2014. February monthly patronage was 6,070,570, an increase of 430,610 boardings or +7.6% on Feb-2013, normalised to ~ +5.1% accounting for additional special event patronage in Feb-2014 compared to Feb-2013. No normalisation required for business days due to equivalent business days in Feb-2014 compared to Feb-2013.

Rail patronage totalled 10,879,359 passengers for the 12-months to Feb-2014, an increase of +2.0% on the 12-months to Jan-2014. Patronage for Feb-2014 was 1,005,372 an increase of 216,295 boardings or +27.4% on Feb-2013, normalised to ~ +15.2% after adjusting for special events in Feb- 2014 compared to Feb-2013.

The Northern Express bus service carried 2,339,952 passenger trips for the 12-months to Feb-2014, an increase of +1.1% on the 12 months to Jan-2014. Northern Express bus service patronage for Feb-2014 was 196,539, an increase of 25,985 boardings or +15.2% on Feb-2013, normalised to ~+9.8% accounting for special events in Feb-2014 compared to Feb-2013.

Other bus services carried 52,060,766 passenger trips for the 12-months to Feb-2014, an increase of +0.5% on the 12-months to Jan-2014. Other bus services patronage for Feb-2014 was 4,408,736, an increase of 275,971 boardings or +6.7% on Feb-2013, normalised to ~ + 6.6% accounting for special events in Feb-2014 compared to Feb-2013.

Ferry services carried 5,543,953 passenger trips for the 12-months to Feb-2014, a decrease of - 1.6% on the 12 months to Jan-2014. Ferry services patronage for Feb-2014 was 459,923, a decrease of -87,641 boardings or -16.0% on Feb-2013. Ferry patronage on the Commercial Waiheke ferry service is showing a sharp decrease when compared to the same month last year. This anomaly is being investigated and will be reported back at the next board meeting.

The increase in rail is spectacular and continues a trend we’ve seen in recent months of strong rail growth – although some of it may be attributed to fare evasion being counted in. Even so my personal experiences combined with comments I’ve seen from others is that the trains do feel busier than they did in the past. The bus results are also pleasing as the annual figure appears to have turned a corner. It had been declining each month compared to the same point the previous year since Feb 2013. The big disappointment is of course the ferries which had been performing so strongly for quite some time. Let’s hope they can improve for the rest of 2014.

14 - Feb AK Annual Patronage

With a total patronage for the last 12 months of 70.8 million trips, it is just over 1 million trips short of the peak reached after the Rugby World Cup and almost 2 million more than the low in June last year of 69.1 million. Similarly on the rail network patronage is is only 100k short of the peak set post RWC in April 2012 of 10.98 million. I made a comment in January to a senior AT manager that I thought we would reach 11 million  rail trips by the end of the financial year (30 June) and his response was that while he hoped that would happen, he wasn’t confident. It’s now looking more and more likely and I think it might possibly even happen in April.

Of course as mentioned the NRL 9′s played a big part in the boost to rail figures however it’s noted that even without that and other events, patronage growth was strong at over 15%. This can also be seen in the average weekday passengers figure which shows a growth of around 5,000 trips a day over Feb 2013.

14 - Feb AK daily rail patronage

The event figures also show that over 50% of all people attending the NRL 9′s did so via PT which is a fantastic result.

14 - Feb AK NRL 9's patronage

All up there are some fantastic results were some fantastic PT results in February and I have a feeling that March will be good too.

Lastly on to cycling and again February saw a slight decrease in cycling numbers compared to Feb 2013 although the AM peak numbers has continued to increase strongly. Not sure if there is any particular reason for this. Perhaps the attention on cycling safety following the horrific accident in January has had an impact on casual cyclists.

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Lots of cycling news

There’s been quite a bit of cycling news in the last few days (including during today) so this post is really a bit of a combination of a few of these.

The Role of Cycling in Auckland

You will recall on Tuesday my post on The Role of Cycling in Auckland. Yesterday the report was discussed by the Infrastructure Committee who also heard from Cycle Action Auckland and Generation Zero who also spoke on our behalf. My understanding is that most of the councillors on the committee were quite supportive and the herald published this part from Chris Darby

Committee deputy chairman Chris Darby, a cyclist, said other comparative cities around the world but particularly on the Pacific Rim were well ahead of Auckland in developing bikeways which raised public transport patronage by widening the catchment of buses, trains and ferries.

“We have been failing Auckland miserably – cycling is a badge of a smart city and we really need to have that badge on our lapel.”

The initial recommendations were also strengthened and ended being

That the Infrastructure Committee:
a) acknowledge the importance of cycling in contributing to the vision of creating the world’s most liveable city particularly through enabling Auckland Plan Transformational Shift #3, “Move to outstanding public transport within one network” and Auckland Plan Transformational Shift #4, “Radically improve the quality of urban living”
b) working with the Auckland Development Committee, support greater financial commitment within the Long-term Plan for cycleways, including the preparation of an integrated regional implementation strategy.
c) encourage Auckland Council and Auckland Transport to explore innovative trial projects in the near-term that increase safety and attract a wider range of people to cycling
d) request staff to review baseline data monitoring and its adequacy in understanding cycling and walking contribution to transport, and further to provide recommendations on key performance indicators (kpi’s) that may then be incorporated into the Auckland Transport Statement of Intent (SOI)
e) endorse that the committee Chair writes to the Chairman of Auckland Transport forwarding the report ‘Role of Cycling in Auckland’ and communicates the Infrastructure Committee decisions on the need for a significantly enhanced effort to improved cycling infrastructure in Auckland.

At the end of the day we it’s really up to the council to provide the funding needed for AT to implement more cycle facilities so this is a good outcome.

Skypath

Hidden in today’s Finance and Performance Committee agenda was a discussion on providing additional $175,000 in funding to help complete investigations for Skypath.

  • In December 2013, the council approved a way forward for the investigation of the SkyPath project, a walking and cycle pathway to be attached to the Auckland Harbour Bridge. ATEED’s Chief Executive is sponsoring the project for the council group. ATEED is seeking additional operating budget of $175,000 in the 2013/14 financial year for investigation work that cannot be undertaken with internal resources. Some of the costs to date have been covered by ATEED’s working capital, with an understanding that the entire cost would be funded by the council.
  • In regard to the additional funding sought, approximately $50,000 is allowed for specialist legal input in addition to the in-house legal services, which is required due to the somewhat unconventional nature of the SkyPath proposal.
  • The project team also intends to provide a grant of $85,000 the Auckland Harbour Bridge Pathway Trust, which is a contribution to the preparation cost associated with the reports and assessments that the trust will submit in its resource consent application to the council. These materials (e.g. traffic effect report and images) will be of interest and use to the public and the Auckland Council group in future investigation and consultation.
  • Last but not least, approximately $40,000 in consultancy charge is allowed for as ATEED’s share of the total cost of the patronage projection review. The project team engaged Angus & Associates Limited to undertake surveys and develop a model to assess the likely patronage profile for SkyPath over a 20-year period. This essential work has and will continue to help understand the revenue projections to manage the council’s risks in relation to the potential underwrite. The majority of this work was undertaken in the second half of 2013. However, further targeted work is necessary in the next few months to investigate the likely peak or daily usage to assist the council in understanding these effects on the surrounding network and areas.

I understand there was some fairly robust discussion and I’ve had it reported that George Wood was mischievously trying to mislead the committee. He seems to have a real problem with Skypath and perhaps he’s talking the same line the Northcote Residents Association use that cycling can only be provided over the harbour if an additional road crossing is built. The extra funding was approved 15-4 with George Wood, Dick Quax, Cameron Brewer and Sharon Stewart opposing it.

On the issue of the Northcote Residents Association, it appears they’re continuing to run misleading information themselves in their latest newsletter. There are a couple of major ones

The Draft Issues register – despite it appearing that the issues are all outstanding, I have heard that they have all been addressed as part of the process currently going on, many of which were done last year.

Questioning Patronage Numbers – this continues to be a line that the residents use despite the numbers having been produced and checked by independent consultants. I believe another round of work is going to be done do this again.

Parking – For some reason the residents seem to think that they own the public roads and have the sole right to them. This is simply not the case however I also understand that the one of the most likely options is a residents parking scheme similar to what exists in St Marys Bay and that would address the problems.

Additional Harbour Crossing – the residents like to claim that when an additional harbour crossing happens that it would free up a lane for pedestrians and cyclists on the bridge. However if it ever happens an additional road based crossing could be decades away and even then the NZTA have said Skypath will still be needed and will become a walking connection with any extra lanes freed up being for cycling (like in Sydney)

Greens Policy announcement

I posted this morning about the greens walking and cycling to school policy. Julie Anne Genter questioned Gerry Brownlee on it today in parliament. To be honest I can’t see many kids cycling alongside a RoNS to get to school. I’m also unaware of any cycling facilities being provided in many of the RoNS projects and in the case of Waterview, most of the cycling provision is only being done because the Board of Inquiry forced the NZTA to do so. Also have to love cry at the last answer.

AA on cycling

What a brilliant ad from the UK version of the AA. Also good to see the NZ AA supporting it too (although with a hi-vis mention)

Greens want kids walking and cycling to school

I happened to be part way through writing a post about transport policy for the upcoming elections when the first policy announcement of this cycle appeared in my inbox. I aim to cover election policy from all major parties over the course of the year.

It’s not their full policy but the Greens say they will put invest $200 million to make it easier for kids to be able to walk and cycle to school.

The Green Party has announced $200 million of new investment in infrastructure so kids can cycle and walk to school safely and to ease congestion on New Zealand’s roads.

Launching the policy at Auckland’s Belmont Intermediate School this morning, Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei said the Safe Walking and Cycling to School plan would make our roads safer for everyone – cyclists, walkers and drivers – and improve the health and wellbeing of our kids.

“We will invest $50 million a year over four years to ensure kids can walk and cycle to school safe from traffic. This is a policy that’s good for our kids, good for motorists and good for the environment,” Mrs Turei said.

In 1989 half of New Zealand’s kids cycled or walked to school and only a third came by car. Today, these numbers have reversed. Each morning, Kiwis make a quarter of a million car trips just dropping kids at school.

“In a survey of parents that we conducted, 93% of parents who drive their kids to school said they would prefer for them to walk or cycle, but only if they knew it was safe. Our plan will help make walking and cycling to school safe by protecting kids from traffic,” Mrs Turei said.

“We need to turn around the decline in cycling and walking numbers. When kids walk, bike or ride their scooters to school, it’s good for their health and learning, it eases congestion, and it benefits the environment. We just need to make it safe.”

According to the New Zealand Transport Agency, safety is the main reason people have stopped walking and cycling to school.

Local authorities, in conjunction with schools, will be able to draw upon the $50 million a year ring-fenced fund for walking and cycling infrastructure to protect kids from traffic so they can travel safely to school.

This funding will be drawn from a total of $100 million a year in the National Land Transport Fund that the Green Party will ring-fence for walking and cycling.

Funding for walking and cycling is currently only about $15 million a year.

“The latest research shows that we can get up to $20 of gains for every dollar spent on walking and cycling. That’s a billion dollars of gains for each year’s $50 million investment,” Mrs Turei said.

“Our Safe Walking and Cycling to School plan is a smart way to get kids to school safely, and is a smarter spend than wasting money on low benefit projects.”

The full policy paper is here.

I think that regardless of political allegiance, getting more kids walking and cycling to school is a good thing. Currently information from the Ministry of Transports Household Travel Survey shows that for kids 5-12 only 2% ride a bike to school while that goes to only 4% for those 13-17. By contrast in the 5-12 category 58% are driven to school while in the 13-17 category around 41% arrive by car (some drive by then).

There would of course be quite a few challenges with a policy like this, just because the money is available it doesn’t mean that council (or AT in Auckland’s case) may actually use the money as far to often we hear stories of improvements to make it safer for kids around schools being declined due to it having the potential to disrupt the flow of traffic.

As mentioned at the start, we’ll be covering transport policy announcements of all parties.

Edit: I just noticed on twitter this from George Wood, this is a seriously concerning attitude