A fairly significant proposed roading project, from Redoubt Road in Manukau down to Mill Road in Takanini, has pretty much slipped by unnoticed as its investigation continues – although some elements of the project seem to be causing quite a bit of angst with the locals. This in the NZ Herald today:
Hundreds of homes are in the firing line of a new arterial road for South Auckland – of which the first section alone is costed at almost $250 million.
Auckland Transport says about 260 properties, many of them along Redoubt Rd above Manukau, are in the path of the first stage of what it ultimately envisages as a 32km eastern bypass of the Southern Motorway to Drury.
The council organisation revealed last night a cost estimate of $246 million for the 9.2km section from Manukau and Flat Bush to Alfriston east of Manurewa, parallel with Mill Rd – including $66 million for property purchases – although it has yet to hazard a price for the full project.
Only $82 million is allocated for the next 10 years, and the project could take twice that time to complete.
But it intends seeking a route designation for the first section from the council’s planners by the end of next month, and says it is powerless to stop landowners from building new homes until then.
The plan has horrified residents of the historic Redoubt Ridge, through which Auckland Transport intends carving a road corridor up to 30m wide, past a remodelled junction with a widened Murphys Rd running from Flat Bush.
At a high level there seems to be some logic in the project – providing an eastern alternative to the Southern Motorway, as shown in the Auckland Plan transport project map:However, as always a lot comes down to the details of project like these – particularly in terms of what kind of corridor upgrade we’re going to get for the massive quarter of a billion dollars proposed. Checking out the proposed cross-sections on Auckland Transport’s website I can’t say I’m particularly impressed as what’s proposed looks like a defacto motorway with no provision for public transport, rather than a true multi-modal corridor which will support high quality development around it in the future. For example:A proposed cross-section of Murphys Road, which connects the corridor with Flat Bush, is even more bizarre:What on earth is the point of wasting 8.2 metres of road width with a giant median strip? It’s not like this road is going to be upgraded to four lanes each way at some point in the future utilising the median strip (at least I hope not). The impact of the road on the bush in this section is highlighted in the Herald article as one area that’s annoying the locals:
Redoubt Rd resident Raewyn Roberts, spokeswoman for an action committee to fight the proposal, yesterday called on Auckland Transport to avoid destroying what remained of a valuable ecological corridor from Murphys Bush to Totara Park and beyond.
Ms Roberts points to the design of the project as a “massive dual carriageway”:
“It’s appalling,” she said. “This is a mega, mega project – they have this massive dual carriageway which will come roaring up from the old Manukau City centre, wipe out the ridge, then sweep down Mill Rd.”
While a certain amount of “moaning locals” seems inevitable with most transport projects I think what’s horrifying people most of all in terms of this project is the vast over-design we’re seeing. A southern motorway bypass needs to be effective at shifting quite a lot of traffic, yes, but whether it needs to be designed for 80 kph average speeds (which is what the design looks like) with enormously wide medians is quite another matter. I think a scaled back project would not only be more likely to gain public acceptance, but it might also cost a hell of a lot less than the $250 million the current monstrosity is budgeted to cost.
City engineers have turned our downtowns into places that are easy to get to but not worth arriving at. – Jeff Speck, Walkable City
A few weeks back I prepared a cross section of the cbd that revealed an interesting land value gap that seemed to correspond to the disurban environment caused by the mini-motorways of Hobson and Nelson Street. In an upcoming post I will look more closely at these streets, in particular their potential for redevelopment, but for now I wanted to compile some background material on the history of one-ways.
Land value gap. Auckland CBD.
Understanding one-ways first starts with the design paradigm that required them. One of the few studies on the subject, “Downtown Streets: Are We Strangling Ourselves On One-way Networks?”, by Walker, Kulash and MacHugh, sets the stage:
For many years, traffic engineers were mandated to “move as much traffic as possible, quickly as possible,” often resulting in degradation of movement for other modes of travel. The unequivocal movement of the motor vehicle through a downtown network was of paramount concern; all other modes of travel took a back seat. Effectiveness of the network was measured by the amount of delay a motorist would encounter on a given street segment or intersection during either the morning or afternoon peak hours.
The authors document the typical transition of American downtowns beginning with the ‘pre-Freeway era’, where streets served a multitude of users and modes and most of the city’s cultural, social and civic activities took place in the historic centre. During this time most of the workers lived within a short distance to work as well (think Auckland streetcar suburbs).
Looking south along the west side of Hobson Street from Fanshawe Street. ( ‘Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 4-2052′)
The ‘Freeway Proliferation Era’ encouraged city workers to move farther from their work. ”As downtown workers began to seek out less expensive housing in the suburbs, the mode balance on downtown roadways that had existed for years began to move toward facilitating the speedy entrance and exodus of commuters. Downtown streets began to be converted to one-way travel to facilitate this expedient movement into the city in the morning and out in the afternoon.” Below is an example of the technique used to accommodate traffic into and sometimes through a cbd/downtown.
Typical solution: one-ways. Charleston, South Carolina. (source: Meagan Baco)
The Post-Freeway Era reached its peak in the 1980s, when corporate offices chose to locate in suburban edge settings. In addition to the one-ways, increasing traffic also gobbled up surface and ground floor real estate in the form of parking which contributed to “blighted, empty streets and boarded-up storefronts, devoid of life after 6 pm.”
Multiple-lane, high speed, one-ways. Land use responds with the highest value: parking.
Finally, the Reemerging Era is where we are today with an increase interest in both residential and business activities locating in traditional city centres. This urban renaissance has lead to a proliferation of one-way re-conversions beginning in earnest in 1990 according to student researcher Meagan Baco.
As urban observer Alan Ehrenhalt notes, in the Return of the Two way Street, cities across America are coming to the conclusion that one-ways should go as documented in this story from Vancouver, Washington:
In the midst of a severe recession, Main Street in Vancouver seemed to come back to life almost overnight. Within a few weeks, the entire business community was celebrating. “We have twice as many people going by as they did before,” one of the employees at an antique store told a local reporter. The chairman of the Vancouver Downtown Association, Lee Coulthard, sounded more excited than almost anyone else. “It’s like, wow,” he exclaimed, “why did it take us so long to figure this out?” A year later, the success of the project is even more apparent. Twice as many cars drive down Main Street every day, without traffic jams or serious congestion. The merchants are still happy. “One-way streets should not be allowed in prime downtown retail areas,” says Rebecca Ocken, executive director of Vancouver’s Downtown Association. “We’ve proven that.”
In addition to Vancouver, Washington, ‘hundreds’ of North American cities have already made one-way conversions, including: Baton Rouge, Berkeley, Dallas, Green Bay, Portland, Sacremento, San Francisco, San Jose and Miami. The success of these efforts are increasingly being documented, like this story from Canada:
“It was somewhat controversial at first, but I would say now that, without exaggeration, people are 90% in favour,” said Brian McMullan, the city’s ebullient young mayor. A prominent local businessman came up to me the other day and said, ‘I didn’t support it from the start, but this is the best thing you’ve ever done.’ ”
This brief post does not address the traffic and street design dynamics of one-ways that make them so dangerous for pedestrians and repulsive to urban life. Instead, I thought it would be best to document how common the practice of retrofitting has become and where it sits in a historical context. Taking a different look at street design, mobility and accessibility (Link v Place) questions the entire premise of our modern transportation planning (What’s the point). It is increasingly becoming evident that designing our city, streets and neighbourhoods for people (as opposed to cars) provides significant value and resiliency.
From the first report mentioned above I recreated an interesting diagram that depicted the premise that there is a “livability” dividend that can be realised if we are prepared to sacrifice a few seconds of time from a vehicular trip. Turning one-ways back to two, like shared spaces, signal priority for pedestrians, and providing for transit and cycling is increasingly being seen as a “no-brainer” for cities intent on remaining relevant in the 21st century.
New paradigm: modified from Walker, Kulash, MacHugh.
Peters post yesterday reminded me about a post I had intended to write myself based on that Phoebe piece but from a different perspective. Reading it and some of the comments below made me wonder why people think that the speed should be higher and as I’m not that familiar with the area so I made a trip out there courtesy of google maps and street view. The section mentioned was between Pinehill and Northcross so focusing my efforts there and looking at the images, it pretty clearly shows why people think the speed limit needs to be faster. The road is mostly a single lane each way except for around a couple of intersections and is pretty straight, further the houses and many of the footpaths are placed well back from the road. All of these things help make the road feel safer and therefore make it easier to travel faster on it. Here is an image from just one place along the road where you can see just how much space there is, even when there are two lanes (intersections are just behind the image).
So even with two lanes there are substantial road reserves but just how wide is it? The councils GIS viewer helps here with the overlay for property boundaries.
That shows us that all up the road reserve is about 40m wide which is absolutely massive considering that the road itself is only 12m wide. Even factoring in having 4 lanes, wider footpaths etc. there is probably something like 15m of road space sitting being used for nothing but growing grass. My guess is the traffic engineers had way to much control when this was happening and wanted a super wide corridor set aside so they could account for every possibility.
To me that is hardly a good use of valuable land, especially when it is sitting in public ownership. So my next thought was how much is that land worth and could do something with it. On the land value, I did a sample of the land values and sizes on a number of houses in the area around the image above. That suggested that on average land value was in the vicinity of $440 per square metre. Many of the driveways for the existing houses have (or could be modified to have) roughly 20m of space between them. So putting this all together, a 20m x 15m section would then be worth roughly $130k. There would be space for hundreds of similar sized properties all along the corridor amounting to tens of millions of dollars of wasted land.
But is that big enough to do anything with, I think so. Many recent developments have properties that are only this size or even smaller. Take these houses near where I live, each of the three highlighted would easily fit within the dimensions mentioned above.
And what the two southern ones look like from the street level, as you can see there is even space for off road car parking.
So all up what am I suggesting, perhaps we need to look at East Coast Rd, and other roads like it. If needed shift the road to one side of the corridor while still leaving enough space for things like a second lane should it ever be needed (like for bus lanes). Then with the remaining land develop it into either town houses or even stand along places like the image above. By changing the road and developing out the land it would help to give more queues to drivers to slow down as well as obviously getting more housed into an existing area helping towards our housing supply problem.
I almost let the one slip past – meaning to post last week but only just remembering it last night. I just have to comment though when something like this ends up in the NZ Herald’s “Ask Phoebe” column:
Can you please tell me who sets the speed limits on our roads in New Zealand and what criteria are used for determining these limits?
Generally, we have one limit of 50km/h on all urban roads, regardless of whether that road is a main road or a side-street. Compared to Australia, for instance, where the limit is 60km/h on main roads and 50km/h on routes carrying less traffic, our somewhat sedate limit of 50km/h seems unnecessarily restrictive.
For instance, East Coast Rd between Pinehill and Northcross is an incredibly wide road with footpaths set well back from the kerb offering unobstructed visibility in both directions, and it has a 50km/h limit. Not surprisingly, there is a speed camera located at the middle of that stretch, which is the second highest revenue-earning fixed camera location in Auckland. In any other developed country the limit would likely be 70 or 80km/h.
Geez where to start? Let’s just consider pedestrian safety for a moment, if you get hit by a car braking from 50 kph you’ve got a decent chance of surviving. If you get hit by a car doing 60 kph or more, even if it brakes your chances are dramatically lower.
Now let’s consider urban amenity. The faster the speed of traffic is along the route the noisier it is and the more that road severs the community it passes through. I had thought that Auckland was trying desperately to see its streets and roads as more than just a pipe for cars, but for their place-making values. Higher speeds is perhaps the most detrimental thing you could do to a street’s place-making function.
How about cyclists? Oh yeah I’m sure cyclists will feel just as safe along a 70-80 kph road as they would along that road with a 50 kph speed limit. The wider stretches of East Coast Road include on-street cycle-lanes of the green paint variety, meaning that people using them are definitely not shielded from the traffic.
Every other developed world country would NOT make an arterial route like East Coast Road into a 70-80 kph road. Most cities are trying to get away from this obsession about “everything to make the car go just that little bit faster”. We’re the outlier here in Auckland in terms of our continued obsession with building more road, yet even we aren’t stupid enough to be turning too many more (now that Manukau City Council has thankfully been disbanded) arterial roads into defacto motorways.
What on earth was Phoebe thinking?
Update: It seems that some of what I had thought was Phoebe’s answer was actually part of the question. Thanks to Andrew for pointing this out and apologies to Phoebe.
Another decent sized transport project is about to be started near New Lynn. In just over a weeks time work will start on upgrading and widening Tiverton And Wolverton Sts between Clark St and the intersection of New Windsor Rd and Maioro St. Auckland Transport say that on average, over 31,000 vehicles use the route each day so its definitely pretty busy. The project will cost about $30m and includes improvements for all modes of transport so is something that I support. Here is what is is being done:
- Creating four lanes (two in each direction) from Clark Street East to the intersection of New Windsor Road and Maioro Street
- Installing traffic signals at five major intersections to improve traffic flow and provide safe crossing points:
- Taylor Street/Wolverton Street
- St George Street/Wolverton Street
- Blockhouse Bay Road/Tiverton Road/Wolverton Street
- Whitney Street/Tiverton Road
- Tiverton Road/New Windsor Road
- Improving pedestrian safety by upgrading the existing footpaths to 2.5 metres on the north side and 1.8 metres on the south side and installing four new pedestrian islands and new pram crossings
- Undergrounding and renewing Vector power and Telecom services
- Upgrading stormwater catchpits and pipe infrastructure to reduce incidences of localised flooding and cater for the demands of future population growth
- Installing 10 new bus shelters along the route
- Upgrading street lighting to the standard expected of a major arterial route
- Landscaping work
A cycle route that allows cyclists to avoid the busy Tiverton-Wolverton corridor will be constructed separately to the main roading contract. It will be implemented along Miranda Street, Margate Road, Mulgan Street and New Windsor Road, linking with the New Lynn SH20 cycle route at Maioro Street, and is expected to be in place by the end of 2012
The route being upgraded
An impression of how Tiverton will eventually look (facing east towards New Windsor Rd)
The new cycle route also being constructed
Projects like this highlight the benefit in improving local roads compared to throwing hundreds of millions at state highways, many of which carry only a fraction of the traffic. For more info see the AT page for the project.
Another step in the development of New Lynn is happening, in January I posted about improvements to Gt North Rd and Delta Rd that Auckland transport was consulting on. AT have finished that consultation and a contract has been signed with Downer to do the works which should take place from now until early 2013. Here is what AT say the works include:
- New and wider concrete footpaths on Great North Road and Delta Triangle to encourage enhanced retail use, such as café-style seating, and safer and more attractive pedestrian areas.
- Creating vehicle access to Delta Avenue from Great North Road for city-bound traffic to improve accessibility to local businesses and the large McNaughton Way carparking area located behind Delta Ave
- Installing new drainage systems in the form of rain gardens to help manage stormwater run-off
- Extensive landscaping, including new trees, low-level planting, seating and efficient street lighting
- Installing raised speed tables at the intersections of Delta Avenue/Hugh Brown Drive/Memorial Avenue and McCrae Way/Great North Road and at the new access point from Great North Road into Delta Avenue
- Replacing existing inset parking on Great North Road with off-peak “tidal” parking and reconfiguring parallel and right-angle parking on Delta Avenue
- Service relocations
- Road reconstruction and resealing
The works will mainly take place between 10am and 10pm Monday to Saturday and here are some images of what the finished result may look like:
You can find out more about it here.
One of the amusing things about me and the Puhoi-Wellsford “holiday highway” is that my family actually owns a beach-house at Mangawhai Heads and our trips to and from that house would very much benefit from this highway being put through. In fact, I write this blog post from that house – as we’re up here for a few days at the moment. Heading up yesterday morning the traffic we encountered wasn’t a problem, although for those heading south the “Warkworth problem” was highlighted once again.
My general feeling is that the “need” for the Puhoi-Wellsford road as something to significantly ease congestion (not just during holiday periods, but obviously most particularly at those times) is getting mixed up with a more pressing issue – what to do about Warkworth and the effect it has as a giant bottleneck on State Highway 1. Over the past few years some work did occur on widening parts of the main road through Warkworth, although that somewhat stupidly stopped short of resolving the two big problems – a two lane bridge in the middle of Warkworth and the horrifically complex Hill Street intersection.
This thing: I’m sure that most people who have travelled through Warkworth at some point will be familiar with this intersection and the stupidly complex situation that arises for people trying, for example, to get from Elizabeth Street to Sandspit Road, or from Matakana Road (further north off Sandspit Road) to the south. We’re left with one lane each way for through traffic on State Highway One and giant conflicting movements between traffic getting out of Sandspit Road and southbound SH1 traffic.
Further exacerbating the problem is the fact that there’s actually a heck of a lot of traffic trying to get from SH1 to and from Sandspit Road and Matakana Road – because there’s actually a lot of area and population those two roads serve, particularly during holidays periods. Sandspit Road serves Snells Beach, Algies Bay, Mahurangi East and (surprisingly enough) Sandspit. Matakana Road serves Matakana, Omaha, Tawharanui Peninsula, Leigh, Goat Island and many other places. Traffic volumes on State Highway 1 south of Warkworth are around 50% higher than north of Warkworth – indicating a lot of traffic is either bound for Warkworth or turns off on these roads out to the eastern beaches.
In effect, we have two Warkworth problems:
- We are funnelling a lot of vehicles through pretty much the middle (if not the town centre) of Warkworth. This both severs the town, and also generates congestion by mixing through traffic with local traffic.
- The complex intersection at Hill Street, and the conflict between traffic bound for eastern beaches with through traffic and with town centre linked traffic, causes mayhem. Not just at holiday times – but most severely then.
If we look at this issue, yes sure the Puhoi-Wellsford road would solve it – but is that the cheapest, quickest and most logical way to solve this congestion problem? I tend to think not. There have been a few options for western collectors roads in Warkworth over the past few years, but what I think is really needed is a proper bypass – at 100 kph road with perhaps a couple of giant roundabouts providing access to existing roads at the very southern and northern ends of town. Something like this:The details of such a scheme obviously need further work. I’m not certain whether this is the perfect place to put the bypass (though I wouldn’t want it any closer to Warkworth, especially if the place is set to grow significantly), I’m not certain whether you may shift the connections further north or south (though once again I wouldn’t want them any closer to the town). I’m proposing that the new bypass directly pass over both Woodcocks Road and Falls Road – to not put too much pressure on those roads as links to Warkworth town centre and also to allow through traffic a pretty free run. Full interchanges could be done instead of roundabouts – the cost versus benefit analysis would need to be done on that matter. Finally, the link road to Matakana Road could continue to Sandspit Road in the longer run I suppose.
As a general scheme, this is what I’ve always envisaged when saying the words “Warkworth bypass”. It would be interesting to see how much a scheme like this would cost (somewhere in the $50-80m bracket is once again what I’ve always envisaged as we’re travelling over fairly flat land). I really do think such a scheme would largely solve the congestion issues we get in and around Warkworth – for at least a few decades to then work out if the whole Puhoi-Wellsford scheme is needed or not.
Nelson Street and Fanshawe Street are pretty horrific roads to try and cross as a pedestrian – largely due to the high speeds that drivers travel at along them. You’re effectively stuck at trying to find one of the (very rare) signalised pedestrian crossings, or taking your life into your own hands by sprinting across when it looks clear.
I’ve amusingly thought that one good way of raising enough money to build the City Rail Link would be to place permanent speed cameras near the top of Nelson Street and just after the Beaumont Street intersection for eastbound cars along Fanshawe Street. You’d certainly make an absolute killing!
One of the primary reasons why cars travel along these streets so quickly is because all the cues are telling drivers that they’re basically still on the motorway. Take a look at the road-markings on Fanshawe Street:Three wide lanes with the “bumpy dots” (I’m sure they have a technical name) separating them. Exactly what you’d see on the motorway.
As for signage, head along Fanshawe Street towards the city a bit more and – once again – you pretty much find the type of sign that you’d see on the motorway:Big overhead gantry, hard median between traffic heading each way, very wide lanes. Everything’s telling the driver’s subconscious that they’re still on the motorway.
Nelson Street is pretty similar with its signage, although it hasn’t (yet) had the motorway lane markings:Further down the hill there’s another overhead gantry – solely there to direct people to Sky City and its carpark. Once again, decked out just like a motorway sign.
Subtle cues are important when defining the type of street environment you’re attempting to create. The most recent post on Human Transit touches on this issue, when discussing street signage in San Francisco:
The motorist faces a stopsign. That means they should be looking at the crosswalk in front of them, and the other traffic approaching. What’s more, they should be stopped, or stopping, which means that their focal length should be short; they don’t need a sign that’s meant to be read at high speeds. Yet high speed is implied by the green sign’s large typesize, high position, and “freeway font”; the green sign has the same color, font, and typesize typically used on California freeways….
…Then there’s the question of focal height. A sign placed very high, like the green sign here, is pulling the driver’s eye away from the ground plane, which is where the squishable pedestrians and cyclists are. Extreme type size also encourages reading the sign from further away, which means focusing further away, which means a greater risk of not seeing the pedestrian in front of you.
In short, the message of the green sign (“read me from a distance, like you’re on a freeway, driving fast”) contradicts the message of the stopsign and crosswalks.
Motorists choose their speed and focal length based on a range of signals, not just explicit commands and prohibitions. These signs may be appropriate on high speed multi-lane streets, where you may need to change lanes to turn once you’ve recognized a cross-street. But what are they doing at stopsigns?
The signage and road-markings on Nelson Street and Fanshawe Street are telling drivers that they should be driving fast, that they’re basically on a defacto motorway and needn’t bother looking out for anything but whether the car in front of them is braking.
This is fine on a real motorway, but not along streets in our city centre. Changing the signs and the street markings would be really cheap, but help to minimise the reinforcement of these streets as defacto motorways, which they clearly shouldn’t be.
The upgrade of Tiverton Road and Wolverton Street, linking SH20 with New Lynn, is shifting forwards – with construction due to begin next year and continue for around two years. The project will effectively widen these two roads from being one lane each way to two lanes each way, as well as turning a couple of existing roundabouts into signalised intersections.
The project’s information page summarises what’s proposed:
Auckland Transport will be upgrading roads to enable a continuous four-lane carriageway for east-west traffic between Clark Street and New Windsor Road, while also providing better access for key business areas of New Lynn, Lansford Crescent and adjacent businesses on Rosebank Road.
Some intersections will be signalised to provide safe movement for vehicles and pedestrians across this corridor. Crossing points with refuge islands will be provided to improve pedestrian safety. Lighting will also be upgraded along the route with new poles and lamps.
On an alternative transit route via Richardson Road, White Swan Road, Hillsborough Road and Donovan Road, intersection signalisation and minor upgrades may be made to improve traffic flows and pedestrian crossings.
Wider footpaths (mainly 2.5 metres on the northern side of the route and 1.8 metres on the southern side) will support safer and improved walking.
The look of the corridor will be improved with the planting of around 105 trees and the undergrounding of Vector power and Telecom services.
Cyclists will be provided with a sign-posted cycle route bypassing Wolverton Street and Tiverton Road, to link the New Lynn town centre to the SH20 cycleway route. The bypass route is on Miranda Street, Margate Road, Mulgan Street, and New Windsor Road.
Fibre-to-the-door ducts will be installed to future-proof the corridor in readiness for ultra-fast broadband and some vehicle crossings and driveways will be upgraded where required for safety reasons.
Old asbestos cement water distribution mains will be removed, relocated and upgraded with polyethylene pipework. Storm water culverts will have flood protection improvements to strengthen the structures and minimise blockage.
Once the main structural works are completed, a major renewal of the road surfaces will be undertaken.
Auckland City Council started the project a few years back, completing a section between Blockhouse Bay Road and Whitney Street. However, budget constraints delayed the rest of the project which has proved to be quite a big problem as the opening of the SH20 Mt Roskill extension has pushed quite a lot of extra traffic onto this route over the past few years. The section already completed in shown in blue below, with the current project noted in red: A few images showing before and after views are included below:
While no cycleway is proposed along the route itself, there will be improved cycling facilities along adjacent, much quieter, streets. This seems to be a fairly sensible approach (click here for more detail):In terms of being a necessary road upgrade, I’m fully supportive of this project. Opening SH20 without upgrading this road has put huge pressure on Tiverton Road and Wolverton Street – leading to significant congestion. It’s a bit disappointing that the upgrade doesn’t seem to cater much for public transport. While few routes currently travel along here, it seems a fairly logical route for service improvements in the future. Let’s hope that there are some details to the design which support PT – like bus stop placement, advance boxes at traffic lights and so forth.
I just noticed today that Auckland Transport have come up with a bit of information on a proposed upgrade to the notoriously congested Te Atatu Road, between the motorway interchange and the roundabout with Edmonton Road. My understanding is that at peak times this is one of the most congested parts of the roading network – in some respects having similarities to Onewa Road on the North Shore as it’s the only connection to the motorway for a pretty large chunk of West Auckland. Here’s a map of the area the upgrade covers: The need for the project is pretty obvious as the stretch of road suffers from really bad congestion problems as well as safety issues. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to cross at peak times. Here’s some background information from the AT website:
Te Atatu Road is a regional arterial road which provides a gateway for some 38,000 vehicles per day that access the North-Western Motorway (State Highway 16), Te Atatu, Henderson and greater Waitakere.
This part of the road network has a high incidence of accidents, with some 170 reported crashes occurring in the past five years. Although none of the crashes was fatal there were a high number of accidents involving turning rear-ending, and overtaking collisions. There were unfortunately a number of serious injuries involved.
There is also considerable congestion at peak hours along the project corridor, and travel times can be inconsistent for those using the road.
The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) is also planning to upgrade the Te Atatu Road Interchange as part of the State Highway 16 Waterview to Te Atatu widening section between approximately 2013 and 2014. The upgrade of the Te Atatu corridor will support the improvements planned at the motorway interchange.
I would say that some upgrade to Te Atatu Road is utterly critical to occur at either the same time, or before, the northwest motorway is widened. It’s fairly typical of NZTA to widen their motorways in a way that will inevitably dump a huge amount of traffic onto particular local roads (think Maioro Road, Tiverton Road & Wolverton Street). In terms of safety, wow 170 accidents in the last five years along a pretty short stretch of road seems really high.
The project description makes some promising noises about public transport benefits too:
The project will:
- Address road safety concerns
- Provide road improvements for all modes of transport
- Enhance public transport infrastructure
- Encourage modes of transport other than private motor vehicle
- Upgrade pedestrian facilities
- Expand Auckland’s cycle lane network and connections with the regional cycle network
- Provide easier vehicle access and turning for connecting roads off Te Atatu Road
Te Atatu Road:
- Cycle lanes in both directions (on or off road)
- 2 to 3 metre wide flush (painted) median
- 2.4 metre wide footpath on the West side and 1.8 metre footpath on the East side
- New traffic signals at the Edmonton Rd/Flanshaw Road intersection
- Upgraded traffic signals at Vera Road/Jaemont Avenue and Covil Avenue intersections
- Street landscape treatment/planting where possible
- Northbound bus advance lane on Te Atatu Road at the approach to the North-Western Motorway (SH16) eastbound ramps.
- Cycle lanes in both directions
- 2.5 metre wide flush (painted) median
- 1.8 metre wide footpath on each side
- Street landscape planting where possible
Sounds reasonably promising. Great that there will be cycle lanes (although would a two-way protected cycle-path on one side of the road be better than suicide lanes next to 35,000 vehicles a day?) Great that there will be a median strip making life easier for pedestrians and making turning movements safer for vehicles. Potentially great that something’s said about bus priority, particularly in the ‘features’ part of the project.
So let’s look at the maps and see where the bus priority is:
For the full size map click here. From what I can see, bus lanes are provided in one place only – on the westbound off-ramp. A transit lane is proposed on the city bound onramp, and that’s it. A cross-section view confirms that in reality there’s not much priority for buses in this project at all: Looking a bit closer at where the northwest cycleway crosses Te Atatu Road also highlights another problem with the proposal – that cyclists will need to cross four sets of lights (which of course will be timed to benefit cars not the cyclists) before they can continue on their journey: Unfortunately, much like many other transport projects in Auckland, it seems as though this is a classic example of “PT-wash“, much like ‘greenwash’ trumpeting the public transport credentials of a project when the actual benefits to PT are negligible or non-existent. And this is really a pity, because I wonder whether an Onewa Road T3 solution here could work quite well.