Karangahape Rd has long been one of Auckland’s most iconic streets and also one of the most important from a transport perspective, with a history stretching back to pre-European times.
In the first half of the 20th century it was one of Auckland’s premier shopping districts but over the second half it declined, in part due to the central motorway junction that cut through the area. The area has been making a comeback though with a culture all of its own. And once the City Rail link has been completed it will be teeming with even more streaming out of the K Rd station – although it would be even better if Auckland Transport built it properly with the Beresford Square entrance constructed at the same time.
After what feels like a very long gestation period, Auckland Transport are finally formally consulting on the Karangahape Rd Enhancement Project which among other things, will see safe, separated bike lanes added to what is already a popular and important route into and through the city. It is of course also an important walking route and a key bus route, serving buses from the west. In the future it could also be served by light rail from Dominion Rd.
As is normal with making street changes, some of the most nervous about change tend to be the retailers. To date the business association have been supportive of making improvements. As part of the project, AT conducted some research looking how people travel to the area and the results matched similar surveys done elsewhere. Businesses on the street thought that about 41% of their customers drove to the area yet when customers were asked that number was just 17%
The project has been split into four sections, each with different proposed solutions
Ponsonby Rd to Pitt St
This will see the proposed protected cycle lanes on Gt North Rd carried on through a more permanent and attractive implantation that will include planting and rain gardens to manage stormwater. There are also bus lanes but they will revert to parking in the off peak (AT say hours could be extended in the future). It will require the existing pedestrian build-outs to be removed and the trees relocated though. There will also be less clutter on the footpaths as furniture like street poles will be moved to the cycle lane separator. On side streets there will be pedestrian build-outs to narrow them and reduce speed.
K Rd bridge
This is a tricky section being more constrained – although the bridge is quite wide. There are also bus stops on the bridge which were rebuilt a few years ago and take up a lot of the limited space dedicated to pedestrians. AT say they’re looking at a couple of options but at the least they are proposing to move the shelters closer to the road to create more space for people and bikes behind the shelters. They also say they are investigating whether they need to have offline bus stops because if they don’t it allows for even more space for pedestrians. This seems similar to the issue with bus stops on Albert St.
The options with and without offline bus stops are both shown in the image below
Pitt St to Queen St
AT are going for a temporary solution here with a more permanent one in about 10 years time. That will mean after the CRL is completed and closer to the time when Light Rail might be being constructed. They want to use planters to trial different road layouts, such as for special events. Some earlier suggestions we’ve seen have included narrowing the road down to just two lanes with very wide footpaths to allow for more people space. Like the Ponsonby to Pitt St section, this will require the removal of the pedestrian built outs and the relocation of the existing trees. The current proposed design includes retaining the on-street parking during the off peak.
Queen St to Symonds St
ATs proposed solution for this section is similar to the western end of Quay St and the cycle lane will be raised to be level with the footpath. On the southern side next to the cemetery this will mean the footpath will be slightly reduced.
Upper Queen St
People on Bikes coming from the NW Cycleway will be able to access the Karangahape Rd cycle lanes via some new separated cyclelanes being added to Upper Queen St on either side. These lanes replace the painted median that currently exists so doesn’t affect any traffic lanes or on-street parking.
Overall the proposals look great so make sure you submit supporting them so they can become a reality.
This is one of a series of posts I intend to do about about the city streetscape we ought to be able to expect as a result of the CRL rebuild.
This one will describe the Council’s plans for inner western Victoria St, around the CRL portals, because it seems they are not well understood, especially by some at Auckland Transport, based on the recent release of a proposed design from the CRL team that appears to completely ignore the agreed streets level outcomes. In further posts I will:
- Consider this problem; transport professionals dismissing place quality outcomes as frivolous or unnecessary, or as a threat to their authority, as a professional culture issue.
- Have a close look at some of the bus routes through the City Centre, as these are often highly contested by multiple parties, and have a huge bearing on road space requirements
Last week Councillor Darby sent me a whole stack of work done by the Council on the Linear Park, I will reproduce some of this here, but I urge everyone interested to follow the links below; there’s a huge amount of multilayered work showing how the proposal was arrived at and just how important it is:
- The Green Link
- Aotea Station Public Realm
The first point I would like to make is that I am talking here about the finished outcomes not the interim ones that need to accommodate work-rounds of the street disruption caused by the construction of the CRL. This is about the early 2020s; what is best for when the CRL is open and running, when the new buildings going up, and about to go up, in the city are occupied, and the pedestrian demands are many times greater than currently. It may seem a long way off, but contracts are being agreed now, and if we aren’t careful we will find ourselves locked into poor outcomes that will prove expense to fix. And, remember, this is dividend time; when the city starts to reap the reward of all the expense and disruption of building the CRL itself. This is an important part of why we are doing it: to substantially upgrade and improve every aspect and performance of the whole city as possible, including its heart. Transport infrastructure is a means to an end; not an end in it self.
Second is to suggest that it has been perhaps a little unhelpful that Council called this reclamation of city street a ‘Park’. I can see why they have, this is a repurposing of space from vehicle use to people use, and it does offer the opportunity for new high quality design elements, which is similar to what happens in a park. But I think this undersells the full complexity of what is happening here. There is a great deal of functionality and hard rationality in this scheme, as well as the promise of beauty and the city uplifted.
The place to start is the CEWT study [City East West Transport Study]. This set a very rational and ordered taxonomy of the Centre City east west streets, concluding that Victoria St’s priority will need to shift to a strong pedestrian bias, be the only crosstown cycle route between K Rd and Quay St, and enable a reduced but still efficient general traffic load:
Note that east west bus movements are kept to Wellesley and Customs Sts. This greatly helps Victoria St’s space location as shown below. It is becoming clear that AT now want to return buses here. I believe this is a very poor idea, and will unpack why in a following post. So many poor place and pedestrian outcomes follow directly from trying to get both buses and general traffic trough inner Victoria St, and it is still a very hard street to try to shove buses through in terms of their own functionality, and that of the other general traffic. As well as leading to the total deletion of the only Centre City east/west cycle route. Here is how it was shown in CEWT:
Now turning to the newer iteration from the docs linked to above. The key issue is that the sections of the ‘Park’ around the station entrances on Victoria are focussed on pedestrian capacity rather than place amenity:
Not a park as in a verdant garden, but largely hard paving for efficient and high capacity pedestrian movement under an elevated tree canopy. Very much an urban condition tailored to met the massively increased pedestrian numbers that we know will be here. Particularly from the CRL itself, but also from the rapid growth and intensification of the whole city centre as it builds up around them, and of course the considerable bus volumes on Albert and Bus or LRT on Queen St. At the core this is simply classical ‘predict and provide’ that surely even most unreconstructed and obdurate of engineers can understand. Meeting projected pedestrian demand; not just an aesthetic upgrade, though why we wouldn’t do that while we’re at it, I can’t imagine.
Because this station sits directly below the greatest concentration of employment in the whole country, as well the biggest educational centre, retail precinct, hotel location, and the nation’s fastest growing residential population, we can expect these entrances to immediately be very busy. The plan on opening is for there to be 18 trains an hour each way through this station all with up 750 people [or even 1000 when really packed] alighting and another load boarding, all milling a round; waiting or rushing. And mixing on the streets with all the other people not even using the system. This will make for a very busy place. Their will be thousands of people walking around here at the peaks. Many more than those that use the entire Hobson/Nelson couplet in their cars over the same period. This will need space. Furthermore urban rail systems are very long term investments, what may be adequate for the first few years of the CRL is unlikely to sufficient for the years ahead, let alone decades. There is a clear need for the space for this human traffic to be generous to begin with, to err on the side of spare capacity. This really is no moment to design for the short term, once built that tunnel isn’t moving.
So has any work been done to picture this demand? Yes. Though to my inexpert eyes this looks a little light:
In particular the pedestrian traffic heading north, ie crossing Victoria St looks underrepresented. There will be no entrance to the station on the north side of Victoria street. Everyone heading that way has to come out of one of the east/west exists and crossover at street level. The document above does at least point out the pinch points between the exits and buildings on Victoria. And it is these that AT must be planning on squeezing further to get four traffic lanes back into Victoria St. One lane comes from deleting the cyclists, and the other must be from squeezing pedestrians passing the stations entrances. Just don’t AT; therein lies madness, very expensive to move a station entrance once built. And frankly a 5m width here between hard building edges is already tight and mean. Somewhere in AT the old habits of not really expecting people to turn up and low use of the very thing the agency is building seem to have crept back up to dominate thinking, and all for what? Vehicle traffic priority. The most spatially inefficient use of valuable street space in the very heart of our transforming city.
The extra wide pedestrian space that the Linear Park provides doesn’t just have value immediately around the station portals. Stretching up to Albert Park and the University beyond to the east and up on the flat plateau of western Victoria St offering a good pedestrian route to the new offices and dwellings on Victoria St West and Wynyard Quarter beyond. But as the distance increases from the big sources of pedestrians then the condition of the amenity can become more place focussed and more planting and ‘lingering’ amenity can be added, yet it will still need to primarily serve these Active Mode movement functions well:
And it is important to acknowledge this is a ‘substantial change’ from present condition. The Council recognise, and it is impossible to disagree, that there is nothing to be gained by trying sustain the status quo here. The CRL is brings huge change to the city and how it is used and this needs to be reflected in very nature of our streets as well as in our travel habits:
The Centre City Cycle Network is hopelessly incomplete without some way to access both the Queen St valley and Victoria Park from the Nelson St Cycleway. And if not on Victoria then where? Not with all the buses and bus stops on Wellesley St.
And lastly, other than the never fully successful Aotea Square there has been no new public realm in the City Centre since the Victorians set out Albert, Victoria, and Myers parks. There are now many more people living, working, and playing in the city than ever before, and other than repurposing, or burying, motorways, or demolishing buildings, the streets are the only chance to provide quality space for everyone. This is so much more valuable than slavishly following last century’s subjugation to motor vehicle domination. We know better than this now. Vehicles will fit into whatever space we provide and people will flood the rest. And the later is the more valuable street-use for a thriving, more inclusive, and competitive, and sustainable urban centre to lead the nation this century.
From the significant disruption of building the City Rail Link we get two huge benefits. First and foremost, we get a tunnel that transforms our rail network and allow significantly more people to travel around the region free of congestion. But for many of our city streets, it also delivers us blank slate from which we can deliver on the visions that have already been created for the future of the city. It is an opportunity too important to waste. And yet as we highlighted last week, Auckland Transport seem determined to waste that opportunity with their awful plans Albert St and the roads that cross it.
At their heart, AT’s plans once again show that many transport engineers and institutions seem to desperately cling to the belief that their role is to find ways of accommodating a set (and growing) level of traffic demand. In doing so they often fail to recognise that drivers respond to road network provided to them.
Adding traffic lanes and supersizing intersections is almost always a vain attempt to ‘solve congestion’. But any relief is normally only short lived because traffic tends to act like a gas, expanding to fill any space made available to it. Conversely it has now been seen time and time again that removing capacity from the road network results in traffic melting away as drivers respond to the changes.
Some of the most famous examples worldwide have been the removal of an elevated highway and restoration of the stream under it in Cheonggyecheon, Seoul, the removal of the Embarcadero Freeway in San Francisco after it collapsed in the Loma Preita earthquake and recently Paris has permanently closed off a section of road along a bank of the Seine. These have actually resulted in net reductions in vehicle numbers as drivers find alternative routes or change how and when they travel.
Back here in Auckland we now have our own real life experiment underway right now thanks to the works to construct the CRL. Parts of Albert, Customs, Victoria, Wellesley and Wyndham Streets are currently shadows of their former selves having been narrowed down for works, in some cases significantly. An example of this is highlighted well by the image from my post the other day on the construction progress of the City Rail Link looking at the Albert/Customs/Fanshawe intersection. As you can see:
- Albert St south of the intersection has been narrowed down to just one lane southbound with the other five lanes closed off for construction works.
- Albert St north of the intersection only allows for vehicles to travel northbound. The southbound lanes are closed due to the proximity to the under demolition Downtown site.
- Customs St has also been narrowed down to just one lane each way through the intersection. Previously there were three lanes westbound and two eastbound.
While the works are the scale they are for a reason, in many locations AT also appear to have adopted a policy of trying to minimise disruption for motorists resulting in footpaths that have been cut back and pedestrian phases changed to provide as much capacity for cars as they can. Yet for months now Auckland Transport have pushed the message that people need to change how they travel to avoid carmegeddon including through the use of Jerome Kaino to help push the message.
Based on results so far, I think we can say that Auckland Transport’s message has got through and/or that we’re seeing the same result as those examples mentioned earlier. This is because one of the most notable outcomes from the works so far has been a lack of major traffic issues. Peak time congestion doesn’t appear to be any worse than it was before the works started and during the day these roads can still be eerily empty, as this picture from looking South of Wellesley shows.
These works and previous city centre improvements show that the drivers will adapt to changes, that the city doesn’t grind to a halt. It confirms we can shape or city to promote more of the things we want and less of the things we don’t.
Therefore we believe we need to start looking differently at how we approach roads in the city centre. In some cases, plans that even a few years ago were considered visionary or even just “the best we could hope for” are now starting to look tame. We need to completely rethink how we approach space in the city centre and we can start but looking overseas.
Most great cities that we look to have come to realise that right priority for transport in cities is something like below.
We need to start thinking the same way too. And not just on those streets most directly affected by the CRL works. Take Customs St as an example. In places it is currently up to seven lanes wide. The City East-West Transport Study (CEWT) suggested the pedestrian space increase a little bit but that there would still be at least three lanes each way.
Yet the image above shows that at one location at least, Customs St has been reduced to just one lane each way and last time I looked the sky was still well above my head. Perhaps it’s time to go back to the drawing board and rethink what we want for the city. Let’s be bolder and perhaps start by answering questions like:
- Do we really need four general traffic lanes on Customs St?
- Do we need traffic on Quay St at all?
- How soon can we pull down the awful Hobson St flyover?
- Can we be bolder in how we redesign Hobson and Nelson Streets, including returning them to two way streets?
- Why do we still even have cars in Queen St?
- Can we make Fanshawe St less like a motorway sewer?
We obviously can’t do everything at once what the CRL works perfectly show is that drivers will adapt, that the sky won’t fall so we might as well be bold and design a world-class city. And of course until we can deliver that bold design, we can always start by trialling it New York style with some planters and temporary solutions.
Last night train services were once again disrupted following a serious incident at one of Auckland’s most notorious level crossings.
Emergency services are at Morningside train station in Auckland where a car has been hit by a train shortly before 4.30pm.
A Herald reporter at the scene said it appeared the car had been sitting on the tracks in an area marked by yellow lines when the train hit it “dead centre” on Morningside Drive.
The blue hatchback then spun off the tracks and its airbags deployed, she said.
A woman was freed from the car by fire crews shortly after 4.45pm and taken to Auckland Hospital in a serious condition.
From the images in the media the driver appears to be extremely lucky. Quite why anyone would drive around barrier arms is beyond me.
Over the last few years I think Morningside has probably featured in the news more than any other level crossing in Auckland and probably all of New Zealand but it’s far from the only crossing with a bad record. Regardless of who’s at fault these incidents, and I don’t think it’s ever the train, they can seriously impact on the lives of a lot of people and it’s well past time that our transport agencies put more focus on removing level crossings.
Sure, not every incident involving trains will disappear but they will likely be severely reduced and I see level crossings as one of those all too rare transport investments that ticks every major box.
- Safety for all modes can be considerably improved
- Public transport users benefit – as I understand it signalling the network becomes easier so public transport users can benefit from improved speed – especially around stations
- Drivers benefit from less time waiting at crossings
The map shows the 45 level crossings within the electrified network of Auckland. Of them 31 are road/pedestrian crossings while a further 14 a pedestrian only crossings. As you can see the majority are on the Western line with the rest are primarily along the short Onehunga Line with another cluster around Takanini. Auckland Transport are currently in the process of getting approval to replace the Sarawia St crossing but it is currently being dragged through the environment court. In addition to that the only two crossings that I’m aware of being actively looked at are Porters Rd and Normanby Rd and they’re only being addressed as part of the City Rail Link works.
The last we heard on this topic I said this:
Auckland Transport have developed an evaluation criteria based on the approach Melbourne is using and with input from the NZTA, Kiwirail, Transdev and the Council. The have used this to assess all level crossings within the electrified area to determine the priority for removal or grade separation. This criteria includes looking at aspects such as how long the barriers will be down and safety risks. The highest priority crossing is Sarawia St which is the crossing that has the highest number of train movements through it in the country – more on that below. AT say that a number of crossings close together will need to be dealt with as packages. As such the crossings with high priority are:
- Southern NIMT – Walters Road, Manuroa Road, Taka Street, Spartan Road
- Western Line – Normanby Road, Porters Ave (within CRL footprint)
- Western Line – Morningside Drive
- Western Line – Woodward Road
- Western Line – St Jude Street, Chalmers Street, St Georges Road
- Western Line – Glenview Road
- Western Line – Bruce McLaren
As far as I’m aware this isn’t in any particular order and AT say more work is needed on each of them such as traffic modelling, design and costing as well as business cases. They also won’t say just what option – removal or grade separation – they’ve selected for each crossing as some will require property purchases – the extent of which won’t be known until more design work is done.
Sadly, I’m not aware of a single peep that has come out of AT on the issue since I wrote the information above over a year ago, that’s really disappointing. Funding is obviously a big part and other than some money for early investigation, there is no no serious funding in the current plans until some time after 2018. I hope that a new mayor is able to push and help reprioritise funding to get some of these dangerous level crossings removed. From a traffic point of view, many really need to be done before the CRL is complete as the western line in particular is expected to get a lot busier based on AT’s current plans.
The City Rail Link is now under construction and will see most of Albert St dug up in the process of building the cut and cover tunnels. That presents Auckland Transport with a great opportunity on what is effectively a blank slate to reinstate it to a much higher standard than exists now. The Auckland City Centre Advisory Board (ACCAB) have endorsed spending $20 million from the City Centre Targeted Rate towards doing just that. A presentation to the ACCAB last week showed their latest design. But there are some major concerns about the design from the council and their comments suggest the CRL team have been operating too much in a silo.
Albert St has a bit of space to work with and as is 27.4m wide from Quay St through to Wellesley St, although that is narrowed by the lanes on the two blocks south of Wyndham St. At the same time there’s a lot to fit in there, especially as once the CRL is finished it will likely see a lot more people walking along it. It has also historically been the main route for buses from the western side of the city and while the CRL will reduce the need for some buses, the slots freed up will be needed for more services, especially from the Northwest as that area continues to develop.
So the first big issue that is raised in the presentation is the need to accommodate buses. There are two basic options discussed, inline bus stops where the bus stop is within the lane and offline bus stops where the stop is beside the lane so that it doesn’t block it, allowing for more buses to use the route. AT say the capacity of an inline bus stop is about 53 buses an hour while offline bus stops are limited by the number of stops that can be added. The trade-off is of course space.
AT say the predictions for bus numbers mean offline bus stops are needed along the corridor. That of course will impact on how wide footpaths will be. I’m not sure what the LRT scenario refers to.
The upgrade of Albert St will happen in two phases. The section north of Wyndham St (C2) will be build following the completion of the current works – which extend that far – while the section south of Wyndham St (C3) will happen after the main works, that include the Aotea Station, are complete.
The design for the C2 works are shown below and are more advanced than the C3 works later in the post.
The Lower Albert St section (north of Customs St) will be bus only.
There aren’t any detailed images for the section between Customs and Wolfe St but it appears the classic traffic engineers have got hold of the plans with dedicated right turn lanes and either bus stops or car parking narrowing down the footpaths.
Between Wolfe and Swanson St things get wider again and includes the addition of a number of trees.
Here’s a visualisation of the street here. The presentation talks about a number of the environmental and design features included.
Between Swanson and Wyndham the footpaths narrow again to accommodate the offline bus stops in each direction.
Next up is the section south of Wyndham, the C3 section which contains the challenges such as the split level lanes on the eastern side.
There are some good things happening here with one of the biggest being the lane that accesses Durham St West. I believe the historic Bluestone wall is actually being moved as part of the CRL project as is needed to create space for the tunnels. That has the benefit of allowing for a wider footpath up at the road level which AT’s plans suggest will be between 2.71m and 2.94m in width, currently it’s only about 1.7m wide. AT’s plans also seem to make it safer to cross to that footpath with raised tables. In addition, the two carpark bridges will be removed so they won’t be spewing cars out onto that footpath. An image of the narrowed lane suggests it could be a shared space too.
The drawing showing just north of Victoria St shows one potential issue though with ventilation for the tracks being built into the footpath, which itself is not all that wide. These could potentially be quite large and unpleasant for pedestrians and is a bigger issue given the constrained nature of this section of road.
On the other side of the Victoria St intersection there is the issue with the planned NDG porte cochere that I raised recently.
In the image above you can also see the space in the middle of the street, this is planned to be for skylights into the station. There will be seven in total referencing Matariki.
The section to Wellesley shows the eastern side next to the Crowne Plaza will be made much better for pedestrians although will still be narrow at the southern end thanks to the service lane exit and the dedicated right hand turn pocket. It’s not clear why this turning pocket is even there given how busy this area is bound to be with people.
Mayoral Dr outside of the main station entrance remains virtually unchanged.
The last part of this presentation to cover is Victoria St and it’s here where things get really concerning. The drawings show fairly narrow footpaths on the southern side for what will be one of the busiest people part of the city and it seems that has happened in the madness to try and accommodate four lanes of traffic. This is very much a case of cars being put before people.
Even worse is it appears AT are completely ignoring the formally adopted City Centre Master Plan which calls for Victoria St to become a linear park linking Albert Park and Victoria Park, the Governments Urban Cycleway Programme which shows Victoria St as a key east-west route and even their own internal studies on space allocation – which is shown below.
Hell even AT’s formal visualisations of the station entrance show this, as do these plans.
Given the plans presented to the ACCAB are meant to be the most recent it is very concerning.
Below are the proposed widths of the roads mentioned above.
The presentation notes feedback from the council and an internal AT review was expected to be due back before the ACCAB meeting. As such the Council’s Design Review Panel report is also included in the meeting agenda and it is extremely critical of the designs the CRL team have come up with. The report covers in a fair amount of detail the council’s views on the design and includes some fairly concerning comments, including that the CRL team have been working in a silo over the design.
Albert Street- between Wyndham and Quay Streets- has been through a rigorous design process, informed by a consulted Reference Design (ADO, 2014-15) and Detailed Design (Boffa Miskell, 2015). However, the current design developed since October 2015 has been developed without consultation external to CRL and AT Metro. The current design is a remnant of the former Detailed Design- but lacks design cohesion with long indented bus bays, turn lanes and an imbalanced single block of street trees.
However, of much greater concern for the Panel is the pending approval of the C3 Reference Design in the next month. C3 for Albert Street includes the section between Wyndham and Mayoral which was not investigated in Reference Design and Detailed Design process, nor sufficiently consulted. The structure of the C3 contract is a $1.6bn design-build, limiting Council’s ability to inform the streetscape design.
This is significant as this scope includes the two eastern side slip-lanes, the median skylight features, footpath train station vent structures, Crowne Plaza access and direct interface with two major developers, NDG and Sky City. However, of greatest concern is the interface design with Aotea Station and its resulting effects on the pedestrian space on Victoria Street and Wellesley Street. The plans depicted at the panel review are the first Auckland Council has seen the implications of AT’s preference for Victoria Street as a four-lane street. This is not a view supported in the 2012 City Centre Masterplan which is the council family and politically endorsed plan for the city that should be referenced by CRL. For instance the implications of shifting the Aotea Station closer to NDG requires further study. The 4 southeast “pinch point” at the Wellesley Street intersection is currently the city centre’s most dangerous. The Panel is not comfortable with the resolution depicted in the current design.
As mentioned, there is a lot more detail in the report. Overall they summarise their feedback as:
Despite an initially bold and collaborative design process, the current Albert Street design reviewed by CPDRP is underwhelming and requires effort to get back on track to avoid returning to the austere and utilitarian condition where the street started. Furthermore the design falls short on achieving many of the project objectives as presented in the briefing report.
The minutes of the meeting note:
- the CRL Project Director noted there will be plenty of opportunity next year (2017), once the Auckland City Centre Advisory Board has reconvened, to address any concerns in the public realm design, under both the C2 and C3 contracts
- the CRL Project Director invited the board to have 2 representatives to attend the monthly CRL urban realm steering meetings
That doesn’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence that AT will actually make any improvements.
The city is awash with construction and none more visible than the works for the City Rail Link. Most of the work so far has been to move services out of the way so that the tunnels can be built without breaking something – and there are a lot of services to move. The biggest of these tasks is to divert a deep stormwater main along Albert St which involves using a micro-tunnel boring machine (MTBM). To divert it they first need to access it and the works for this have been going on behind hoardings on Victoria and Wellesley streets to dig shafts to launch and receive the MTBM.
Last week Patrick and I were kindly given a tour of these sites to see the progress so far.
The first stop was to the site on Victoria St on the Eastern side of Albert St. This is the most prominent site as there is a building over it covered in acoustic panels to help reduce noise for the site’s neighbours. This is also where the MTBM will be launched from.
The shaft is around 18m deep and the stormwater pipe has been partially uncovered. Work is now going on to find the location of the brick lined Orakei sewer main which is a little bit deeper and expected to be roughly below the feet of the worker that can be seen at the bottom of the shaft. These mains run east-west under Victoria St and the base of the Aotea station will be at about the same depth as that stormwater main – hence why it needs to be moved.
The new main to be built will connect directly into the stormwater main that can be seen above so before that happens a siphon will be built to temporarily divert it so the MTBM launched straight through the existing pipe. The spoil from the site is hoisted out via a gantry crane built into the acoustic building. Work on the site runs for 20 hours a day although trucks only remove material during the day to avoid the noise of trucks reversing. At night the spoil is stored on site.
I also noticed they’ve taken a lot of care not to damage the trees on Victoria St.
One quite unusual aspect of this worksite is its location next to the reverse bungy site. A few times while we were there were suddenly loud screams as people were hurtled into the air. I can’t imagine hearing screams is something you’d normally want on a construction site, especially one which consists of a giant hole.
On the western side of Albert St another, slightly smaller but a bit deeper shaft is also being built, but his one doesn’t have the acoustic panels.
While we were there steel was being lowered into the shaft which is used to support the pile walls as they get deeper.
Next we moved up to Wellesley St where the MTBM will be bored to. The shaft here is quite different in being much smaller and is effectively a concrete pipe being pushed into the ground via the weight of the concrete and some hydraulic jacks. It had been going fairly smoothly has been a bit tougher with about half a metre to go. At the bottom of the shaft you can see three workers digging out that last half metre or so by hand in what must be some real back breaking work.
The hydraulic jacks that help to push the shaft deeper.
In addition to looking at the works around Albert St, we also took a look at works going on behind Britomart for the temporary entrance being built so the old Chief Post Office can be closed while tunnel works go on beneath it. This is more of a conventional building site, concrete foundations have been poured and framing is going up for the various facilities that need to be housed. Steel framing has also started to go up. Inside Britomart the gardens that were on the platform level have been removed (that large pile of dirt you can see) and we were told they were in the process of removing the tiles from curved walls next to the lifts (now behind the black curtain). Of interest they said the design has been modified to take into account the huge growth we’ve been seeing on rail services in the last few years.
Finally, a few views from the office of the CRL team. This is the Commercial Bay site where piling work is already under way in some sections and the final parts of the old mall should be coming down shortly.
This is of the Albert and Customs/Fanswhare St intersection. Despite being considerably narrowed down and northbound traffic on Albert St completely stopped, it doesn’t appear to have cause any major issues for traffic. At the top of the shot you can see the huge Soilmec SR-100 piling rig that will be used for walls of the CRL tunnels up Albert St. The first piles should be started soon.
All up it was a fascinating tour showing just how much work is being done to just to prepare for the CRL. Thanks to Auckland Transport and our tour guides Scott and Jenny.
Auckland Transport have released a fly-through video of the Manukau Bus Station that is expected to start construction soon. They are also saying it will be complete in the second half of 2017 which is at odds with the board report a few days ago.
Earlier this year Auckland Transport consulted on walking and cycling routes for the Inner West of Auckland with improving connections in the area included as part of the Government’s Urban Cycleway Programme. In August they released the results of the consultation which saw 865 submissions. The consultation also included an online map where people could identify issues and in addition to the submissions mentioned, there were 484 pins dropped on the map from 75 people.
In total from the submissions AT say 5,332 routes were suggested which when grouped together resulted in 381 individual routes. There were also 2681 issues or concerns identified which when grouped by location boiled down to 303 in the area. These are shown below where you can see some fairly strong trends emerge.
As a result of this, AT revised their cycle network for the area to the one below.
When completed, and of course depending on the quality of the infrastructure, this part of the city will end up with a well-connected cycle network. Unfortunately, not everything is able to be built within the current funding window to mid-2018 and so following on from the initial consultation, Auckland Transport are now consulting on four specific cycleway proposals for the area. There are a combination of protected cycleways, on-road cycle lanes and traffic calming measures. They’ll also improve things for pedestrians and in some cases buses too. The four routes are shown below.
I’ll just look quickly at each of the proposals.
Route 1: Surrey Crescent to Garnet Road
AT are looking at two different options for this 2km section, and both will see at least parts of the route have parking protected bike lanes installed. Where the two options differ is to amount of the route that is on the street with option A including some sections placed on the grass verge to retain more on street carparking and a painted median. As a result of the differences over the 2km, Option A would see the removal of around 40 carparks (10-15%) while option B would remove about 120 carparks (35-40%). AT say based on parking surveys there will still be enough parking on these routes and side roads to accommodate demand. Below shows the cross section of one part of the route where the two options are different.
AT are looking at options for how to deal with the bus stops along this route and options include using floating bus stops, where the bus stop is effectively on an island with cycle lane going behind it. In addition to the cycle lanes, AT are planning on improving pedestrian crossings.
Route 2: Richmond Road
This 1.2km section appears to be more of the traditional painted cycle lane approach we’ve seen in the past. AT say “people on bikes will be separated from pedestrians and vehicles to create a safer, more enjoyable journey for all” but the plans show carparks being retained against the kerb protected by the meat barrier offered by passing cyclists. Of course is almost certainly not going to encourage less confident cyclists or children to use the route. Here’s one example from the drawings.
As a positive though it is good to see items like pedestrian build outs on entrances to side streets – but why divert the footpath away from the desire line, will almost certainly be ignored by people.
Route 3: Greenways Route
Many parts of this route already exist and for the most part, the plans for this route involve traffic calming roads to improve safety on them for people on bikes. At the Gt North Rd end of the route on Grosvener this even includes using back in angle parking which I’m not sure I’ve seen in Auckland before.
Route 4: Great North Road
This is will be the most visible of all of the routes and easily the most used too, especially with all of the apartment development currently underway along here. All up 1.5km of Gt North Rd will have protected cycleways added – with one small exception – while the bus lanes will still be retained and even enhanced. The cross section of the road will look like the Streetmix layout below. The one exception is on the corner outside the Grey Lynn Library where there isn’t enough space to keep protected lanes on the road – in this location a shared path will be provided for less confident cyclists.
In addition to the bike lane changes, things will also improve for buses. The bus lanes will have their ours of operation extended by an hour in the morning and afternoon (City-bound 7-10am, West-bound 4-7pm) and they will be continuous along this stretch of road rather than disappearing frequently. There will also be a rationalisation of bus stops along the route with it dropping from 14 stops in 10 stops across both directions. The bus stops will likely be a mix of floating bus stops and likely some other solutions too. Both of these improvements should help in speeding up buses. The changed bus stop locations are shown below.
Overall there are some good wins here across a number of areas which is great to see. If you look at the details, you’ll see a couple of key sections missing with the two big ones being the Karangahape/Gt North/Ponsonby Rd intersection and through the Grey Lynn shops. The first of those two is being investigated as part of the K Rd project underway while the Grey Lynn shops will be looked at separately. Given the anger from some locals about the bus stop there, I’m guessing some retailers will really fight changes very hard.
AT have now extended the consultation to Friday 21 October so make sure you have your say.
Often it’s the big things such as improved infrastructure and services that are needed to make public transport more viable but sometimes small enhancements can help in removing barriers for new users or just improve customer satisfaction with existing users. Yesterday Auckland Transport announced a trial of the latter kind, a deal with Countdown for people to pick up groceries at a few selected locations with the potential for it to be expanded to more locations in the future.
In a first for Auckland, Auckland Transport has teamed up with Countdown to introduce secure online grocery ‘Click & Collect’ collection points at five initial trial locations.
- Albany Bus Station.
- New Lynn Transport Centre.
- Orakei Train Station.
- Waiheke Ferry Terminal.
- Downtown Car Park.
Auckland Transport Chief AT Metro Officer Mark Lambert says “Through this Click & Collect trial we aim to provide our customers with even greater levels of convenience and flexibility, whatever their mode of transport.”
“We’re thrilled to be able to kick off this new initiative with Countdown, who have decades of experience in online shopping and look forward to potentially expanding this customer amenity throughout our network.”
From 27 September 2016, Countdown Shoppers can order their groceries online at countdown.co.nz (before 1pm) and pick them up on the way home when catching the train, bus or ferry that afternoon/evening.
The collection points will play a part in making life easier for Aucklanders as more and more people embrace public transport.
This new service is being rolled out as a six month trial, with a view to offering it in other locations if proven successful. Currently, the five initial transport facilities service more than 95,000 AT HOP card users and customers every day.
This trial with Countdown is one of several ongoing efforts by the AT Retail Strategy Implementation Steering Group to enhance the AT customer experience.
I see this as a good move and I hope it’s successful so it can roll out to more bus/train stations and ferry terminals.
Of course countdown already deliver direct to homes and at general times you can specify but the difference here is that it appears to be slightly cheaper to pick up your goods from the station than it is to deliver – the same as picking up from a store.
I’d see this kind of model being used for a variety of services – another example might courier deliveries. Ultimately I hope it could lead to AT or perhaps even third parties developing stations into more than just the bare platforms they often are today. In overseas cities it is not uncommon to see stations with shops, cafes and other amenities built in – as a small start, my local station now has a coffee van parked up every morning.
Auckland’s public transport patronage results for August are now available and there are some decent numbers on show. This was partially expected thanks to there being two extra business days in August this year compared to August last year but even accounting for that, numbers are up. August is traditionally a strong month for patronage with its 31-days and no school or public holidays, and the month didn’t disappoint clocking in with the third highest patronage behind March 2015 and 2016. The month was significant as halfway through we finally had integrated fares roll out, something that Auckland has needed for decades. Changes like we had normally don’t have an immediate impact though and so it will be some time for us to see the full extent of the new structure and for many, cheaper fares.
Overall patronage was up 8.7% for the month (normalised to 3.9% when taking account of the extra weekdays) and 7.9 million trips were taking on PT. Drilling down to the PT modes:
- Trains once again led the charge up 18.4% (normalised to 14.5%) and on a 12m rolling basis, we surpassed 17 million trips for the first time. Looking at the rail numbers we’re still seeing fantastic results but the percentage increases are slowly starting to reduce, guess we can’t grow at 20%+ per annum for ever. The next boost is likely to come from the roll out of the new network.
- Buses have been struggling lately despite some key routes such as the busway growing impressively. This month we’re still seeing that overall trend with this month the busway looking even more impressive after posting a 34.6% increase in August. On a 12m rolling basis, Busway usage could soon exceed usage on the Eastern Line. In fact, patronage growth has been so strong that AT say Ritchies will increase the number of double deckers on Northern Express services in October from 16 to 29 and there will only be two non-double decker buses used (all off peak services will be double deckers too). Other routes that have had double decker love are also said to be posting some good growth. But with stagnant patronage on buses overall, it means those routes seeing crazy growth are offsetting declines elsewhere and the two areas experiencing this the most are the south and the west. More on this later in the post.
- Ferries have continued to show relatively good and consistent growth over the last 18 months or so.
As part of some travel planning, AT conducted a survey of employees in a number of large office buildings in the CBD on how they travelled to work. From over 10k responses an impressive 51% said public transport.
In some analysis of bus patronage performance, AT have broken the results down by area and eventually route. As you can see from the last image, many of the routes in the south have been on a bit of downward trajectory. Hopefully the New Network launching at the end of next month will help address this.
Looking at some other results, farebox recovery was expected to take a bit of a hit, and it has, but not by too much. We really need to wait to see a few months with integrated fares to see just what impact it has but a promising start at least. Related to integrated fares, AT say 84% of all PT trips were taken by using a HOP card.