Manukau Bus Station Fly Through

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.

On the way to some Inner West bike routes

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.

inner-west-feedback-routes-and-issues

As a result of this, AT revised their cycle network for the area to the one below.

inner-west-feedback-revised-network

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.

inner-west-cycle-network-route-consultation-2

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.

inner-west-cycle-network-route-consultation-route-1-cross-section

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.

inner-west-cycle-network-route-consultation-route-2-cross-section

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.

inner-west-cycle-network-route-consultation-route-4-cross-section

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.

inner-west-cycle-network-route-consultation-route-4-map

 

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.

Pick up your shopping at your Station

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.

countdown-delivery-to-orakei

Image thanks to Geogoose

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.

 

August-2016 Patronage

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.

2016-08-total-patronage

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.

2016-08-patronage-table

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.

 

mode-share-of-commuters-to-city

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.

2016-08-bus-pax-analysis

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.

2016-08-farebox

 

Time to do K Rd station properly

Last week we had two important announcements with the Government finally confirming they’ll pay for half of the City Rail Link (CRL) and the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) finally seeing the council and government aligned on the future of transport in Auckland, including agreeing on the need in the future for a number of big PT investments. Also last week I was looking on Auckland Transport’s website and came across a lot of new images and drawings, one of which I used in the CRL post.

k-rd-axonometric-west

These three things got me thinking about one of the big disappointments about the CRL, the decision to not build the Beresford Square entrance for the K Rd station, having only an entrance at Mercury Lane. It originally seemed to stem from AT value engineering the station to try and cut costs but in the process engineering out much of the value – to the point that at one time there were rumors they were looking to not build the station at all. After the decision to go only with Mercury Lane, AT released a board paper in which they claimed:

  • It would save $30-40 million – a tiny amount compared to the overall cost of the project.
  • A single entrance would be enough to cope with the demand out to 2046 – but given how frequently transport models are wrong, this seems completely bogus.
  • They only ever intended to build one entrance at first – despite having always shown the station as having two entrances prior to this point.
  • It would be more difficult to dig the Mercury Lane entrance later compared to the Beresford Square one and the Mercury Lane entrance had more future development potential.

That last point is what I want to focus on because as the technical images show, they’re actually doing most of the work needed for the entrance but then leaving off the useful bit. The extent of the works is shown in some of the images below and on others on the AT website. As you can see the plans show an approximately seven storey building to be built under Pitt St to service the CRL but it skips the planned connection to the central concourse area and also across to Beresford Square. Here is the longitudinal section

k-rd-longitudinal-section-pitt-st

This version shows the cross section.

k-rd-cross-section-pitt-st

With the government now on board with the project and obviously wanting it to be as successful as possible, it’s time to stop the penny pinching and build the station properly, especially as it will undoubtedly be much harder and more complex to build the connections at a later date.

As a reminder, this is what the entrance may look like if built.

K Rd station Beresford Entrance K Rd station Beresford Daylighting

Moving on to ATAP, while some were disappointed by more PT projects not being prioritised sooner, one of the key outcomes is the government has signed up to Auckland’s Rapid Transit Network (RTN) including new busways and their new favorite term ‘mass transit’. ATAP lists a ‘mass transit upgrade’ to the busway in the 3rd decade but at this stage we don’t even know what mode it might be or where it might go. Depending on the mode chosen, some options could see a line from the North Shore built under Wellesley St to connect perpendicularly to the Aotea Station the and then possibly travel elsewhere.

In the past Auckland Transport have said that they’re designing the Aotea Station for just this possibility, once such example is this from the CRL resource consent hearings where AT’s expert said this:

The Aotea Station concept design has been future proofed for potential platform level interchange between CRL and the potential North Shore Line (see table 1-2 of the CDR) by identifying space within the station box for the provision of two heavy duty metro style escalators and one 26 person lift, connecting passageways and additional structural works that would provide this connection.

Yet in recent times I’ve been hearing suggestions that the value engineering has gone a bit overboard again and at this time it may make future plans more difficult. While I don’t expect a North Shore line to be built quickly, designing and building the Aotea station to enable that kind of change is the future just makes sense.

My take on both of these issues is challenged by Finance Minister Bill English though, One such example is a few days ago on Paul Henry’s show where he talked about funding the project. Most concerning was this part.

“The big number that’s come out should pour a bit of cold water on some of the other dreams that have been expressed about what might happen in Auckland, because this is a large contribution from everyone outside Auckland to a critical piece of infrastructure there,” Mr English told Paul Henry on Monday.

Because the Government has essentially written a blank cheque, with the final cost still a mystery, Mr English says it’ll be taking a big role in the decision-making process from here. This he expects will ensure it comes under budget.

“In recent years our large roading projects have actually come in a bit under budget.”

Traffic in Auckland has gotten progressively worse in the past decade. More than 40,000 new cars hit the road every year, and the average rush-hour journey from Papakura to the CBD has gone from 46 minutes in 2013 to 67 now.

“We’re getting a more realistic view of how to deal with congestion and the need for more roading projects in Auckland,” says Mr English.

“They might just have to pull back on some of the big ambitions for [the CRL].”

This suggests even more cost cutting is on the blocks and therefore more key features of the project shelved. In a addition English says he expects the project to come in under the government’s revised budget of $2.8-3.4 billion – yet Len still says it will cost $2.5 billion +/- 20%, This makes me wonder if the government have deliberately inflated the cost of the project so that they can later claim they saved money.

Perhaps I’m just reading into it a bit much, what do you think?

August-16 Cycling Stats

The cycleway stats for August are now available and there are some fantastic results. Here are a few highlights but they are not the only ones.

The NW cycleway at Kingsland continues it’s impressive improvement

aug-16-cycling-monthly-kingsland-annual

Further up the line the counter at Te Atatu has been seeing great growth since the new Te Atatu Rd underpass opened just before Christmas last year. During August there were a whopping 76% more trips recorded here than the same time last year.

aug-16-cycling-monthly-te-atatu-annual

The increase on the NW Cycleway is also flowing through to Grafton Gully which saw a 52% increase on August last year.

aug-16-cycling-monthly-grafton-gully-monthly

 

Here is a summary of the counters compared to last year

Site

August count

August 7-day ADT August weekday ADT August weekend and public holiday ADT % change from same month previous year 12-month rolling total

% change from previous year

Beach Rd

8,216

265 291 191 38.5% 106,246

NA

Carlton Gore Rd

5,624

181 216 81 NA 69,716

NA

Curran St

5,825

188 159 271 NA  

NA

East Coast Rd

3,198

103 92 136 -6.1% 46,745

2.9%

Grafton Bridge

14,894

480 565 239 11.6% 188,767

12.9%

Grafton Gully

9,762

315 339 247 52.2% 118,339

NA

Grafton Rd

2,420

78 92 39 NA  

NA

Great Sth Road

2,299

74 76 69 -8.9% 31,386

-2.9%

Highbrook

977

32 33 27 -2.1% 13,678

-6.3%

Hopetoun St

4,225

136 166 50 NA  

NA

K Rd

14,578

470 538 276 4.7% 187,343

NA

Lagoon Dr

4,280

138 115 203 -7.4% 56,667

-8.0%

Lake Road

7,752

250 256 232 2.6% 102,604

4.1%

Mangere Bridge

7,620

246 193 397 -21.0% 144,070

-1.1%

Mangere Future Streets

1,035

33 35 30 NA  

NA

Nelson St cycleway

9,368

302 341 190 NA  

NA

Nelson St Lightpath

11,436

369 376 348 NA  

NA

NW Cycleway (Kingsland)

18,039

582 652 379 37.6% 222,214

21.5%

NW Cycleway (Te Atatu)

14,602

471 431 585 76.4% 167,857

25.6%

Orewa

7,983

258 202 417 1.1% 118,829

5.9%

Quay St Vector Arena

28,037

904 900 916 NA  

NA

Quay St Totem

18,510

597 589 620 NA  

NA

SH20 Dom Rd

2,870

93 86 111 19.1% 38,991

21.0%

Symonds St

10,884

351 422 147 -4.2% 141,039

NA

Tamaki Dr

32,224

1,039 1,012 1,118 11.7% 427,995

6.7%

Te Wero Bridge

13,631

440 391 579 39.1% 187,907

NA

Twin Streams

2,874

93 68 165 26.8% 42,477

0.8%

Upper Harbour

3,776

122 81 239 11.0% 55,436

1.9%

Upper Queen St

3,824

123 138 81 NA  

NA

Victoria St West

2,791

90 99 64 NA  

NA

 

Matakana Link Rd fast-tracked

Imagine you’re spent years pushing a motorway project, promising it will deliver travel time savings and economic nirvana for an entire region and then add in that you’re on the cusp on construction as the contract for the project, that will end up costing you over $1 billion, is about to be signed. Yet you also know that after it’s finished, the first time there is a holiday, the users of that road will wonder why you bothered as they’re all forced through an intersection that can’t handle the volumes thrown at it resulting congestion and frustrated drivers. There is a potential solution but it relies on a 3rd party and they don’t have it as a priority. What do you do?

That’s the situation the NZTA found themselves in with the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway which is due to have its PPP contract signed off in October. The vast majority of the users of the new motorway are expected not to head to Northland – like the rhetoric claims – but to Warkworth and the nearby eastern beaches such as Omaha. That would continue to see huge volumes of traffic forced through the notorious Hill St intersection which has long been the bane of many locals and holiday maker’s journeys. The solution is a new road that bypasses the intersection for those travelling to Matakana and beyond but is a project not on the current funding agenda till after 2025.

Hill St GIS

The Hill St intersection as it is today

To address this, yesterday Auckland Transport and the NZTA agreed to fast track the $25-40 million Matakana Link Rd (below) which is not in the council’s current Long Term Plan so it can open at the same time as the new motorway in 2022. The NZTA will even pay for it upfront and have AT pay it back in the future, or more specifically the NZTA won’t give them as much money for future projects.

Matakana Link Rd location

The Matakana Link Rd is shown by the green arrow

 

Auckland Transport and the NZ Transport Agency have signed an agreement that will speed up improvements to transport links in and between Warkworth and the eastern communities and help ease some frustrations around Warkworth’s Hill Street intersection.

The Transport Agency will provide early funding for construction of the Matakana Link Road project if Auckland Transport funds are not available.

The agreement means the project can be delivered ahead of schedule.

Once completed the Matakana Link Road will provide a connection between Matakana Road and State Highway 1 (SH1), just south of the intersection with the Transport Agency’s Ara Tūhono Pūhoi to Warkworth highway, expected to be open in 2022. It will give locals an alternative route between western and eastern areas of Warkworth and will bypass the SH1 Hill Street intersection, improving traffic flow and safety.

Both AT and the Transport Agency recognise that there’s an urgent need to improve transport links in Warkworth ahead of its expected future population growth, and to address frustrations around Warkworth’s Hill Street intersection.

Andrew Scoggins, Auckland Transport Group Manager Major Projects, says: “With Warkworth expected to grow by an additional 7,900 new dwellings over the next 30 years, the Matakana Link Road will be a key road network improvement to help address existing and future travel needs of the community”.

The Transport Agency’s Auckland and Northland Highway Manager, Brett Gliddon says the Pūhoi to Warkworth motorway has always been a part of a bigger vision to provide Warkworth with the transport connections it needs to ensure its residents can easily move around the growing town for work and leisure, as well as improving safety and efficiency on the link to Auckland.

“Over the years the Warkworth community has told us that Matakana Link Road is a priority for them. We’re grateful for their ongoing support while we work with Auckland Transport to speed up the delivery of this important transport link.”

Planning and consenting works for the Matakana Link Road project are already underway and construction of the road is expected to begin in the second half of 2019. The new road is scheduled for completion just ahead of the Transport Agency’s new state highway opening in 2022.

The new Matakana Link Road will also align with AT’s new Warkworth Western Collector project – a three-stage plan to improve road connections to the west of the state highway. Stage One of the Western Collector route, connecting Mansel Drive to Falls Road, is currently under construction and will be completed in February 2017. The exact route of the remaining two stages have yet to be determined but will connect to the State Highway in the vicinity of McKinney Road in the south and the Matakana Link Road intersection in the north.

AT say the cost of the project is likely to be $25-40 million but that will depend on the final design and they haven’t even agreed on some of the basics yet, such as whether it will have two or four lanes, be a rural or urban road (footpaths, kerb & channel, lighting etc.). Some indicative costs were included in a closed session board paper that was later released.

matakan-link-rd-cost-options

Below are some basic cross sections for the types of infrastructure options suggested and priced above

matakan-link-rd-possible-cross-sections

What do you think of this project jumping the queue to get funding? Imagine if the same urgency was put into projects like needed bus and train interchanges which are a vital part of getting the new network to work.

More buses on Mt Eden Rd

Back in May Auckland  Transport and NZ Bus launched double deckers on Mt Eden Rd in a bid to improve the capacity by 15% on what is one of Auckland’s busier bus routes.

NZ Bus double decker

At the time I said I was concerned that wouldn’t be enough and that the double deckers were likely to encourage even more people to demand and we continue to see reports of full buses leaving behind. In their latest board meeting they said they were seeing good growth on the corridor.

Now a good little piece of news from Auckland Transport with them announcing they’ll be increasing the number of services on Mt Eden Rd at the end of the month.

From Monday 26 September, the changes below will be made to 274 and 277 bus services:

  • 7am to 9am buses will depart every 5 minutes or sooner between Mt Eden shops and the City
  • 3.30pm to 6pm buses will depart from the City to Mt Eden every 5 minutes or sooner

A quick calculation shows that between 8am and 9am the number of buses that arrive at Britomart increases by a whopping 44%, going from 18 to 26 buses. It’s good to see Auckland Transport responding and putting more services on. Perhaps what this also shows is that improving services and especially adding double deckers not only helps improve conditions for existing users but encourages a lot more people to use them too, a case of induced demand if you will.

This is of course not the first time we’ve seen this happen with PT in Auckland and it won’t be the last. I sometimes think it happens simply because officials can’t conceive or at least dare to hope that patronage will grow so fast.

Of course to really make sure those buses work and do so efficiently it will be vital that AT improve the bus lanes along Mt Eden Rd, increasing both the length of the lanes and the length of time they operate for. They also need to ensure that the buses are operated efficiently so that we don’t have the situation where there are no buses for ten minutes then four turn up all at once.

Five Years

Exactly five years ago last month, August 30th 2011, my first ever blog post ran on Transportblog. While I am astonished it’s already been five years, what’s really astonishing is what we, my colleagues here, you the readers, and the growing force of friends and allies elsewhere [shoutout to Generation Zero and Bike Auckland especially], and of course the many good people official roles, have helped achieve in Auckland in this time. We have certainly raised the discourse on urban issues and influenced some real outcomes, for the better. Exactly what we set out to do, and what we continue to strive for.

But there is one thing that has still remains unfixed and that is the subject of my first post, which is reproduced in full below.

Why Are There Cars on Queen St?

This is a Guest Post by regular commenter Patrick Reynolds and was originally published in Metro magazine

Queen St, from the water to Mayoral Drive, has an unusual and unexpected feature for a city street in Auckland. It’s easy to miss but it’s true: There is not one vehicle entrance to a building from Queen St. Not one car parking building, not one loading bay, not one ramp to an executive garage under a tower block. The only way to enter a building from Queen St is on foot. There are a few very short term road side parks among the bus stops and loading bays, but really every car in Queen St is on its way to and from somewhere else. And so slowly.

People often talk about traffic with words like ‘flow’ as if it is best understood as a liquid, when really what it is actually like is a gas. Traffic expands like a gas to fill any space available to it [which is why it is futile to try to road build your out of congestion]. There are cars in Queen St simply because we let them be there, like an old habit we’ve never really thought about. l think it’s time we did.

No traffic moves well on Queen St, certainly not the buses, it is usually quicker to walk from the Ferry Building to the Town Hall than to catch any Queen St bus. Emergency vehicles get stuck, deliveries battle their way through. It is clear why there is traffic on the four east-west cross streets of Customs, Victoria, Wellesley, and Mayoral. These are essential through routes to and from motorways and parking buildings. But they too get held up by all the turning in and out of the intersections with Queen St. Because as it is now the lights have long and complicated phases to handle every possible car movement and the growing volume of pedestrians.

It seems likely that simply by removing the private car from the three blocks from Mayoral Drive down to Customs St the city will function so much better. The intersections of Customs, Victoria and Wellesley, will be able to have much better phasing for both pedestrians and the cross town traffic, as well speeding the buses as they would effectively be on bus lanes all the way up Queen St. Air quality in the Queen St gully would improve immensely. The bottom of Shortland and the newly refurbished Fort streets will become the sunny plazas they should be. Inner city retailers should see the benefits of the Queen St becoming a more appealing place to be in and the cross town traffic flowing better will make car use more viable.

And there will the space to convert the smoky diesel bus routes into modern electric trams to really make the most of this improvement and speed even more shoppers and workers to and from the rest of the city.

If we’re brave enough to take this all the way up to Mayoral Drive we get the real chance to link the new Art Gallery, the Library, and St James area across the Queen St divide to Aotea Square, the Town Hall and the new Q Theatre. A chance to really build a cultural heart at this end of town.

Furthermore it could all be done with a few cones, signs, traffic light changes and a media campaign. At least to start.

END

And I still believe that AT/AC are not addressing this issue as well as they should. Waiting for Light Rail to improve our city’s main street lacks leadership and strategic focus, and may well even turn out to be risky to the approval that project. It will, I believe, help the argument for Light Rail here to show that Queen St isn’t a necessary or desirable place for general traffic, and that its continuing reduction is far from negative for commercial performance in the City Centre, by actively encouraging its departure. We know that the last restrictions had way better results than anticipated, halving the amount of vehicle traffic and boosting the much more valuable pedestrian numbers and economic activity, see here.

Queen St volumes - Total

Since my post above AT have recently added partial bus lanes to the two lower blocks, which is good, but not much in five years. I would like to see these lanes continue through to Mayoral Drive. I really think this valley needs to be addressed strategically, and not just reactively, which after all has been well studied by AT, e.g. The City East West Study, CEWT.

Adding north/south of Queen St to this mix we get a hierarchy like this:

  1. Pedestrians in all directions
  2. Transit north/south on Queen and east/west on Wellesley and Customs
  3. Deliveries
  4. General traffic east/west on Mayoral, Victoria, and Customs

And above all of this is the plan to remove all general traffic from Wakefield St north to be worked towards; to continue the current trend.

So improving the Queen St intersections by removing right hand turn options matches this hierarchy perfectly, in particular at Victoria St. This is now a more difficult idea since the Link bus turns from Queen here, but the turn could be made bus only. Victoria St is currently narrowed by CRL works, and will be permanently reduced in width by the Aotea CRL station entrance which will be in what is current road space. So getting drivers used to both the narrowed Victoria St and out of the habit of turning here is surely a strong plan.

Now of course AT are getting pressure from angry motorists over the CRL works, and seem to have responded to this by dropping the double pedestrian cycle from the big Barnes Dances on Queen. This is clearly counter productive to the strategic aims. Instead if they removed right hand turning at Victoria this would improve the adjacent Victoria St intersections for all users and enable either concurrent crossing on Queen or allow the double Barnes Dance phases to be restored. Then there is the festering sore that is lower Shortland St, which clearly has just been shoved into the too hard basket.

Oh and now I discover I have written about this in 2013 too: Clusterbus, Busageddon, Busapocalypse…

In short there are ways that AC/AT could be advancing their strategic aims in the centre city before Light Rail is begun, but they don’t seem to be doing this. I think they should.

Will I be banging on about still in another five years, or can the city grow up already?

‘…Five Years, what a surprise’

Otahuhu Interchange making good progress

On the weekend I was out near Otahuhu so I took a quick diversion to take a look at progress on the new Otahuhu Interchange which is on track to open on October 29 before bus services start using it a day later when the New Network in South Auckland goes live.

One thing that surprised me and that I didn’t really get from the artist impressions was just how big this station will be. The concourse building is around 80m in length

In the image below you can see the rail side of the station with the existing platform complete with new, longer shelter. You can also see the platform edge and backfilling underway for the third platform which is needed for train operations after the CRL but is being built now while all of the other works are happening, perhaps a rare bit of future proofing for Auckland. Not to be missed in the Background is the new station building/concourse. To the left of the image you can see the old signal box and the back of the bus shelters.

Otahuhu Interchange Sep-16 1

This is the bus side of the station. As you can see the stops appear to be well advanced and aspects like planting are starting to happen. You can also see the carpark/kiss & ride area full of cars with people hard at work on a Saturday, presumably to ensure it is finished on time.

Otahuhu Interchange Sep-16 2

Out on Walmsley Rd the new footpath/shared path includes some concrete detailing as was suggested in the artist impressions. Just behind me the pedestrian crossing to Station Rd also includes a bike crossing and hopefully in time cycle infrastructure can be improved in the area to allow locals to make use of it.

Otahuhu Interchange Sep-16 3

As a reminder, this is what the station is expected to look like when finished.

Otahuhu Interchange aerial overview

The main entrance to the station can’t be seen in the photos as it is covered in shrink wrap. Here is what it is expected to look like.

Otahuhu interchange plaza area in front of entrance

All up it will be an impressive station and seems like things are well on track to be completed in time to open at the end of October.