Dominion Rd Interchange construction

While I was working on this morning’s post about the Dominion Rd Interchange I came across a lot of photos of it from during construction from Whites Photography. Here is a bit of a pictorial history of its construction.

19 November 1963 – before the destruction started.

4 February 1965 – The clearing of houses has taken place and work has started on the interchange. While construction took place I believe traffic was diverted down View Rd and Esplanade Rd for some reason the buses were never shifted back

6 September 1965 – The retaining wall on Bright St/Atken Tce is waiting to hold up fill for the road.

21 November 1965 – You can see part of the interchange complete and used for New North Rd traffic.

26 July 1966 – You can see the large sweeping ramp starting to take shape.

11 October 1967 – The interchange really stands out like a giant scar compared to the finer grained city that surrounds it.

5 February 1968 – The interchange is looking largely complete with work still progressing on Ian McKinnon Dr

24 May 1968 – Looking south down Dominion Rd

Tearing down the Dominion Rd Interchange

The herald yesterday highlighted an idea we’ve long championed, removing the eyesore that is the Dominion Rd Interchange and developing the land freed up by it.

Dominion Rd Interchange

Cash-hungry Auckland Council leaders are eyeing a proposal to replace the complex Dominion Rd interchange with traffic lights to free valuable land for housing and commercial development.

Mayor Len Brown has indicated interest in what Auckland Transport makes of the proposal, which Albert-Eden Local Board member Graeme Easte says offers better connections between neighbourhoods of Kingsland and Eden Terrace severed when the three-level interchange opened in 1968.

Ward councillors Cathy Casey and Christine Fletcher are applauding his idea, as is council urban design champion Ludo Campbell-Reid, who calls the interchange “one of those eyesores designed when traffic engineers only saw their customer as a car”.

Mr Easte, who has persuaded his board to promote the proposal, expects dismantling the interchange and its four traffic ramps – including the sweeping 277m one-way flyover to New North Rd – to more than pay for itself.

Not only could at least $20 million be raised from selling 2ha of council land for mixed residential and commercial development, but that much again could be saved by not having to build a large road bridge over the southern end of the $2.4 billion City Rail Link in nearby Porters Ave.

That is because motorists travelling between Kingsland and Eden Terrace would no longer have to go via Porters Ave or Charles St, over rail crossings which could be closed.

Mr Easte believes the extra movements allowed through a conventional intersection would compensate motorists for having to wait at traffic lights.

The idea is quite simple, the interchange – which was originally intended to be part of a motorway that paralleled Dominion Rd – would be removed and returned to a normal intersection just like hundreds of others around the city. That would do a few key things

  • It would open up a huge amount of land for development and combined with the work nearby that will happen with the City Rail Link highlights a huge urban regeneration opportunity.
  • Despite its size, the current interchange doesn’t cater for some key movements, in particular if you are heading North or South you can’t go left on to New North Rd and you are instead required to use a maze of side streets.
  • The rail level crossings on both George St and Potters Ave are needed to cater for movements that aren’t possible through the interchange. It would therefore give Auckland Transport a cheaper way to deal with these level crossings.
  • It would allow bus lanes to be extended on New North Rd through the interchange
  • It would create a much more friendly human scale environment

But just how much space could it free up? The Herald article suggests 2 hectares however looking it, there’s potentially around 3 hectares (30,000m²) of space across the four corners of the interchange – although some would be needed for connections to local roads. Based on the most recent valuations property prices in the immediate vicinity average roughly $1,750 per m² so that suggests potentially $52 million of land that’s tied up in the interchange not including the roads themselves.

Dominion Rd interchange space

I also must say it’s great to see the idea getting political support with local councillors and local board members supporting it. It also had positive support from people who submitted on the Newton Area Plan when it was consulted on earlier this year.

This is perhaps be a perfect example of a project an Urban Development Agency could tackle.

Below is a quick history of the area and interchange

 

Until the mid-late 1960’s the intersection of Dominion Rd and New North Rd ended in T intersection surrounded by commercial and residential developments. Traffic from Dominion Rd – and originally the trams – would get to the city via Symonds St

Dominion Rd 1959

 

The 1955 Master Transport Plan by consultants De Leuw Cather called for a motorway that paralleled closely to Dominion Rd, something that if built would have been horrendously damaging to the area. The map on the left was from the 1960’s version of the plan while the one of the right is from the 1955 plan showing how it was meant to connect to the rest of the motorway network.

Dominion Rd Motorway 1

 

 

In the mid-1960s work started on the interchange with New North Rd. The interchange itself was finished by 1968 although it took a few more years before Ian McKinnon Dr was complete. This image was also before SH16 was rammed through the area.

1963, Dominion Rd flyover in the foreground

1968, Dominion Rd flyover in the foreground

Now the motorway plans are gone but the interchange still exists. Will we tear it down and reclaim the area?

More buses needed on weekends and evenings

Crowding on peak public transport is a well known occurrence in Auckland. This is a rather complex issue to fix due to bus congestion in the city, and high cost of adding extra buses and drivers to run one service a day. Working on bus lanes to improve efficiency and addition of double deckers is the best way to fix this issue.

However we are now seeing regular reports come in of crowding on off-peak services, notably on evenings and weekends. Even on popular inner isthmus routes, evening and weekend services are still stuck in a bygone era, not recognising that the city centre is now far from an 8am to 5pm destination. Weekend services also haven’t been updated to reflect the popularity of the CBD on the weekends and the regular special events that draw people in, especially over summer. Sunday services are usually a lower frequency than Saturday services, which may have been fine when the shops were all closed on Sundays, however it is not appropriate in 2014.

Services at off-peak times should also be able to be added relatively cheaply, as they just involve using existing buses and drivers more often, rather than pushing the need for extra buses and drivers. In some cases the issues may be able to be helped by running larger buses, instead of leaving these sitting in the depot at weekends.

They key services than seem to suffer the most from overcrowding issues are Dominion Road, Mount Eden Road, Tamaki Drive and the Northern Express.

Mount Eden Road

The issues on Mount Eden Road seem to largely come from the sparse evening services. Services drop from 15 minute frequency to 30 minutes after 9pm, which is much too early.

Mt Eden evening timetable

Mt Eden Road weekday evening timetable

 

This tweet from last Monday night shows the high demand for evening Mt Eden Road buses.

Andrew W 277 Monday

And from Julie Anne Genter last month, this time on a Tuesday night.

JAG Mt Eden Road

A few extra 274 services to give at 15 minute frequency until 11pm or so would probably sort the issues. An extra service at 12.10am would probably be popular as well.

Dominion Road

The issues on Dominion Road come from both evening and weekend day time services. Buses are often so full that they are leaving people behind, which is unacceptable.

On Saturdays buses run the 258 and 267 run at a 20 minute frequency, giving a 10 minute frequency along Dominion Road from Mount Roskill. However this doesn’t seem to be enough to meet demand.

Geogoose Saturday

However on Sunday the timetable is totally archaic, and belongs in the 1970’s. The 258 and 267 both run every 40 minutes, only giving a 20 minute service all day.

Dom Rd Sunday timetable

This is certainly not nearly enough to meet demand. This tweet from last Sunday shows this results in packed buses leaving people behind.

Kate Dom Rd Sunday

This tweet from a couple of weekends ago shows this is a regular occurrence.

Geogoose DomRd Sunday

Evening services are also an issue. I heard that Dominion Road buses were leaving people behind at the Symonds Street bridge last Friday night, and am told this is common.

Some of the issues seem to arise from the use by NZ Bus of small ADL Enviro 200 buses, which have much lower seating capacity than the bigger buses available. This is very poor customer service from NZ Bus, as they are sure to have plenty of empty large buses sitting at the depot on weekends, however choose to run small buses to save on operating costs. This is unacceptable.

Tamaki Drive

On nice days in summer the 15 mintue frequency and small ADL buses used on the service cannot handle the demand for trips to Mission Bay. Last Sunday afternoon I saw a bus packed full of people leaving town, and this meant it could not stop at the first stop on Quay Street near Countdown to pick up more beachgoers. I have heard this is a common occurrence on summer weekends.

James Pole MIssion Bay

Again NZ Bus is causing issues by running small ADL 200 buses on these services when larger buses are available.

Northern Express

Northern Express services running on weekends and evenings are often seen to be at capacity. The timetable for weekends and evenings has not been updated since May 2011, despite major patronage growth since this time. Buses leave Britomart every 15 minutes from 7pm to midnight, however demand seems to outstrip this. The NEX needs to run at 10 minute frequency for another hour or 2 to cope with the patronage.

As an example this was the queue for the NEX at 7.40pm last Thursday, nearly 50 people long.

B2TU_bPCcAAE7B4.jpg-large

And this is the bus leaving at 7.45pm. These 10 people were left behind as the bus was full of standing passengers.

B2TWrv9CUAAaKhr.jpg-large

 

Weekend frequency is also an issue. All day weekend frequency is every 15 minutes. However I have regularly seen buses leaving the city full of standing passengers. At a 15 minute frequency the Northern Express cannot handle special events. This is a scene from the Auckland marathon just over a 2 weeks ago where a surge in patronage left the NEX unable to cope.

Nick R NEX wknd

This suggests the Northern Express needs its frequency upgraded to 10 minutes on weekends, at least for the busiest parts of the day.

I am keen to hear more reports from readers about issues with public transport overcrowding, including stories that both confirm the above reports, as well as issues on other services that they have come across.

Fixing these issues would help raise public confidence in the bus system, and ensure people catching a bus have a good experience. It would also provide a great boost to public transport patronage.

A Letter from a Reader

A letter from a reader to Auckland Transport that I was copied in on. It’s an all too familiar tale.

I am a central city dweller and I really, really want to support public transport – but you’re trying my patience and commitment. I’ve lived and worked in London and Sydney and owned a car in neither city. Back in Auckland I work reasonably close to where I live – so close that a car ride will take maybe 10 minutes. But I was trying not to own a car. A bus journey to work should take under 15 minutes – but that assumes the BUS SHOWS UP ON TIME.

This past week, I have wasted an accumulated estimate of close to two* hours of my life waiting for delayed buses. At a micro level, I’ve been personally frustrated, late for meetings and, on one night, cold and damp. At a macro level, the productivity loss of my time, multiplied by the number of people similarly impacted, is staggering.

*That 2 hours is only across 4 days; I walked to and from on the other day – and it was still faster than the previous day’s bus commute.

I’ve been experiencing erratic timetables for awhile on the 267/258 routes travelling from/to Queen St, along Symonds St to/from Dominion Road. (I get on in the mornings either on Queen St or the Symonds St overbridge). So, this week I decided to be more methodical about tracking just how little relevance the timetable has to reality:

On Monday, April 28th the week began in a manner prescient for the days to follow …
Arrive at Queen St stop at 08:44. 08:50 #258 listed as 7 mins away – on time then.

  • 0849: 3 mins away…
  • 08:53: The 08:50 #258 simply disappeared off the board. No “C” for cancelled appeared – it was as if the 10 people waiting had somehow missed the bus without noticing. I can assure you, we hadn’t.
  • A #258 bus did pull up after that – but became “out of service”. As an aside, it would be nice if drivers, when approached by people who (reasonably enough) assume it’s their bus arriving, simply say “I’m sorry, I’m not in service”, rather than pointing and snarling “look at the front! Look at the sign”… that they’ve just changed.

Return trip from Dominion Road.

  • Arrive at bus stop at 6:10pm for 6:12pm #258. No sign of it as the clock edges to 6:19, by which time a #267 should be arriving …
  • At 6:35pm, a #258 scheduled for 6:30pm arrives.

Total delay in today’s commute: 33 minutes.

And Wednesday and Thursday and Friday, it’s much the same. Hoorah for the 08:53 from Symonds St on Thursday morning being only 2 minutes behind schedule.

I can only speak for my experience and, indirectly, those people waiting at bus-stops with me – sighing as they check the electronic board showing increasing discrepancies between scheduled and actual arrivals. But extrapolated across the city, how many thousands of residents arrive at work stressed because they’re late, or waste time every day getting to a stop extra early just to compensate for the unreliability of the service? If my experience is reflective of a common one, Auckland has a long way to go to be “the world’s most liveable city”, or its most productive.

Public transport is vital to the functioning of any city. When done well, it’s awesome. In the central city, I love the Link Bus; I’ll likely never drive within the CBD given this awesome (free with HOP card service). For those living further out of the city, I am sure that even if your bus is delayed, motorway bus lanes are still much faster than peak-hour car travel. It’s environmentally preferable. And reduces the need to waste precious land on car-parking.

But, for those of us moving around the city fringes, what can be done to improve services? I know a number of residents who also philosophically would prefer to take the bus (or train, when it’s expanded), but they’ve given up. Are my expectations of reliability unreasonable? Is my experience that the 258 and 267 route buses are routinely delayed by 10+ minutes within AT’s “acceptable” standards?

I’m just not willing to sacrifice 2+ hours a week to standing unproductively in bus shelters; I’m, with regret, off to buy a car.

I look forward to your feedback.
Sincerely,

$20m Dominion Rd Parking Boondoggle

Late last week Auckland Transport put out a press release about the upgrade of Dominion Rd saying that would start as early as September. Here’s the first part of it:

Work on the long awaited upgrade of Dominion Road, one of Auckland’s busiest roads and its second busiest bus route, will go ahead in September, following decisions by Auckland Transport and New Zealand Transport Agency this week, to fund the $66.3 million project.

The project which will transform Dominion Road and the key villages that it serves, will be carried out in stages and is expected to be completed in about mid-2016.

Work on the associated cycle routes on streets paralleling Dominion Road, will start in May and be completed by about October.

This has been greeted by Auckland Transport chairman, Dr Lester Levy, as a red letter day for Auckland and one that the New Zealand Transport Agency has helped to make possible.

Dr Levy says that the improvements to the road will give it the capacity to deliver up to 3 million bus passengers a year to their destinations, quickly and efficiently.

He says that because of the importance of Dominion Road to Auckland’s future public transport systems, with greater walking and cycling options and reduced congestion as part of the mix, Auckland Transport (AT) and New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) had collaborated in the planning and funding of the upgrade.

NZTA’s commitment has been vital to an immediate start, Dr Levy says. “Joint planning and coordination has been followed by joint funding by NZTA, who will contribute 53% of the cost. This means we can start the search for tenders immediately.”

It’s great that it the upgrade will be starting soon however the cost of the project caught my attention. The last we had heard, the project including the alternate cycling routes were expected to cost $47 million. I had been meaning to write a post about exactly this and asking how the costs had increased by ~$20 million without anyone knowing however the Herald did just that yesterday morning. I’ve bolded the key part.

Auckland Transport’s cost estimate for upgrading Dominion Rd has ballooned by 40 per cent to $66.3 million.

That compares with $47 million which the council body announced late in 2012, after rethinking a controversial $100 million plan which included 24-hour bus lanes along the full 5km length of the route, with extra room for cyclists as well.

Although there will now be little widening – except to extend bus-lanes along the road’s southern section between the Mt Roskill shops and the Southwestern Motorway – transport planners blame the latest cost blow-out on having to buy more properties than expected and design changes to preserve parking in side streets after public consultation.

That is to compensate for lost parking on Dominion Rd at peak times, to make way for an extension of bus lanes through village centres in Mt Eden, Balmoral and Mt Roskill, communications general manager Wally Thomas said.

I do support the general idea of putting parking on the side streets however $20 million of ratepayer money is an obscene amount to spend to do this. This is even more so seeing as the current plan doesn’t even include making the upgraded bus lanes permanent which potentially means there will still be people parking on Dominion Rd outside of peak hours (some of the released images show this). I’m not sure how many carparks are planned to be built with the property prices that exist in many of these areas $20 million won’t go far. My guess is AT would be lucky to get an extra 100 carparks for that kind of money and what budget did they cut to find that extra $20 million needed?

Dominion Rd design image

What AT are clearly doing is caving into the noisy local retailers who simply don’t get that people buy stuff, not cars. Making it easier for more people to get to their stores should be the primary goal and the most effective way to do that is through the vastly improved bus lanes. Already on Dominion Rd more than half the people at peak times are in a bus and from what I’ve seen (and heard about), buses are often extremely full well outside of peak times. Currently around 1.8 million people use buses and the upgrade is said to have the capacity for up to 3 million trips a year. In contrast a handful of carparks won’t get close to delivering half that many extra people.

And it’s not just us saying this. Research conducted by the NZTA which saw similar results to research overseas found that shoppers who didn’t arrive by car spent more on average than those that did while retailers also tend to overestimate the impact of car parking on their businesses. Unsurprisingly making an area nicer for pedestrians is far more important.

This research project investigated the economic impacts of transport and road space reallocation in shopping areas located in central cities and along major transport corridors in New Zealand. It focused on three research questions. The first being to understand the retail spending of transport users; resulting in data that provides an average $ spent per user and primary mode of transport. The second element focused on identifying the road space allocation and design elements important to retailers and shoppers. Finally, a case study compendium was developed.

The data shows that sustainable transport users account for 40% of the total spend in the shopping areas and account for 37% of all shoppers who completed the survey. The data indicates the pedestrians and cyclists contribute a higher economic spend proportionately to the modal share and are important to the economic viability of local shopping areas.

The study also identified that retailers generally overestimate the importance of on-street parking outside shops. Shoppers value high-quality pedestrian and urban design features in shopping areas more than they value parking and those who drive are willing to walk to the shopping precinct from other locally available parking areas.

In addition to all of this it also shows a lack of faith by Auckland Transport in the increasing quality of the PT system to be useful for a wider variety of trips and in many cases it helps to actively undermine the organisations PT goals. Perhaps it’s decisions like this that go towards AT asking for their targets to be cut on the back of lower than predicted patronage.

Lastly many cyclists have been particularly upset by the “parallel” cycle routes which basically consist of traffic calming local roads. One of the biggest complaints is the windy routes many they take that makes journeys considerably longer than they would be by using Dominion Rd. This is especially the case around King Edward St and Burnley Tce where users are forced to either Sandringham Rd or Dominion Rd. This decision seems to suggest it’s ok to spend millions on buying up houses to provide what will probably be free parking for local businesses but it isn’t ok to do the same to make those alternate cycle routes more viable.

Dom Rd Cycling Network

Dominion Rd upgrade open days

Auckland Transport are holding a couple of open days on their plans for Dominion Rd (first one this evening)

Feedback sought on detailed designs for Dominion Road Upgrade

Auckland Transport (AT) is planning a major upgrade of Dominion Road, for which detailed designs are being shared with the public at two open days this week.

The open days are being held tomorrow Thursday 10 April, 3.30pm to 7pm, at the Auckland Deaf Society clubrooms at 164 Balmoral Road in Mt Eden; and on Saturday 12 April, 10am to 1pm, at the Dominion Road Primary School hall on Quest Terrace in Mt Roskill.

Public feedback will be used to fine-tune the design before construction starts in spring this year. The feedback period closes on 30 April 2014.

The Dominion Road Upgrade is designed to bring many improvements – particularly in regards to pedestrian and cycle safety and public transport reliability – to those living, working and travelling along or near this key arterial route.

Dominion Road is vital to Auckland’s public transport network and carries about 1.8 million bus passengers a year. It is one of the few transport corridors in the city where there are more bus passengers than drivers in peak hours.

The upgrade will increase the route’s capacity to deal with an expected 67 per cent growth in bus travellers by 2021. Continuous peak hour bus lanes (northbound 7am to 9am and southbound 4pm to 6pm) will be introduced on Dominion Road from State Highway 20 in the south to View Road in the north. Parking will be available on these bus lanes outside of peak hours. The upgrade will also see bus stops located at 400m intervals, which means pedestrians are always within a four minutes walk of a bus stop once on Dominion Road.

The three village centres of Eden Valley, Balmoral and Mt Roskill will be upgraded with new trees, lighting, artwork, seating and pedestrian improvements. The design has some elements consistent across the three centres but also emphasises the distinctive character of each village through the use of individual colours, patterns and plant species.

Village upgrades will include new footpaths, attractive landscaping, new seating and bike stands, improved lighting, planted rain gardens to reduce surface flooding and remove pollutants, additional stormwater bores to reduce run-off, and pedestrian-priority crossing and raised median to improve road safety. There are some proposed changes to the current on-street parking and loading areas along Dominion Road and some of the adjacent side streets to enable the upgrade to occur, and AT welcomes feedback on these plans also.

Implementation of the specially-marked cycle routes, to be created through quieter streets to the east and west of Dominion Road, is expected to start in May, prior to the main upgrade, and take about six months to complete.

The cycle routes will traverse about 12km long and are designed to make cycling an attractive, easier and safer option for the local community, in particular the area’s 12,000 school pupils, and will provide good connections to the area’s parks and 16 local schools.

Albert-Eden Local Board Chair, Peter Haynes says “We aim to upgrade the road without detracting from the colour and character that have made this one of Auckland’s best-loved streets,”

“It’s a special road, celebrated in song and remembered with fondness by many Aucklanders.  I can’t wait to see the major improvements to pedestrian safety, to the new cycleways that offer safer alternative routes, and greater public transport on the road.  We’ll be listening hard to what locals and local businesses have to say,” says Dr Haynes.

Julie Fairey, Chair of the Puketapapa Local Board says “The board is looking forward to collaborating with Auckland Transport and the local community to identify the elements of the much-needed upgrade at the Roskill Village shops.  We’ll be working alongside the improvements made through the Dominion Road Project to make some specific investments to revitalise the business area, which has much to commend it but is often overlooked because it has become run-down.”

More information on the Dominion Road Upgrade can be found online at www.at.govt.nz/dominion

I can’t make the open days but I am looking forward to seeing the designs. My biggest concern at this stage is that there is no proposed change to the times the bus lanes operate. The morning is probably fine but I frequently hear about buses in the evenings leaving town packed with people and getting stuck in traffic due to parked cars.

Speaking of parking, in light of the other demands on Dominion Rd, it seems odd that AT are also consulting on extending the amount of time people are allowed to park on the road in village centres.

Auckland Transport (AT) has been working with the Albert-Eden and Puketapapa local boards and the Eden-Valley Business Association on ways to improve parking throughout Dominion Road and the village centres of Eden Valley, Balmoral and Mt Roskill.

The existing short-stay parking restrictions of 30 minutes or less do not provide a sufficient amount of time to support the main retail and commercial activities. In addition, the current range of parking restrictions can be confusing and results in an excessive number of parking signs in a relatively small area.

In order to address this issue, AT is proposing to install a 60-minute parking zone (P60) throughout the main village centres. This proposal involves changing the existing on-street parking restrictions, which will reduce the number of signs and different restrictions. The type of signage used to describe those restrictions will change also.

The village centres are important and AT should probably change how they manage parking on side streets however they need to be removing parking from Dominion Rd.

Dominion Rd parallel cycle routes get NZTA Funding

Some good news today that the NZTA have agreed to pay for just over half of the project to create cycle routes parallel to Dominion Rd.

The NZ Transport Agency has approved $3.2m in funding to extend Auckland’s cycling network.

The money will be used to construct cycle routes on less busy suburban streets that run parallel and adjacent to Dominion Road, one of Auckland’s busiest arterial links between the CBD and suburbs on the western side of the city and Auckland International Airport.

The Transport Agency’s funding is a 53 percent share of a $6.1m project led by Auckland Transport to provide 5-and-a-half-kilometres of cycleway on the parallel routes either side of Dominion Road.

The Regional Manager for the Transport Agency’s Planning and Investment Group, Peter Casey, says key considerations behind the Agency’s decision to provide funding include the benefits the project will deliver in terms of safety and travel choices for people.

“The Transport Agency is committed to reducing traffic congestion by providing options so that people don’t have to rely on using cars,” Mr Casey says. “The new routes will encourage more people to cycle. They will be available for less confident cyclists as an alternative to the more challenging Dominion Road, and by the large number of children living in the area.”

Auckland Transport says the funding decision is an important step for the project.

“It’s great that we can get worked started on this project,” says Auckland Transport’s Manager Community Transport, Matthew Rednall. “These are important links for growing cycling for Auckland, and for providing cycling facilities between schools and local communities.”

Construction is due to start later this year. The project includes safety upgrades at intersections, improved lighting and signage, and construction of speed humps and “islands” to slow motorised traffic.

The cycle routes are part of a much wider AT project to upgrade Dominion Road itself, which is also supported by the Transport Agency to help improve Auckland’s public transport system. 

I know this has been a fairly controversial project amongst many in the cycling community who want to see dedicated cycle infrastructure on Dominion Rd. AT say it was dropped as an option as much of Dominion Rd would have needed to be widened to accommodate it at a cost of up to $50 million. The parallel routes involve a mix of

  • New traffic lights at major intersections.
  • Destination signage.
  • Raised tables and other measures to slow vehicle traffic.
  • New sections of shared paths or widening paths.
  • New links between streets for cyclists and pedestrians.

You can see the proposed designs on this page.

Dom Rd Cycling Network

To me the biggest area that really needs to be addressed is on the eastern route at King Edward St/Burnley Tce where riders are forced to either Sandringham Rd or Dominion Rd due to there being no through route but that is something that is unlikely to be cheap either. One other small benefit of this approach is at least this part of the project appears to be starting as soon rather than having to wait for the rest of the upgrade works to happen.

Highway Teardowns

Location of freeway, Harbor Drive, Portland

Location of former freeway, Harbor Drive, Portland

Unfortunately, while freeways did provide vehicular access to downtown, they also disrupted the existing urban grid and street system. Freeways severed local commercial activity from customers, and many once vibrant streets now stand with shuttered businesses and negligible street activity. -Mayor’s Innovation Project

It is conventional wisdom that motorways or other high capacity, limited access roads have no place in productive urban environments. Increasingly, cities across the globe are pursuing projects which attempt to mitigate the problems and re-insert a transport structure that supports local accessibility and high value land use outcomes. In addition to the famous tear out projects in Portland (above), San Francisco and Cheonggyecheon, there are also dozens of other cities that are pursuing flyover teardowns, motorway caps, freeways-to-boulevard solutions, and in cases total removals.

A recent publication by the Mayor’s Innovation Project, Rethinking the Urban Freeway (PDF) gives a nice synopsis of the rationale behind motorway removals including the opportunity costs of motorways which  “occupy valuable land without paying taxes; reduce the value of nearby properties; and reduce quality of life in nearby neighbourhoods.”

Matt’s recent post Guess where this is?  showed a stark depiction of our own transport legacy. Here’s another look at the area using a figure/foreground diagram showing the disruption of the urban fabric caused by both the CMJ motorway and the Dominion Rd Flyover.

Figure/Field Diagram, Auckland

Figure/Field Diagram, Auckland

Below is a look at the same area using a diagram to illustrate intersection density. Intersection density is a useful tool to quantify the viability and walkability of a neighbourhood. In Julie Campoli’s new book Made for Walking she uses the same technique to demonstrate that all walkable and successful neighbourhoods have a high concentration of intersections that support movement choice. The drawing shows intersections in red which allow turning options (dark red showing 3 choices,  light red 2), and the black dots depict places where intersections have been cauterized by motorway-type roads.

Not made for walking: intersections removed

Not made for walking: intersections removed

We know that land value and productivity reach extreme levels in the city centre. The CMJ and the Dominion Road Flyover have almost completely disconnected Eden Terrace from the city centre causing a radical (and unnatural) devaluation of land. So while Eden Terrace, Grafton and Freemans Bay are ‘close’ to the city, the urban transport structure defeats the advantages of proximity. The relationship between urban proximity and land value is still  based on an urban structure of ‘cityness’ which is largely influenced by walkability and accessibility to local places and services.

Here’s a look at the disurban environment of Eden Terrace. Not only is the area now disconnected from the city and its associated value but the resulting road structure tends to concentrate through traffic further isolating the remaining bits into a sort of archipelago.

IMG_2061

Dominion Road Flyover wasteland

add

Dominion Road overkill

Eden Terrace, disconnected and devalued

Finally, here’s a recent video describing the progress of some tear out projects in America.

Should we build a station at Dominion Rd?

My fellow bloggers and I were having an interesting – and unresolved – debate over the weekend that I thought probably deserved a post. The debate was about whether we should build a train station on the Western line at Dominion Rd. I’m going to go through some of the pros and cons of the idea.

Build it

After the CRL has been completed, Mt Eden station is almost certainly not going to be needed unless we start running some peak only services from the west to Newmarket – but that is a debate for another post entirely. That would means for someone heading towards the city the first stop after Kingsland would be the new Newton station which would have an entrance roughly opposite the intersection of Mt Eden Rd and New North Rd. This has the impact of shifting the station entrance further north by ~400m meaning some people who are currently within easy walking distance of the train station will no longer be. That in itself probably isn’t such an issue as not many people currently use Mt Eden station and it is near the bottom of the list in terms of boardings due to being less frequent and direct compared the two bus routes of Dominion Rd and Mt Eden Rd.

However I’m sure any Dominion Rd bus user will be quick to point out that with the exception of a few express services, Dominion Rd isn’t as direct as it could be. Most buses take a detour down View Rd and Esplanade Rd before joining Mt Eden Rd to head towards the CBD. By comparison car drivers race (and they do) down Ian McKinnon Dr towards the CBD. However Ian McKinnon Dr didn’t always exist prior to that (and even after the motorway style interchange was built) the only route was up New North Rd and down Symonds St. I have heard the Dominion Rd buses and other traffic were diverted to View Rd to enable construction of the interchange but the buses were left there once it was finished, out of the way of the car drivers.

The question some have raised is whether we should change how Dominion Rd buses work and instead of sending them via the current route, if we should instead send them down Ian McKinnon Dr and Queen St to their destination. This is a similar route to what some of the express buses do. The advantage of this is that Dominion Rd users going to the CBD would get a much faster travel time but the downside it there would be effectively no opportunities for interaction with other routes (link excepted) until the buses reach Wellesley St. For the new network which is based around the idea that by accepting transfers for some journeys, we can vastly improve the reach and quality of the frequent bus network that could be a serious an issue.

As such a station where Dominion Rd crosses the rail line could be extremely useful as a transfer point on the network. It would give people coming particularly from the west an easy way to transfer onto Dominion Rd services. People from the Dominion Rd area travelling to places like Orakei could also benefit through a quick connection to a train on the eastern line. Due to the road and massive interchange I’m guessing any station would need to be to either the east or west of Dominion Rd rather than directly under it – although more on that soon. To give an idea, these boxes show roughly where it could happen.

Dominion Rd Station location

Personally I lean towards it being on the western side as on the eastern side it might be quite tight between the over bridge and the CRL portals. Of course the western side might invoke the memory of the Inner West Interchange that was proposed as part of the CRL however that was proposed as a four track station to be used to turn trains around and has since been removed from the project. This would be a simple station with side platforms so quite different.

One of the other potential benefits is it could potentially provide rail network overage to the areas North-west and South-east of the interchange which are currently just outside easy walking distance to either Kingsland or Newton stations. The lines on the map below radiate represent how far someone can walk up to 900m from a station entrance with each progressively darker colour representing another 150m and showing those areas not covered.

Kingsland and Newton Station access

In terms of the number of people that might benefit by now being really close to a train station, it might shift 2,500-3,000 people into that category which is good however many of  those are already fairly close to Kingland or Newton anyway so not all are an addition to the rail network catchment. Perhaps one of the biggest opportunities to get more people in the area would be to actually take down the interchange and return it to a normal intersection and in the process possibly freeing up as much as 30,000m² that could be used for redevelopment. That would help in significantly humanising the area as well as probably helping to address housing supply issues. If built at the same time, the station may be able to be put partially under the road over bridge.

Overall I would say the primary benefits of such a suggestion are to Dominion Rd bus users (for the quicker trips to town), the wider PT network from having additional connections and the redevelopment opportunities if we were to remove the interchange

Don’t build it

Obviously the other side of the argument is the idea that we shouldn’t build it. This comes about for a few key reasons and the first one is due to time.

From what I’ve seen the western line acts quite differently to the rest of the rail network in that has many more people who use stations all along the network for trips i.e. Glen Eden to Mt Albert. This is in contrast to the rest of the rail network on which patronage is almost exclusively CBD focused. Even so the vast majority of people using the western line are heading to the CBD, Newmarket or Grafton and as such the peak loading point – the place on the line where trains are carrying the most people – tends to be east of Kingsland. With the CRL the CBD focused trips are likely to increase substantially due to the much faster journey times the CRL provides.

Even with our new much faster electric trains, every time one needs to stop at a station it will add about 1 minute to the journey time after the time spent decelerating, dwelling at the station and then accelerating back up to speed. This is important as it means if we were to build a Dominion Rd station the majority of western line passengers are going to be held up and over lots of people, that will quickly add up. In reality this time could add up even higher as one of the most annoying features of the Western line is its very close station spacing meaning trains act almost like a slightly beefed up local bus service. This close spacing means trains often aren’t able to reach their full speed and speed is one of the biggest advantages the Rapid Transit Network is meant to have. A station at Dominion Rd would be roughly 900m from both Kingsland and Newton.

Inner West Station spacing

The next major thing against a Dominion Rd station is that not all stations are created equal. As with the walking distance map earlier in the post, there are a number of people who would be technically closer to a Dominion Rd station but who would choose to walk further to use the Newton one instead. The reason for this is that Newton would offer a greater choice of services as it would be served by all lines and even if just being used to head down the hill to the CBD, Newton would have higher frequencies. In effect Newton will have a much greater pull than Dominion Rd does.

In addition on the surface Newton would also serve as an interchange with buses heading down Sandringham, Mt Eden Rd and New North Rd so could very much turn into a bit of a transport hub. This would further increase the pull of Newton. Arguably while using Ian McKinnon Dr is faster, there is much greater benefit to be had by continuing to send Dominion Rd buses via the route they currently use (or via New North Rd) and therefore being able to link all of these various services together. It would also help if when building the CRL we also built a decent surface level bus interchange in the area.

Lastly there isn’t any reason why the removal of the interchange and redevelopment of the land around it couldn’t happen with this scenario too. The catchment of both Kingsland and Newton stations could also both be helped by a few pedestrian connections which would extend the reach slightly and with the plethora of buses through the area there is a lot of frequency and connectivity on offer.

I favour not building it but what do you think?

Then & Now: Dominion Rd & Balmoral Rd, 192? v 2013

Dominion Rd (Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 7-A10950)

Dominion Rd (Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 7-A10950)

Dominion Rd. 2013

Dominion Rd. 2013

Inspired by Los Angeles Metro’s blog series Then & Now, here is a look at the intersection of Balmoral Rd and Dominion Rd. The historic image is sourced from the Auckland Council Heritage Image collection, and identifies the following businesses:

…showing the premises of Mrs Porter, Dressmaker and Fancy Goods (right);from left in Balmoral Road to Dominion Road: Balmoral Soda Fountain and Confectionery; Powells Prams; Boot Repairer (Charles Leonard); Staceys Cake Specials; Capitol Theatre on Dominion Road.

What’s changed? There is considerable erosion in this area from road widening.  As many as ten buildings were removed from three of the four corners leaving swirling slip lanes and leftover green space. Today the area consists of restaurants and a few local services such as a dairy and dry cleaner. The Capitol Theatre was re-opened in 2009.

The tram lines have been removed, but the urban structure of this historic neighbourhood supports some of  the highest levels of PT patronage in the city. On weekdays there are more people in buses moving down this street than there are cars.