Mangere and Otahuhu bus stop upgrades planned

With implementation of the new bus network in South Auckland coming up in October, Auckland Transport are consulting on the designs for the bus station in Mangere Town Centre and the bus stops in the Otahuhu Town Centre. Both of these improvements are also being classed as part of the East-West Link Connections project. Both upgrades are due to start in August and be finished in October.

The two stations have been major advocacy projects for the Māngere-Otahuhu Local Board says Māngere –Ōtāhuhu Local Board Chair, Lemauga Lydia Sosene.

“Both projects are significant milestones for the community and it is great to see them getting underway.”

“These high quality projects will help deliver safer, more practical and connected local bus services and complement other works underway in both centres to improve and rejuvenate the local communities.”

Mangere

“The new station in Māngere will be extended to accommodate seven parked buses (two more than currently), new shelters to extend the covered passenger area and a covered connection to Māngere Town Centre. It will also include a toilet adjacent to the bus shelter, new cycle racks, an additional westbound lane for traffic and paving and landscaping of the area around the bus station.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the area, here’s where the town centre is and the area affected is shown in yellow.

Mangere Town Centre Bus Station Upgrade - Location

And here’s what’s planned for the town centre

Mangere Town Centre Bus Station Upgrade - Plan

Mangere Town Centre Bus Station Upgrade - Plan 2

The shelter and other station amenity upgrades are good however there are a few things that appear to be changing that AT haven’t mentioned. Most notable is that there now appears to be two westbound lanes rather than just the one that currently exists. In addition, the cycle lane appears to have moved to the outside of the bus station and is just a line of paint. It’s crazy that in this day we still have AT staff proposing crap, even more so that AT currently have an active project trying to improve walking and cycling connections to the town centre, including using protected cycleways. Our friends at Bike Auckland have more to say on this too.

Here’s what it currently looks like from Google Street View.

Mangere Town Centre Bus Station Upgrade - current

 

Otahuhu

In Ōtāhuhu the existing bus station on Avenue Road will close. It will be replaced by new bus stops and bus shelters installed on both sides of Avenue Road, retaining a familiar bus stop location for existing passengers.

In October, many south Auckland buses will travel between the town centre and the new bus station at Ōtāhuhu train station.

Once again, the area affected is shown in yellow

Otahuhu Centre Bus Upgrade - Location

And here’s what’s planned

 

Otahuhu Centre Bus Upgrade - Plan

Otahuhu Centre Bus Upgrade - Plan 2

It’s not clear what’s happening with the old Otahuhu Bus Station but I believe it is privately own by Infratil so I’m guessing it will be developed or sold. These new stops are likely to be fairly busy with a couple of frequents and other services passing through on their wait to or from the Otahuhu Bus/Train interchange. In some ways it’s a little suprising that AT didn’t just turn this short section of road into a transit mall given there are a number of other nearby streets that can handle general traffic. That would have also allowed for cycle lanes on this street for people to use to access the station

 

Auckland Transport are going to hold two information days about the upgrades:

Ōtāhuhu
11am to 2 pm, Thursday, 14 July 2016 and Saturday, 16 July 2016 – Toia, (Community Centre), Mason Ave, Ōtāhuhu

Māngere
11 am to 2 pm, Tuesday, 19 July 2016 and Friday, 22 July 2016 – Māngere Town Centre

 

 

Serving the Southwest

A lot of debate over the last week has focused on rail to the airport and Auckland Transport/NZTA’s decision to dump heavy rail as an option, primarily due to costs but also because they believe light rail could deliver similar benefits. As has happened pretty much every time in the past when discussing this topic, the focus of many commentators here and across the media spectrum has been squarely on connecting the airport and the CBD. That’s somewhat understandable given both are significant destinations but when focusing on a singular use outcome it naturally results in a misunderstanding of what is trying to be achieved and people trying to come up with alternative ways to achieve that.

The two prime examples of this is the suggestion that we need to have a non-stop express service between the two main destinations and that we could save money but just building a connection across open land from Puhinui to the airport. The latter was even the subject of the herald editorial on Friday.

When most of us look at a map of Auckland’s railways, a spur line to the airport appears obvious and easy. The main line south runs through Wiri and its Puhinui Station is about 5km from the air terminals. A track could be laid through largely open land to the airport perimeter. What could be simpler?

Alas, simple solutions seem not to be welcome in the organisations charged with planning Auckland’s transport.

…..

They are looking at the wrong route

While a faster and/or a cheaper connection would be nice for those just going to the CBD, the numbers doing that exact trip are never likely to be higher enough to justify the scale of investment that rail requires. More importantly, the issue with both of those positions is they ignore one of the key strategic goals that are trying to be achieved, to improve public transport for those that live and work in the Southwest and this is a goal regardless of the mode used.

Southwest

Currently the Southwest is estimated to be home to close to 50,000 people and growing to an estimated 66,000 by 2043. Some of that growth is already underway with developments like the Walmsley Rd SHA set to deliver around 1,600 new dwellings which is likely enough to house another 5,000 people. There are also around 31,000 jobs in this area of which about 12,000 are at the airport itself with the rest in the industrial areas to the north or in and around Mangere and Mangere Bridge. The airport company expect to employment numbers around the airport will increase significantly as more land is developed. That will help to make

Southwest Population 2

 

Whichever way you look at it, that’s a lot of people and a lot of jobs and it would be short-sighted and unfair not to give them some form of quality PT option – this equally applies to other parts of the Auckland urban area too.

Looking at Stats NZ commuter view for two of the area units included in the figures above, we can see that the biggest single destination (outside of working within the same area unit) was working in the Mangere South area which includes the Airport and the Ascot/Montgomerie Industrial area. But while not to the same individual level, there are a number of people who also travel north to work in other parts of the city.

Southwest work location

 

Workers at the Airport itself come from all over the region, a lot from the east but also a significant numbers the north. The numbers from the east will be partially why AT have said they’ll start the early stages of investigation into an RTN route between Botany, Manukau and the airport.

Airport worker commute map

 

So rail to the airport is actually about serving three separate markets

  1. Travellers themselves
  2. People working around the Airport and nearby employment centres (this is likely to be the biggest share of potential users)
  3. People living in Mangere and its surrounding suburbs

Spending the kind of money needed to build a rail line to serve any one of these uses is almost certainly not going to be able to stack up but with all three uses combined it can. What’s more from a PT perspective a Southwest line likely has a couple of big advantages that could make it one of the busiest on the network. Compared to our existing RTN lines, having very strong anchors at each end of the line in the form of the city and the airport will help get good bi-directional usage. Added to that the inherent nature of airport arrivals and departures throughout the day would help drive off-peak usage. As such frequencies are likely to need to be kept fairly high which also benefits others on the route.

Like how some people have incorrectly assumed that because the CRL is in the city, it’s all about trains going around the city, rail to the airport is assumed just to be about people going to the airport but as I’ve discussed it’s really about serving the entire Southwest. Formally the project is called Southwest Multimodal Airport Rail Transit (SMART) but that’s a name that will never catch on. People understand the term Airport Rail and also like the CRL, some people probably won’t realise/understand just what it is trying to do till it actually opens.

Walking and Cycling in Mangere to be improved

Some good news from AT this week as they’ve announced that work has started in Mangere on part of the Te Ara Mua – Future Streets project which aims “transform to the streets of Māngere and make it safer and easier for people to travel around, especially by walking and cycling.”

Works have commenced this week on a community trail and improvements to Mascot Avenue which will expand walking and cycling ways in Mangere as part of the Te Ara Mua – Future streets project.

Auckland Transport and the Mangere-Otahuhu Local Board are working together on the Te Ara Mua – Future Streets project to make it safer and easier for people to travel around Mangere Central, especially by foot and bike.

The works along Mascot Avenue will see wayfinding installed, improved pedestrian and cycling facilities, dedicated cycle lanes and planting and street tree improvements.

The community trail which leads through the walkways from the back of the town centre to Windrush Close, Pershore Place and on to Mascot Avenue will also have wayfinding installations, improvements to plantings and street trees as well as improvements to the reserves and fitness equipment will be installed.

All this work will ensure these busy routes will be safer and fun for all those who use them, whether they are walking or cycling to the shops for leisure or dropping their children to school.

Mangere-Otahuhu Local Board Chair Lemauga Lydia Sosene says the project is seeing great progress. “It’s fantastic seeing the community’s suggestions finally coming to life. The whole Future Streets project will give our community more options for getting around this neighbourhood. More importantly, it’ll make it much safer, particularly for children, parents and seniors walking to and from school, housing and local community facilities”.

AT Cycling and Walking manager Kathryn King says “It’s great to see work progressing on this project which will make it so much easier to get around Mangere.

“Improving access to the town centre for people of all ages is a focus of the Future Streets initiative and is part of the wider AT strategy to improve the transport network by making it safer and easier to walk and bike throughout Auckland.”

Here’s what Mascot Ave is expected to look like. Are these the first dedicated on road cycle lanes outside of the City or City Fringe?

Te Ara Mua – Mascot Ave

 

Submit on the East West Connections

Post from Ryan Mearns of Generation Zero

In June NZTA and Auckland Transport finally came out with a new proposed route for the East-West Connections, which is a new road route long pushed by business groups that would link SH1 and SH20 either north or south of the Manukau Harbour. An earlier proposed route that cut through the heart of Mangere was dropped in January 2014 after a huge public outcry, and an excellent local campaign. This new route effectively involved joining SH1 at Syliva Park with SH20 at Onehunga, with a direct connection that looks a lot like a motorway.

East-West Preferred Option

This area does suffer from traffic congestion, and does have a large amount of truck traffic, much of it leading to the major Kiwirail terminal and inland port along Neilson Street. So this is one area where we would support some investment to reduce congestion hotspots. However NZTA admitted that it would cost over $1 billion dollars. This is a huge amount of money, and for example is roughly equivalent to the government contribution of the CRL. There is already severe strain on the transport budget from the government spend-up on RONS and the Auckland accelerated motorway projects, so this is bad news for those of us that want the government to progress projects such as the Northern Busway extensions and North-Western busway.

 

The primary concerns we have for the project are that;

  1. The design of the proposed new motorway makes it even more difficult to build rail to the airport. To ensure either light or heavy rail can one day go to the airport, any designs for the motorway should preserve the rail corridor.
  2. The only public transport upgrades proposed are discontinuous shared bus and truck lanes which are poor quality and potentially unsafe. The project should focus on improving public transport in the area to reduce congestion with a network of high frequency bus services with continuous bus lanes.
  3. Current bike infrastructure in the area is disconnected and of low quality. The solution is to provide high quality bike connections linking Onehunga, Penrose, Mangere, Mangere Bridge and Otahuhu.
  4. The new motorway proposes to block off the limited public access there is to the Manukau east of Onehunga, with the cycleway on the land side of the motorway. The project should not have to reclaim the Manukau Harbour and should ensure any works near the harbour improve public access, rather than separate the community from the harbour.
  5. Congestion is an issue in the area, but a billion dollar motorway is not the way to go. The Government should focus any road spending on cheap upgrades to fix localised congestion spots.

NZTA are taking feedback on the East West Connections until the end of Friday. They do have an online form, however it bizarrely focusses on the bus-truck lanes, which are effectively an entirely different project. To help people get the key points across Generation Zero have created a quick submit form, which will send your feedback straight to NZTA.

Click here to go to the form to submit your feedback to NZTA.

More information on the project is available on the NZTA and Auckland Transport websites.

How the Mangere Inlet used to look

Yesterday Auckland Transport and the NZTA released their preferred route for the East-West link semi motorway. It consists primarily of a new road along the northern shore of the Mangere Inlet, something that has already been subject to a lot of change over the years.

Here’s what exists today (well a few years ago). You can see a little bit of variation but the past engineers have largely straightened out the foreshore.

Onehunga Foreshore now

And here’s what it looked like in 1940, before significant reclamation took place. You can also see the level of impact the mangroves are starting to have and they were bairly noticable.

Onehunga Foreshore 1940

 

 

Looking Closer at East-West Link Option 4

Yesterday I showed you the plan being pushed by one local business group as an option for the East West Link. From many angles it was really horrific but when it comes to social impact, the official Option 4 as described below would probably be even worse.

We learned about the official options in June this year when Auckland Transport presented to the Council’s former Transport Committee. It was a helpful presentation because it finally gave us some insight into the different options that were being looked at for this project. One of the options outlined in the presentation was what’s known as “Option 4”. It’s shown below and apart from the route, what’s important to note are the key problem areas identified in the red explosion shapes.

East-West Option 4

When the implications of this option became clear there was quite a lot of community disquiet, including from Mayor Len Brown, who said that hundreds of homes shouldn’t be sacrificed for the project. There was also a One News item on the project a few days ago (click on the photo to go through to the video). Notice Auckland Transport say they will consult with the community around the middle of next year, that’s later than when the government will apparently be making a funding decision on the project which raises serious questions as to how much real consultation there will be.

tv1-news

We had initially thought that the uproar meant this option was basically a non-starter (reinforced by the fact that it’s actually a long way away from the problem areas, as shown in the map above). However, the “Project Auckland” pieces earlier this week seemed to include a concerted effort to focus on the East West Link project, which concerns us that perhaps Option 4 is not yet dead and buried.

So let’s have a look more closely at its route using the Council’s GIS viewer to get an idea of what would be impacted upon. First a few assumptions:

  • Required corridor width of around 60 metres which is consistent with the width of SH20A
  • Consideration of likely interchange locations (following what’s in the image above)
  • Full motorway to motorway interchanges at both SH20 and SH1

Let’s start at the Airport end:

option4-1

To enable the links with SH20 and SH20A we see most of Mangere Centre Park being taken over. From there I’m expecting the route will follow an old and now non-existent designation towards the North East (it’s easy to spot if you look at the property boundaries). This almost isn’t surprising as I’ve also heard that for a while now the highway network team within the NZTA have been re-energised by the governments support and have been busy pulling out all of old plans to see what else they could get away with.

In terms of property impacts, if we’re just looking at the section west of Archboyd Avenue I see around 150 houses directly in the path of the motorway. Perhaps most significantly of all, the proposal would divide the Mangere East community – which is one of the most deprived and densely populated parts of Auckland.

Tracking further to the northeast, we can see where the motorway would roughly go next:

option4-2

The impact on houses in this section is slightly less than before because we start to get into an industrial area. Nevertheless, by my calculations this section would involve the demolition of around 50 houses in the area west of Savill Drive (the road running northwest to southeast through the aerial above) and the demolition of around another 20 houses in the area directly east of the railway line. Clearly there would also be an impact on the industrial land and there’d need to be some major bridge/viaduct to get over the railway line and Savill Drive.

In the next section it’s a bit more difficult to interpret where Auckland Transport’s presentation suggests the route should go – and our impact on the neighbourhoods, schools etc. ramps up again. Here’s a best guess, including an interchange with Great South Road shown in blue:

option4-3

Obvious areas of significant impact include on Otahuhu College – which loses its playing fields to a giant motorway – and on the large number of residential properties in this area which would need to be demolished. A quick count suggests that for this section alone that could reach around 100 west of Otahuhu College (a remarkably dense little area when you look closely) and then around another 80 between Otahuhu College and East Tamaki River – potentially more to mitigate the effects of the interchange with Great South Road).

After a bridge across the Tamaki River we come to the interchange with SH1 (approximate and likely overly conservative estimate of the extent of the motorway to motorway link is shown in blue) and the link with the existing Highbrook Drive. In essence, the impact of the motorway on this area is the completely destruction of the community of Wymondley including the local primary school:

option4-4

The total number of houses lost in this section of the project is around 130 – it would be much more except this is actually a really low density area. As I said before, Wymondley Primary School would be demolished as part of the motorway to motorway interchange under this option.

Overall we see a total of around 530 houses in direct line of the proposed motorway, plus quite a few schools. That’s a huge impact – especially as Auckland currently has a pretty significant housing shortage. But perhaps the greater impact is when you consider where the project goes – right through the heart of many of Auckland’s most deprived and most fragile communities. Such widespread demolition, the enormous severance effect, the destruction of schools, the removal of open space in places like Mangere, the complete removal of the Wymondley community… the list goes on.

There is no doubt this is a bad project. It will be enormously expensive and worse it doesn’t actually go near where the problems are as all of the other information so far released describes the issues as being further North. In fact it seems to so completely miss the point you have to wonder why it is even an option at all. When you look at the map of everything being proposed (first image) the only explanation I can think of is that this is basically being designed as a motorway to get the residents of the Howick and Pakuranga area to get to the airport faster.

In addition to its cost and destruction it will also just put more pressure back onto the core of State Highway 1 between the city centre and Otahuhu (by directing airport to city traffic that way rather than via the Waterview tunnel) and most of all it will cut a swathe across a part of Auckland that needs our help – not complete destruction. In fact, because of its enormous environmental and community impact it’s probably even worse the Additional Harbour Crossing project. That’s one hell of a dubious honour.

Old Mangere Bridge replacement to be wider

Regular readers will likely know about the plans by the NZTA to replace the old Mangere Bridge which is now more almost 100 years old and requires a lot of maintenance to keep open. One of the massive advantages of the old bridge is that being a former road it is quite wide and it has become a very popular spot for walking, cycling and fishing with the width allowing everyone to happily do these activities without impacting on others. This is shown quite well in this time-lapse the NZTA made on a mid-winters day (imagine just how much busier it would be in summer)

However people were annoyed, not because of the plan to replace the bridge but because the new bridge was proposed to be only 6m wide. If it were a new pedestrian/cycle bridge that width would be considered wonderful but the current bridge is around 15m wide and so the replacement would represent a significant narrowing of the path. That might have been ok if it was just walkers and cyclists but throw in people fishing and things can quickly get quite narrow.

So some good news today from the NZTA that as a result of the feedback they received, they are going to make the replacement wider. Here is the press release.

Community feedback from both sides of Auckland’s Manukau Harbour has made a significant impact on the next phase of the NZ Transport Agency’s project to replace the Old Mangere Bridge.

The Transport Agency has advertised tenders to design the new bridge and its Highway Manager for Auckland, Tommy Parker, says that design will include features requested by the community.

“We’ve heard them very clearly and we’re delighted to be able to respond positively to ensure the new bridge continues to be a much loved and popular connection between communities,” Mr Parker says.

Mr Parker says one the most significant changes is that the bridge will be wider than the six metres the Transport Agency had originally planned for.

“The bridge will now be designed to have a basic width of eight metres, with some sections or bays up to 12 metres wide. This will ensure that people can continue to enjoy to fish from the new bridge and walk and cycle across it safely just as they do now.”

Other elements to be included in the design of the new bridge include:-

  • Constructed next to the old bridge and further from the port
  • A higher clearance above the harbour than the existing bridge for better boat access (the new bridge, however, must have a gradient that is comfortable for walkers and cyclists)
  • Enhanced lighting, seating, railings and rubbish bins
  • Features yet to be confirmed that reflect the area’s iwi connections and rich history

“These elements mirror the feedback we received last year,” Mr Parker says. “The project team’s worked hard to incorporate the community’s wishes and this is an excellent result for everyone.

“Identifying these issues upfront means that they can be included into the design right at the start of this phase of the project. This delivers more certainty about the cost of the bridge and value for money for the Transport Agency, and great transparency for the community.”

Mr Parker says $1m in funds has been approved for the design of the bridge. As part of the tender process, the Transport Agency is working closely with iwi, Auckland Council and the Historic Places Trust. It is anticipated a successful tender will be named in October.

There will be a second chance for community feedback in early 2014 on the detailed designed for the new bridge. The Transport Agency plans to start construction later in 2014 with completion estimated in 2016, around 100 years after the existing bridge opened.

Once the replacement bridge has been constructed, it will be transferred to Auckland Council as its asset.

The Old Mangere Bridge is believed to be the oldest reinforced concrete bridge crossing a harbour in New Zealand. With the opening of a new Southwestern Motorway spanning the Manukau Harbour in 1983, the bridge was closed to all traffic except walkers and cyclists. It is also one of Auckland’s most popular fishing locations.

That certainly seems like a decent improvement on what was originally proposed but what do you users of the bridge think of this change? It’s also interesting that the NZTA will hand it over to the council to be maintained after it has been built.

Old Mangere Bridge

There is of course one more bridge that will be needed in the area in the future, one to carry rail on it’s way to the airport.