Unitary Plan and Public Transport

As outlined in my post yesterday the Unitary Plan submission period closes this Friday 5pm, so I am writing posts that discuss major points from the Generation Zero submission to help readers make an informed submission.

Over the next decade we are likely to see a major revolution in public transport in Auckland with new EMU’s, the frequent bus network, City Rail Link, and more busways in the various parts of town. This should result in areas with excellent public transport access becoming more attractive to Aucklanders for living. We should learn lessons from Vancouver where areas along the new Skytrain lines have been booming with residential development. The Unitary Plan should therefore ensure areas within the walking catchment of railway stations and other high quality public transport are generally be zoned to allow intensification. In some areas the plan has done an good job of this. Centres in the Isthmus with good public transport accessibility such as Glen Innes, Panmure, Avondale and New Lynn have been up zoned, usually to allow 8 or more stories.

However there are also some other areas that are mysteriously missed out from up zoning, and other prime locations where Light Industrial or Business Zones apply instead of zoning which allows residential development. The clearest example of misapplied zoning appears to be Morningside.

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Proposed Unitary Plan zoning for Morningside


The darker purple colours are the large area of land zoned Light Industrial. All these areas are less than 750m from the Morningside station. Already the train is an attractive option for commuters with a 21 minute journey time to Britomart. However the City Rail Link will cut this to about 15 minutes, with the cut even greater for thus who currently bus to the Midtown/Aotea area. Therefore this area of Light Industry should be zoned Mixed Use to allow intensification. Also importantly there are no Volcanic Viewshafts here so heights of 10 stories or more would be acceptable, though there would need to be a little graduation at the east end where light industrial abuts the Single House Zone. While the Unitary Plan tries to protect industrial land, this area is generally not being used for industrial purposes but business use such as indoor sports, small scale offices and retail. With quality residential high rise development Morningside could become a buzzing and connected area, much like what we see along the Skytrain lines in Vancouver.

There are similar issues along Great South Road between Greenlane and Ellerslie, with a corridor of Light Industrial. However in reality these are largely low value office and retail use, including many car yards. This should be zoned Mixed Use to allow some residential development, especially where this backs onto other residential streets. Again this whole corridor is within the 10 minute walking corridor of Greenlane and/or Ellerslie stations so are prime places to take advantage of investment in the rail corridor.

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The area around Newton will undergo substantial change as part of the City Rail Link, both through the construction of Newton station and demolition of low value for the southern tunnel portal. Newton station will only be an 8 minute ride from Britomart, so this area will really become part of the CBD proper. Some increased height is anticipated, but application seems uneven.

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The bold Pink is zoned Town Centre with a height of 4 stories, with is justified to protect the heritage buildings along the streets cape here. The rest of the light purple areas are Mixed Use which is great. However the Height Limit is 8 stories north of Newton Road, but only 5 stories south of Newton Road. The whole area should be zoned Mixed Use with a height limit of 8 stories. Construction of the City Rail Link tunnel portal will result in the purchase and demolition of a large number of properties between New North Road and the railway line. On completion of the City Rail Link this will result in a large parcel of land with excellent public transport access, and ripe for a major integrated development. This will be one of largest pieces of City Fringe land that could be redeveloped comprehensively. Therefore a more permissive height limit of 8 stories could result in a better outcome.

So please submit to ask for more intensification along public transport corridors and ensure the Unitary Plan takes into account planned public transport investment. Submissions can be made on the Auckland Council site here.

Fixing Level Crossings

A hot topic over the last few days has been the tragic accident that occurred at Morningside. A lady was struck by a train after one of the wheels of her wheelchair became wedged between the footpath and the rail. As you can see in this piece from Campbell Live, the state of the crossing was quite appalling. Its poor state had obviously been noticed by someone as there were even spray painted arrows indicating that a fix was required yet nothing had been done.

Morningside Crossing - Campbell Live

Click to watch the story

Works have now occurred to improve the crossing with some of the gaps filled in with asphalt. Such a simple solution that probably didn’t cost all that much and most likely would have prevented this accident begs the question of why it wasn’t done earlier.

Morningside Crossing - After

Photo thanks to Alex Burgess

While the crossing is now safer, it does once again raise the issue of level crossings in general. The ultimate solution is that we either grade separate the crossings or close the them all together. The former can cost a lot of money while the later can cut connectivity. After years of no changes, we finally saw some crossings removed as part of the New Lynn trench project, which was actually more a roading project than a PT project. AT are also talking about closing the Sarawia St level crossing, although I understand that some groups are pushing for pedestrian and cycle access to be retained, something I think is stupid.

The problem I have is that at this point in time, with the exception of Sarawia St, there appears to be no solid plans to actually do anything to resolve these level crossing issues. Level crossing removal sits the organisations statement of intent for 2011-2014 under major projects for study, investigation or design. Despite this the Regional Land Transport Programme for 2012-2015, which lists around $4.4 billion of spending over the three year time frame only includes $524,000 towards design, and even then it only occurs in the last year of the programme. The only level crossings that I know are planned to be grade separated in the future are Normanby Rd and Porters Ave, but they will only happen as part of the CRL.

If we want to get serious about fixing these danger spots, it is time that AT started acting on it. I would like to see AT re-jig some of their plans and commit a some real money, say $10m per year towards the progressive removal of crossings. Spending money to remove the level crossings in at least the urban area would likely be a far better use of taxpayers and ratepayers money than some of the dubious projects that were highlighted in my post yesterday.