For a couple of years now Heart of the City has been providing pedestrian counts at a number of locations within the CBD. They are delivered thanks to a growing network of automatic pedestrian counters which means a huge amount of detailed information is available from them rather than what is available from someone standing on the street counting people. I first wrote about it back in March last year. One of the reasons this is so important is the old adage that “you can only manage what you can measure”. For so long the only thing we could easily measure was vehicles and so it was easy to justify new and improved roads often at the expense of other users.
Heart of the City have now taken things a step further, there are more pedestrian counters and they’ve now launched an interactive map that allows people to easily see the results.
Click on one of the counters and you get a quick glimpse of the result and can see how it compares to last year.
By clicking on the View Graph button they now provide a much greater level of detail too including counts by the time of day.
You can also create a comparison chart of multiple sites and the data is available daily, weekly, monthly or annually.
Overall this is a fantastic resource that Heart of the City have produced and they should be congratulated for making it so easily accessible. It would be fantastic if Auckland Transport did the same with their automatic cycling counters and even their PT data.
The top of High Street is interrupted, dominated, and devalued by the double-laned exit from the Victoria St car parking building.
The footpath on the east side is frequently blocked by impatient drivers….
…while on the west side it is so narrow that the high numbers of people there are forced onto the oversized carriageway with the jammed traffic.
A classic example of the prioritisation of the driver over the walker. Some traffic engineer has greedily taken way too much of this public resource for only one type of user.
Furthermore the floods of traffic that this sadly over-expanded vehicle store generate lead to gridlock at the intersection as it is really too close to both the Queen St and Kitchener St intersections for the sudden volumes that this exit at times produces [people still tend to head out all at once].
At the very least the cars could be rationed out the exit by taking it down to one lane, but much better would be to move the exit up the hill onto Kitchener St where the entrance is.
No problem adding an exit to this entrance here with a bit of reworking, the left hand space used to be the entrance before it was doubled. And AT would then have to sort out this intersection and its poor pedestrian phasing.
And best of all the High St ground floor could be repurposed for a human use: It’s the kind of hip industrial concrete interior that Prada love, but failing that: A pool hall, dingy nightclub, dungeon? ….. PingPong centre!
Anything would be better than that gapping maw and adjacent pissoir, and on the street that has pretensions to being the country’s preeminent fashion shopping strip. Well I suppose it did have those pretensions until the retailers there threw their coat hangers out of the cot and stopped it becoming a shared space, and now the action has gone elsewhere….
Note how wide those lanes are at the intersection; really they could be car width, and the rubbish truck could just hog one and a half lanes occasionally. Until of course the car park exit is gone and High St becomes the Shared Space it obviously ought to be.
This is a guest post [as promised!] by CAA‘s Max Robitzsch
As shown in the previous photo blog
, NZTA and the Auckland Motorways Alliance (thanks!) recently allowed Cycle Action and Transport Blog the chance to walk over a surplus part of our motorway building boom.
Both of our groups have some interest in what you might call “urban archeology” (it comes with the terrain when you are trying to understand how a city is shaped) – but we didn’t just go there for the view.
Auckland CMJ: Abandoned Lane in red
Instead, we were keen to see – you guessed it – how this could become Auckland’s evolution of the New York City High Line
concept. A new walk- and cycleway to one of the currently least walkable and cycleable parts of our City Centre.
The Nelson Street ramp became surplus for motorway use when a new ramp was built some years ago – but the costs involved in tearing it down means it is still there, and not going anywhere. It was at a time proposed to serve as a bus depot – but a year or two ago, it was agreed by AT and NZTA that it would make a great future link in the Auckland Cycle Network – connecting the Northwestern and other routes entering the City Centre from the south and west to the western parts of our downtown and waterfront, along a Nelson Street cycleway.
As you can see in the map above, the off-ramp and Nelson Street are both shown as red lines – future “cycle metro” routes (a route that is either fully off-road – or protected from traffic with physical separation). It goes from Upper Queen Street Bridge along Canada Street (or more likely in practice, along Canada Street, East Street and Galatos Street) onto the off-ramp, and then travels along Nelson Street to the waterfront.
Now, as Patrick has noted in his previous post, walking / cycling on the off-ramp is more pleasant than we thought – mainly because you are above or away from traffic noise and fumes for most part, rather than directly next to it. But it isn’t really the beauty of the route that is interesting here (that’s more for engineers and people who like looking at flyovers and skylines…).
The ramp-over route is useless without somewhere to go. So if it gets built, it really needs to link to a cycleway on Nelson Street itself, to give that transport-blighted area some human scale. Because who really cycles on Nelson Street at the moment? The numbers are so low, we might just as well treat them as rounding errors on two wheels – very brave rounding errors, but irrelevant nonetheless.
So it’s great so see that Auckland Transport has seen both the need and the opportunity for this cycleway, and included this route in their planning maps. But we know how long these kinds of projects take – years if you are lucky. Decades if not (still waiting for the Wellesley Street East walk and cycleway link to the Domain…).
And while this is a high-profile project that will appeal to many, it is likely to languish for quite a while before getting built, despite being prioritised highly in AT’s overall cycle project list. Funding is tight, bridges are expensive, even short ones like the one shown below (Day Street overbridge design produced by our good friends at Matter, for NZTA).
So we started to think. Could this link be done a lot more cheaply, a lot more quickly? And yes, we think it can. As a pilot project.
The most difficult part is right at the start. It’s no use if the ramp is a dead end – so how to get onto it from the south? And on the cheap?
What we came up with was that the best place to start from for a pilot project was not at the very southernmost end, near Canada Street or Galatos Street, where we would have to build a pretty sizable structure to get across a large gap of several motorway lanes underneath. Nor would a temporary bridge at Day Street as above be easy (unless of course, NZTA is willing to lend us one of their bailey bridges?).
We found the solution to our issue in Newmarket, back when the new train station was built a couple years ago. At that time, a company called Layher built KiwiRail several access ramps down to temporary platforms south of Remuera Road. Below, you can see an image from their company website – essentially, these structures are simply strong scaffolds with wheelchair-accessible ramps on them.
What Cycle Action Auckland is proposing is that we construct such a scaffold ramp down from K’Road overbridge, to the old Nelson Street ramp. It would require a minor reshuffling of one of the overbridge bus stops, and creating a gap in the side of the K’Road railings to attach the ramp to.
But importantly, it could be done without having the temporary ramp be above any live traffic lanes. The old off-ramp is almost 8m wide. So we can easily build a, say, 3m wide ramp directly in the centre of the off-ramp below, with no part having over (or getting anywhere close) to the edge of the southbound SH1 traffic lanes one level further down.
It might cost us a bit to buy/rent that scaffold, but it’s likely to still be a steal compared to the permanent construction needed to access it from Canada Street or Day Street, which are going to cost us many millions (remember, time IS money here – if we wait until we get the money, we will have lots of time…).
So now we are down on the old off-ramp, and now it gets cheap as chips. We can leave adding artwork and seats and planting to beautify the ramp later (or make it into a community initiative!). In the meantime, we simply cruise (or walk) northwards along a gentle incline towards Nelson Street.
At that intersection, we add a new signalised pedestrian / cycle crossing over the eastern side of the intersection of Nelson Street and Union Street.
Why? Because the current Nelson Street off-ramp, to the west of the old one, doesn’t allow right turns into Union Street. So whenever that ramp runs, you can also run a signalised walking / cycling crossing in parallel on the right-hand side – no long discussions with the traffic control people about whether we can afford to lose precious car capacity. We simply sneak through in an unused part of the signal cycle!
And on Nelson Street?
We propose to create a two-way, planter-box protected cycleway on the eastern side of the road, at least as far as Cook Street (but ideally going even further north). The design would look similar to the below example from Vancouver, in Dunsmuir Street. It can be installed overnight for the total cost of a couple dozen planter boxes (reusable for our next temporary cycleway – after this one gets made permanent a few months or years later).
But won’t that create traffic issues on Nelson Street? After all, there’s lots of cars moving along there in the peak hour. Won’t NZTA and AT have concerns, and won’t we have to run an extensive traffic model and somehow increase the size of the intersections?
No. Apart from the fact that we have been told that Nelson Street modelling has shown that the street CAN take some reduction in capacity without causing the (roading) world to end, what we propose is actually pretty limited again.
We propose to run the cycleway along the current parking lane, which means that no “throughput capacity” is lost at all until we get to the Cook Street / Nelson Street Intersection (where the right-hand through lane would have to become a through-and-right lane).
We can achieve this while losing barely more than 10 car parks over a stretch of 250 meters, because most of that street is already no parking. We might even be able to fit in one or two loading zones on the very wide footpath / verge (some sections still have ~6 m left before reaching private property).
So again, it is easy (if we keep some spine, and don’t give in to the “removing some car parks will doom the area” crowd). And if it leads to traffic jams because we lose 80m of dedicated right turn lane into Cook Street? Well, it won’t – but that’s the benefit of a pilot project. If it doesn’t work, you haven’t sunk millions into it, and can just modify the design as needed.
To summarise, Cycle Action Auckland thinks that the time is ready to throw down a Half-Nelson. We need some movement, some breath of fresh air – and a showcase project to prove that Auckland can be fast, flexible and at the front.
We can do all that, and give the western City Centre a new cycleway in the next 10 months, rather than in 10 years.
Eyelight Lane by Swedish artist David Svensson, commissioned by Auckland Council.
Photographs by Patrick Reynolds.
Below is a plan developed by the Waitemata Local Board working closely with the Karangahape Rd Business Association to improve the area:
This is their accompanying text:
Over the next few decades the Karangahape Road area will experience a dramatic increase in growth, especially in the wake of the completion of the Central Rail Link. This will encourage many more people to frequent the area for shopping and entertainment – the creation of an entrance to the Underground rail Station in Mercury Lane would for example enable people from Avondale, New Lynn, and Henderson to easily travel into K Rd at night to attend theatrical performances at the Mercury Theatre . More people will live in the area as well.
In years to come the area surrounding Karangahape road will be inevitably rebuilt with higher residential units. A higher residential population is to be welcomed from every point of view – it will benefit the area economically and socially as well as improving the general environment ecologically by reducing commuting times and pollution. The increase in the number of residents in the area will probably bring a greater mix of people; at the moment there are few elderly folk or children for example but that may change swiftly after the completion of the CRL and more residential units.
The perceived and real safety and visual attractiveness of the streetscapes will be a crucial part of any development for the K Road area. In particular the volume and speed of traffic will need to be addressed. Karangahape Road is an important traffic route and the Business Association would not like bus routes (for example) to be rerouted away from the area, but certain things should be examined. Some roads in the area are prone to high traffic speeds as they have become to be virtually treated as part of the On‐Ramps for the Motorway System. These areas are very pedestrian unfriendly and it is vital that traffic calming solutions be implemented sooner than later.
This is an good summary of the challenges for the urban form of the area and the ideas on the map above are really good.
As the local board are calling for ideas for both K’Rd and Newton it would be good to get readers’ feedback on the suggestions so I’ll start the ball rolling with a couple of thoughts:
~The main entrance to the K’Rd station is planned for the top of upper Beresford St, this will involve the permanent closure of this road to through traffic [already restricted to one way onto Pitt St] and the creation of a public square around the station building which will be great, so the lower part of Beresford St will provide the road access to the buildings of Beresford and Day Sts. I find it strange the Business Association seems to be ignoring this. Only mentioning a Mercury Lane entrance.
~The connection of the abandoned motorway lane to Day St behind the old Rising Sun pub as well as to the new Grafton Gully cycleway and cyclelanes on Nelson St is a great plan. Also I think that the connection of Day St to K’Rd for traffic should be removed and this lane two-wayed back to Beresford. This should also link west across to Howe St under the existing bridge for a more direct and alternative route for pedestrians and cyclists.
~The narrowing of the top of Howe St would only be possible if the 020 bus is no longer fighting its way up that street.
~I don’t shared the Association’s enthusiasm for removing footpaths for on-street parking.
~Always yes to more street trees. But please not only palms, although I think the Nikau already on K’Rd are great.
~This area will see a rise in both residents and retail activity and the streetscape needs to improve with these changes. The CRL station will completely change the area; this will be Ponsonby’s station too [and especially Auckland Girls Grammar's], so the pedestrian amenity over the motorway should be better than just the narrow paths on the Hopetoun viaduct and the quality and liveliness of the Ponsonby/K’rd block will become more important. There is already a new major apartment building under construction in upper Howe St with surely more to come so perhaps something can be done to the terrible design failure of the block between Howe and Hereford Sts.
~Keeping the Link and other buses moving through here needs to kept in mind too. People from Ponsonby and other inner western areas will use these to connect with the much more useful and import rail system at K’Rd post CRL as well as to head into the City and Grafton and Newmarket as they do now.
~More and better pedestrian crossings are required. The really big elephant in the room with regards to traffic volumes, hinted at in the copy, is the motorway onramp at the K’Rd and Symonds St intersection. Without this ‘attractor’ traffic volume would surely be much more manageable through these city streets. I’m sure highway purists at NZTA would be happy to close this as the city onramps all affect the effectiveness of the system and its all important flow. These are signs of the strange hybrid network that is our urban motorway. Weirdly I guess the best chance for this being closed would be if the disaster of additional lanes across the harbour were built then pressures further into the system like this onramp would probably have to be cut simply to keep the CMJ from total infarction. What a horrible price that would be to pay however.
~ I like the ambition of caping the CMJ at the two high and narrow points, however I suspect the cost and difficulty of constructing the necessary serious engineering while keeping the m’way system below functioning makes these plans unlikely to be fulfilled. I do think however that cantilevering lightweight structures from the existing structures of the Upper Queen St, Symonds St, and K’Rd bridges on either side would almost certainly be both structurally and financially viable as well as architecturally exciting and offer interesting and useful commercial space; shops, cafes, and bars etc [great views- especially form the K'Rd bridge]. Like a 21st century version of the shops on Ponte Vechio in Florence or the old London Bridge! Or more prosaically like 21stC versions of the clip-ons on the Harbour Bridge. These would provide both weather and noise protection as well as interest for pedestrians and therefore go a long way to helping to repair the severance caused by the huge place-destruction of the motorway system.
~Great ideas on new parklets and re-forged pedestrian connections are to found on the map above too; these are necessary and affordable improvements that should be explored and made quickly.
~And AT really needs to come to the cycling party by giving over the outermost lane of the over-wide and over-fast Ian McKinnon Drive to connect Upper Queen St to the northern end of the new Grafton Gully route under Newton Rd. Here. Planters, maybe some barriers, a bit of paint, and a chat with their colleagues at NZTA to form the short connection under the Newton rd bridge with a two lane: Proper joined up off road network all the way from the sea to the heart of the west!
Let us know what you think.
The Khartoum place upgrade is well under way and shaping up to be an even greater set of urban spaces for our rapidly developing city.
First up, down on the Lorne St side we can see the new owner of the old new gallery building has changed its format in response to the opening of the new old gallery (ahem). They’ve just finished a fit out that has reconfigured the ground level into a series of retail outlets. The best bit is the new cafe opening out onto the square, complete with tables already in use. It is part of the Gloria Jeans chain, arguably the McDonalds of coffee shops, but to their credit they have put a lot of effort into a slick fit out that is more artsy hipster than suburban strip mall. This really livens things up compared to the old inactive frontage. There are also new shop fronts right along the Lorne St and Wellesley St frontages which is already activating the block with commerce and activity.
I can only assume that the councils investment in the upper Lorne St streetscapes, the art gallery and now Khartoum place is what spurred the property owner into investing in their building stock. Good job council, investment in quality urban spaces is clearly paying economic dividends already.
Now on to Upper Khartoum place itself. We can see the new stairs linking the upper and lower levels of the square are built and already in use. I think this is a great design, it opens up the square somewhat and provides a critical sightline to new gallery extension. But thankfully it doesn’t detract from the sense of enclosure one feels in the shady “outdoor room” of the lower square.
Earlier plans nuked the whole suffragettes memorial and fountain stairs, to be replaced with a single broad and long staircase melding the two halves of the square. Personally I’m glad that plan got shelved in favour of the less drastic change and keeping the square in two distinct halves.
While the new staircase is in there is a lot more to do reconfiguring and repaving the upper part of the square. Council indicates the works should be completed by August, and will look like this when done.
A recently discussed on the blog, Auckland Council is making great strides in some of the more high profile City Centre Masterplan projects, with work recently starting on the O’Connell St and Upper Khartoum Place upgrades. However what I believe has been missing are much smaller scale interventions that can make things better for pedestrians. The Masterplan includes 9 outcomes, one of which is ‘A walkable and pedestrian-friendly city centre – well connected to its urban villages.’ This comes with 7 targets:
Target 1: More kilometres of pedestrian footpaths/walkways
Target 2: More kilometres of cycleways
Target 3: Reduction in pedestrian waiting times at intersections
Target 4: Reduction in use of left-turn slip lanes
Target 5: New mid-block pedestrian crossings
In this post I will focus on Target 3, reducing pedestrian wait times. While there are countless small interventions that are required, one obvious one I’ve noticed recently is the number of traffic lights that are missing pedestrian lights on one leg of the intersection. Coming across these while walking can be extremely frustrating, and if you are really unlucky have to wait for 4 or even 5 pedestrian lights, rather than making 1 simple crossing. One of the worst examples is the intersection of Halsey and Gaunt Street, where there is no crossing on the western leg.
Intersection of Fanshawe and Halsey Streets
I recently timed how long it would take to cross what is only 30 metres direct. However one has to wait for 4 separate legs, not helped by the offset crossing on the eastern side where you cross Fanshawe Street. It took me over 4 minutes to cross here, which is just plain crazy. It is not like there are no potential pedestrians here, to the south east is Victoria Park and the Greenkeeper Cafe. Directly opposite is a major new office development under construction which will house the Fonterra headquarters in the first building, with more buildings planned. Clearly no one is going to bother heading to Victoria Park for their lunch break when 1/3 of the time is spent painfully crossing the road. Ideally people should be able to cross the road for their 10 minute morning coffee break if they want, not use it all up waiting!
However this example is far from unique, and I have mapped all the pedestrian crossings with missing legs below. Amazing there are 23 in the CBD alone! The three with green markers have had Barnes Dances added which has fixed the issue. So this could be a quick fix for some if the intersections with high pedestrian volumes. However Barnes Dances not desirable for all intersections, and they work best when they are double phased like on Queen St. So Auckland Transport really just need to bite the bullet and add pedestrian crossings to these missing legs. Of course these missing legs are even m0re prevalent outside the CBD, so these need to be worked on in other major pedestrian centers as well, could be a good job for local boards to get into as they have the ability to request Auckland Transport investigate matters like these.
View Missing Crossing Places in a larger map
If Auckland Council and Auckland Transport really want to get more people walking around our city and commuting to work, having walking stations set up around the city is not going to cut it. They need to get on with fixing these missing crossings, and make it easier for pedestrians to get around our city centre.
Images like the one below used to be common not just in Auckland but in many cities all around the world.
Queen Street, Auckland. Smith, Sydney Charles, 1888-1972 : Photographs of New Zealand. Ref: 1/2-046201-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23203589
Of course the laws of physics still applied so pedestrians needed to watch our for cars and trams or even horses however there was nothing really to stop them from crossing the road or using it when they wanted. These days things are different, people are far more likely only to cross at a crossing instead of Jaywalking. In New Zealand the law states that the offence of jaywalking applies if you cross the road within 20 metres of a fixed crossing and if, as a pedestrian, you cross at a red light. The fine is a relatively modest $35 for adults and $10 for children.
In America though Jaywalking is banned in most cities, but why? An article in BBC News magazine earlier this month delved into the history of the concept of Jaywalking – which is actually more interesting than you might think.
The California Vehicle Code states: “No pedestrian shall start crossing in direction of a flashing or steady “DON’T WALK” or upraised hand symbol.” It also forbids crossing between controlled intersections, or “jaywalking”.
Late last year, police began a concerted effort to enforce the rules in central Los Angeles. Pedestrians had been “impeding traffic and causing too many accidents and deaths”, one traffic police official said. Fines range from $190-$250 (£115-£152).
Then in New York officials responded to several pedestrian deaths last month by issuing a flurry of tickets for jaywalking. The campaign quickly ran into controversy when an 84-year-old Chinese immigrant who had been stopped for jaywalking suffered a gash to his head during an altercation with the police.
Enforcement of anti-jaywalking laws in the US is sporadic, often only triggered by repeated complaints from drivers about pedestrian behaviour in a particular place. But jaywalking remains illegal across the country, and has been for many decades.
As mentioned though, at some point in the past, pedestrians could cross the road wherever they wanted – plus in many cases they had the right of way in the street environment, which has also changed over time. So how did this change happen? How did the concept of “jaywalking” come into being?
The BBC article continues:
“I don’t know how this got to Syracuse, but in mid-western slang a jay was a person from the country who was an empty-headed chatterbox, like a bluejay,” he says.
The word was first used to describe “someone from the countryside who goes to the city and is so dazzled by the lights and the show windows that they keep stopping and getting in the way of other pedestrians”.
The use of jaywalking as a term of ridicule against pedestrians crossing roads took off in the 1920s.
A key moment, says Norton, was a petition signed by 42,000 people in Cincinnati in 1923 to limit the speed of cars mechanically to 25mph (40kph). Though the petition failed, an alarmed auto industry scrambled to shift the blame for pedestrian casualties from drivers to walkers.
Local car firms got boy scouts to hand out cards to pedestrians explaining jaywalking. “These kids would be posted on sidewalks and when they saw someone starting to jaywalk they’d hand them one of these cards,” says Norton. “It would tell them that it was dangerous and old fashioned and that it’s a new era and we can’t cross streets that way.”
The invention of the concept of ‘jaywalking’ seemed to be intricately connected to a shifting of the blame for vehicle/pedestrian accidents away from drivers and towards pedestrians. The auto industry seems to have played a key role in this shift:
Clowns were commonly used in parades or pageants to portray jaywalkers as a throwback to rural, ignorant, pre-motor age ways.
Another ruse was to provide local newspapers with a free service. Reporters would submit a few facts about local traffic accidents to Detroit, and the auto industry’s safety committee would send back a full report on the situation in their city.
“The newspaper coverage quite suddenly changes, so that in 1923 they’re all blaming the drivers, and by late 1924 they’re all blaming jaywalking,” Norton says.
Soon, he adds, car lobby groups also started taking over school safety education, stressing that “streets are for cars and children need to stay out of them”. Anti-jaywalking laws were adopted in many cities in the late 1920s, and became the norm by the 1930s.
In a way the rest is history – streets became more and more designed around the need to shift as many cars as possible through them. Pedestrians were either ignored completely by traffic engineers and the models they worship, or later included (and I quote from the article): largely for their role as ‘impedance’ – blocking vehicle traffic.
I also found some old newspaper clippings from NZ papers, like this one from the Auckland Star, about methods used in the 1920′s to enforce jaywalking laws which involved police driving around in cars and using loud speakers to publicly humiliate anyone breaking the law.
Perhaps most interestingly, jaywalking seems to have had absolutely no impact on improving pedestrian safety:
The UK is among those countries where jaywalking is not an offence. But the rate of pedestrian deaths is half that of the US, at 0.736 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2011 compared to 1.422 per 100,000 in America.
I wonder how many tickets are issued in NZ for jaywalking?
The NZTA have awarded the contract for the “upgrading” of the St Lukes interchange and the widening of the motorway between there and Waterview. Here’s the press release:
The contract to construct the next stage of Auckland’s Western Ring Route – upgrading the Northwestern Motorway (State Highway 16) between the St Lukes Road and Great North Road interchanges – has been awarded to the Australian-based infrastructure company, Leighton Contractors.
The $70m project is jointly funded by the NZ Transport Agency and Auckland Transport.
A two kilometre-long section of the motorway will be widened from three to four lanes in each direction. There will also be improvements to the motorway ramps and the St Lukes Road -Great North Road intersection, while the St Lukes Road overbridge spanning the motorway will be widened to benefit drivers, walkers and cyclists.
The Transport Agency’s Highways Manager, Tommy Parker, says this is the last of six projects to connect the Northwestern and Southwestern (SH20) motorways.
“The upgrade is part of our programme to get our network ready for the increased volume of traffic when the Waterview tunnels connecting the Northwestern and Southwestern (SH20) motorways are completed in early 2017,” Mr Parker says.
Work is due to start in mid-autumn and be completed by late 2016. The other projects to connect the two motorways are the upgrade of the Maioro Street interchanges (SH20) which is completed, and the upgrade of the Lincoln and Te Atatu interchanges, the Causeway Upgrade Project, and the Waterview Connection, which are all under construction.
“Leightons bring plenty of infrastructure experience to the St Lukes project. The company is part of the Causeway alliance, and has been involved in some of our biggest Auckland developments including the Northern Gateway Toll Road and the Newmarket Viaduct Replacement Project.” Mr Parker says.
The Western Ring Route is a Road of National Significance, and will provide a 47km-long alternative to SH1 between Albany and Manukau. It will improve safety and city and regional transport connections for people and freight.
The project isn’t exactly a surprise as it’s been talked about for a while and was part of the overall Waterview consenting process that occurred a few years ago. In saying that it does once again bring into the limelight the claim often made (including in the last paragraph) that the Western Ring Route is about creating another route through the region when in fact this piece of work is all about making it easier to get from the airport to the CBD. This is even mentioned in the description on the project page.
The Waterview Connection project is one of the most important infrastructure developments ever to take place in New Zealand. Completing a motorway ring route around the city, it will unlock Auckland’s potential to become a truly world class city, combatting regional congestion and creating a direct, time-saving link between the International Airport and CBD.
The part of the project that is of most interest is the widening of the motorway bridge and the sections of Gt North Rd on either side. This is especially the case as the NZTA and Auckland Transport were at one stage looking to wipe out the large mature Pohutakawa trees that line the road so they could create one additional lane all in the aim of appeasing the gods of traffic flow. This is the before and after of what they showed to the local board a few months ago and which the board weren’t happy with.
The images below suggest they may have backed down on that though. As for what’s now going to be built, the NZTA say that the project includes:
- 3 lanes on the St Lukes overbridge in both directions
- Improved walking and cycling facilities across the bridge – you’ll be able to use both sides of the widened bridge
- Realignment the Northwestern Cycleway
Being able to use both sides of the bridge will be good but that seems to be the only thing.
Here’s what it will look like from above and facing south (click to enlarge)
Immediately there are a couple of major issues I see and they primarily relate to the intersection with Gt North Rd. Amazingly the NZTA and Auckland Transport are actually going to remove some of the few bits of existing pedestrian priority that currently exist. A person wanting to get from the eastern side of St Lukes Rd (where the carpark is) to MOTAT or Western Springs first has to battle their way across to the traffic island if they can find a gap in traffic thanks to the removal of the existing zebra crossing. Then instead of a simple trip across to the northern side of Gt North Rd they have to cross to the eastern side of St Lukes Rd and wait again to get across Gt North Rd.
It’s pretty clear that the primary focus of this project is about making it easier to drive at the expense of other modes. The extra lanes on the bridge are an attempt to squeeze a few more cars through the area. On westbound off-ramp there is also an additional queuing lane which will only serve to funnel extra volumes off the motorways and onto the local streets. It seems to be the typical ‘give every type of movement its own lane’ type approach that only ends up making life easier for cars. By in large everything seems very much the same business as usual crap we’ve seen for decades throughout Auckland.
The prioritisation of car movement over other modes has had a major negative effect on Auckland’s urban landscape. Streets have become focussed on their movement function, to the detriment of their place function. This has negatively affected the ability of anyone not using a car to get around. One area this can be seen is the minimal amount of pedestrian crossing facilities on any road deemed an ‘arterial’. I have discovered few especially bad ones recently to highlight this.
The section of the Strand from Parnell Rise to Tamaki Drive has no crossings. While this is the major truck route to the port, there are several large apartments on the north side of the road, and major office and retail on the south side near St Georges Bay Road. Also Gladstone Road (right side of picture) leads to Fred Ambler lookout and the Rose Gardens which are the local parks for people living in the area. So walking down here do see quite a few people rushing across the road dodging the busy traffic.
Manukau Road between Ranfurly Road and Greenlane West is a 900m long section with no crossings.
The Coast to Coast walkway even passes along the halfway point here, heading east from Mount Eden, down Puriri Drive towards Cornwall Park. This is supposed to be a major tourist attraction to show of Auckland’s varied suburban landscape, so lacking a pedestrian crossing here is totally hopeless.
Along this 2.4km section of the Ellerslie Panmure Highway there are only 2 mid block crossings, giving a 800m spacing between crossings. Making things even worse is there isn’t even a painted median along here. On the two roads above the braver citizens could at least wait in the median hoping a car wouldn’t choose to use the median at the same time. However on Ellerslie-Panmure it is almost impossible to cross without major danger.
Clearly there are several reasons why our roads need to be more pedestrian friendly. The purpose of these roads shouldn’t just be to move traffic across town as fast as possible. They are also walking and cycling routes to local shops, schools, parks and community facilities. Not having any crossings makes it more difficult to access these shops. While some more agile people can run across the roads, this is rather dangerous. However for children, those with limited mobility, such as the elderly, wheelchair users and those with prams, not having crossings is a terrible barrier.
Access to public transport is also another very important factor. Both Ellerslie Panmure Highway and Manukau Road are major bus corridors, and key parts of the future frequent bus network. Every bus passenger is a pedestrian, and will need to cross the road when either leaving or arriving at their origin and destination points. Not having any safe crossing points could put people off catching the bus, and could prevent parents allowing children using the bus for example.
So what needs to happen? Auckland Transport need a major programme to identify areas where there are large gaps. The ideal bus stop spacing is often seen as around 400m, and each bus stop really needs a pedestrian crossing nearby. So this spacing could well work as a rough guide to spacing along major bus routes. However this of course could change dependent on local conditions, such as to allow access to schools, shops and parks.
As we have mentioned Auckland Transport has being going through a process of preparing Route Optimisation. However unfortunately this has been focussed on increasing throughput of vehicles, sometimes to the detriment of pedestrians and buses. A much broader approach needs to be taken that is truly multi-modal which will increase accessibility, safety and overall help make our streets better for all users.