Stuart’s 100 #47: The Forgotten Triangle

48: The Forgotten Triangle

Day_48

What if the forgotten triangle behind Shortland Street was more than a parking lot?

Continuing the series on forgotten or underutilised spaces within the city, the steeply rising wedge of land between Shortland Street, Albert Park and Princes Street is certainly a stand out example of well-located land that should be valued and utilised for much more than just parking. Certainly, when one looks at historic photos of this part of the city, it is obvious that this area used to packed quite densely with a much more diverse array of buildings and activities than can be found there now.

Looking west over the Chancery Street area from the former Grand Hotel in Princes Street, 1902. (Auckland Council Heritage Images Online).

Looking west over the Chancery Street area from the former Grand Hotel in Princes Street, 1902. (Auckland Council Heritage Images Online).

It is actually quite crazy that this forgotten corner of the city has not been developed for more intensive and higher value uses, if you think about the location, just one block from both the A-grade office space of the corporate towers on Shortland Street and the high value retail of High Street, and bounded by what is a beautiful historic central city park.

The following is a simple four-point plan that is just a start to indicate how the potential of this part of the city could be reconsidered:

  • Improve the legibility, crossing opportunities and attractiveness of walking links through the area to Albert Park and the universities on the hill;
  • Develop high rise residential towers fronting Kitchener Street similar to the Metropolis tower and Precinct Apartments between Lorne and Kitchener Streets that capitalise on the outlook over the park and up high gain light, air and relative serenity above this quiet part of the city;
  • Rediscover and develop the forgotten laneways of Fields and Bacon Lanes, Chancery Lane, Bankside Street and Cruise Lane as back street extensions to the High Street District with opportunities to open out and activate the backs of Shortland Street towers into a gritty but interesting neighbourhood;
  • Make more use of the Bowen Park extension of Albert Park as a great public open space in its own right, reflecting its north-facing qualities and great views back to this part of the city skyline.

Stuart Houghton 2014

*For a bit more on this area there is this previous post -PR

Britomart precinct quick wins

It has now been three months since Janette Sadik-Khan visited Auckland and showed us how easy it was to create a more liveable city by making things better for people to walk and cycle around, and best of all we could do this really quickly and cheaply.

Since the excitement of that time their has been some positive noise about some cycleway projects such as Karangahape Road and Nelson St, however there is so much to do around the city in the pedestrian realm. So now I am going to look at a number of really simple and cheap things we can do around the city to make things much better for people.

The first place I am going to look at is the Britomart precinct. This has become an immensely successful area over the last decade, revitalising a formerly very rundown and seedy area, preserving a large collection of heritage buildings, with a few sympathetic additions. However the streetscape  is still very plain, and the design prioritises cars, even though walking is the dominant mode of travel through the precinct. While it is better than many areas of the city, there is still much to be done.

Pedestrians should really be the priority throughout this area, however the road layout still gives priority to cars, and several streets are used as rat runs. In the medium term we could look at pedestrianisation and shared spaces in this area, however with limited budgets and uncertainty about bus movements this is best left for the longer term. So therefore I am going to focus on easy and cheap improvements.

The East-West site link is probably the most important, linking the station to the atrium of the Westpac building through Takutai Square. For some unknown reason this link is totally devoid of zebra crossings, which would prioritise pedestrians, slow cars and improve safety.

20140627_101004

Commerce Street

 

20140627_101435

Gore St

 

20140627_104640

Britomart Place, looking towards the disaster of Scene Lane

 

Zebra crossings could be added to all three of these roads tomorrow with tiny cost, yet make things so much better for people walking in this precinct. Zebras with raised tables should also be added to all the side streets, such as the corner of Galway and Commerce Streets.

20140627_101406

Galway and Commerce St

In a slightly longer timeframe consideration should be given to closing at least one of the north-south links to through traffic. These streets are much busier than they should be because of rat-running and cars circling for parking. At least in the short term, Commerce Street is important for bus movements so that will need to stay. Gore Street is probably the most likely candidate, the main use of the area seems to be taxis illegally parking in the median.

While Britomart Place has some traffic calming in the use of lane narrowing and pebbled surfaces directly opposite the Westpac atrium, the two ends at Quay St and Commerce St are totally oversized, and for 4 lanes so every turn movement can have their own lane. The slip lane from Britomart Place to Beach Road is also very dangerous and should be removed as a priority.

Britomart Pl 4

Britomart Place – 3 southbound lanes for one quiet street

The area could be narrowed substantially, with traffic lanes roughly halved. The narrowing would be best done on the western side, which would allow popular places like Mexico, Brew on Quay and several cafes to expand their tables over more of the pavement, and provide more room for pedestrians. This can be done without any expensive reconstruction in the short term, just by allowing planters and tables to cover part of the existing road.

Britomart Place map

This rather crude drawing shows how much space could be freed up for people and street life, while still allowing 2 lanes of traffic through the area.

There is also one change that could benefit people cycling. If you are cycling from the (rather pathetic) bike racks at Britomart you can head east along Tyler St. However heading towards Britomart there is no obvious direct legal option, and people are forced to cycle the wrong way down Galway St between Commerce and Gore Street. If this section was flipped this would make things much easier.

Another option is the provision of contraflow bike lanes. These are used with some success in Adelaide, the use of which in their laneways was noted recently by the excellent Cycling in Christchurch Blog. If flipping the streets was not possible for some reason, then these could be installed to allow cyclists to travel east-west through the area.

adelaide-laneways-4

Adelaide Laneway – c/ Glen Koorey, Cycling in Christchurch blog

All these changes suggested would help ensure Britomart could continue to be an exciting area and further enhance its reputation as a great place to be.

Walking in Manukau

Just over a month ago I was out at Manukau City, at the open day of the new MIT, which doubles as Manukau station. This is a brilliant facility, with world class integration of land use and transport. If you haven’t been out to check it out, you really should. Very impressive coming up the escalators from the station and straight into the concourse of the campus. If you haven’t been there my fellow blogger Patrick has a post with an excellent photo essay of the new campus.

After looking at the campus I decided to go for a walk around the wider area. Note the whole time I was within the Manukau Metropolitan Centre, and less than 800m from the station entrance. This is an area with a wide variety of shops, apartments, restaurants, offices and services including a large Westfield Mall, courts, MIT and AUT campuses and Rainbows End.. It would certainly be reasonable to expect people to walk from the station (soon to be joined by neighbouring bus interchange) to any of these areas, following the route I took. Would also be very reasonable to walk between any of these activities which is what would usually happen in an urban environment. Manukau is also one of the premier Metropolitan Centres outlined by the council in the Auckland Plan and Unitary Plan, so the pedestrian environment should be of a high standard.

Manukau aerial

However unfortunately what I found was just plain awful, dangerous and embarrassing to roading engineers everywhere (yes I know there are good ones, but your colleagues are largely responsible). These are the 7 photo locations overlaid on a council aerial photo.

This is Great South Road. Almost adjacent to Westfield Mall. Totally out of scale for what should be an urban street, especially considering there is an 8 lane motorway 200 metres away!

 

20140628_153104

Picture 1

This is on Lambie Drive, within 400 metres of Manukau station, and is on what might seem to be an obvious walking route from the station to the Supa Centre, which contains a large amount of big box retail shops. But no consideration given to anyone who might want to go shopping who does not have access to a car (or even chooses not to drive!).

20140628_141035

Picture 2

But it gets more embarrassing. Half way along this missing footpath are a few pram-ramps longing for a footpath. Great ‘future proofing’, but ridiculous that the footpath didn’t follow.

20140628_141529

Picture 3

This is the roundabout at the corner of Cavendish and Lambie Drives. Like many roundabouts in suburban centres it is designed for speeding truck and trailer units. This of course means usual cars travel very fast around the roundabout. To get the other side one pretty much has to run to the island. People that are elderly or infirm, well, too bad. If you want to visit the Red Cross(!) on the other side of road, get a taxi!

20140628_141856

Picture 4

This is Davies Avenue. Doesn’t look anything out of the ordinary for Auckland. However this is a brand new street, that has just had a large amount of money spent on traffic calming. However that calming still required 2 turning lanes, and no zebra to allow people to safely cross the road.

 

20140628_143038

Picture 5

This is Manukau Station Road. Up until 5 years ago this was Wiri Station Road, and also State Highway 20. This meant people on the motorway at Manukau needed to drive along here to head towards the airport. However this has been bypassed by a large motorway, 300m to the south. However no attempt has been made to calm the road to match the vastly reduced traffic volume. Probably could close half the road and it would be fine. While this road may be ok in an industrial area, once again this is a few hundred metres from the station and mall. There is also a very good reason to walk along here, and that is Rainbows End, just out of sight to the right of the picture. Only 500m from Manukau Station, and could be good patronage generator. However no chance when people have to walk along a miserable highway that barely caters for pedestrians.

20140628_144757

Picture 6

This is the main entrance to Rainbows End, looking back towards the mall. While there is a signalised crossing, there is only a pedestrian crossing on one out of 4 of the intersection legs. Again what should theoretically be an obvious walking route is awful for pedestrians, and thus encourages more people to drive.

20140628_145151

Picture 7

If Auckland Council and Auckland Transport are serious about making Manukau one of the key Metropolitan Centres in the region, they really need to fix totally unacceptable pedestrian environments like this. I would also hope that Auckland Transport realises fixing these issues would help drive public transport patronage, by increasing the reasonable walking catchment. Acceptable walking distance is heavily dictated by the form of the urban environment, and in places this bad people will be put off walking 100m. Sadly Auckland Transport seem to totally ignore walking as a mode of transport, and don’t bother fixing these type of environments.

Some readers of the blog may also be interested in what it is like to cycle around Manukau. The Regional Cycle Network suggests there is a great connected cycling grid, however I can tell you it would certainly be worse than walking. I’ll blog those pictures next week.

 

Heart of the City’s pedestrian counts

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.

Heart of the City Map

Click on one of the counters and you get a quick glimpse of the result and can see how it compares to last year.

Ped Count Map detail

By clicking on the View Graph button they now provide a much greater level of detail too including counts by the time of day.

Ped Count Map detail 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.

Photo of the Day: High St- low value use

The top of High Street is interrupted, dominated, and devalued by the double-laned exit from the Victoria St car parking building.

High St_4694

The footpath on the east side is frequently blocked by impatient drivers….

High St_4681

…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.

Victoria St parking building

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.

Vic park entrance

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!

High St Big Mouth.

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.

Throwing Down A Half-Nelson

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

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.

Auckland Cycle Network - City Centre

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).

Day Street Bridge

 

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.

 

04 Newmarket Train Station - Layher Scaffolds

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.

Scaffold Ramp from K Road Overbridge

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.

 

06 Nelson Street - New crossing and cycleway

Easy. 

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).

Dunsmuir Separated Bike Lane, Dunsmuir Separated Bike Lane

 

08 Nelson Street, Planter Box Cycleway Concept

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.

 

 

Photo of the Day: Red II

Eyelight Lane by Swedish artist David Svensson, commissioned by Auckland Council.

EYELIGHT LANE_9158

EYELIGHT LANE_9196

EYELIGHT LANE_9295

Photographs by Patrick Reynolds.

Improving K’Rd

Below is a plan developed by the Waitemata Local Board working closely with the Karangahape Rd Business Association to improve the area:

K'Rd improvements

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.

K'Rd

 

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.

Khartoum Place upgrade in full swing

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.

20140406-103605.jpg

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.

20140406-103813.jpg

20140406-103847.jpg

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.

Auckland’s missing pedestrian legs

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.

halsey crossing

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.