Progress on Symonds Street, plus Piece of Cake #2

Queing pedestrians at the Engineering building (note underground option widely publicised, and largely ignored)

People waiting at the Engineering building, note underground crossing available but ignored (silly human behaviour)

Here is some good news on the walkability front. Reader Luke C brought a problematic pedestrian signal timing issue to AT via Twitter and it was improved within a few days.  Here is his account:

I saw the mass of students trying the cross the Symonds St crossing outside the engineering building. There were so many people the green phase was too short for everyone to cross, so when the traffic lights turned green people were still crossing the road. I thought this was not right at all, and worried someone would get runover. So I sent a tweet to Auckland Transport letting them know this.


The next day I got a Twitter DM saying they had logged it with their engineers. At lunchtime today I received a call from the Auckland Traffic Operations Centre asking me about this. I explained the issue a bit more fully to the guy on the phone, and he told me the red man was set to flash for 7 seconds once the green man had finished. However he could change that to 10 seconds, and would do that this afternoon! Sure enough half an hour later I went out at 1pm when the mass of students change classes, and sure enough the red light was now at 10 seconds! This seemed to be enough to help everyone clear in the allowable time. It is only a very small change, however very impressed what AT did in 3 days from a simple tweet!

As Luke admits this is a very modest improvement but it’s great to see how responsive The City was.  With that said, here is another Piece of Cake project sheet identifying some other dodgy signal timings. The Piece of Cake series is designed to identify simple solutions to problems for pedestrian movement and accessibility around Auckland, and from now on we will make sure they get directly to @akltransport for consideration.


Piece of Cake #1, Barnes Dance Repair

This is a follow up to our recent Piece of Cake posts and general discussions around walkability in Auckland. Over the next several weeks we will be posting summary sheets that compile many of the issues identified in the posts. Ultimately, we will organise the sheets and comments into a document to submit to them to people that care (hello?).

Feel free to comment, critique, re-order or otherwise provide input. As you’ll see below, we’ve had to limit the locations to five (which wasn’t easy). It would be good to list additional places where relevant conditions exist.

The first sheet is related to dedicated pedestrian cycles AKA Barnes Dances. Thanks DavidO for the money quote.

“Barnes dance crossings are one of the very few (only) glories of traffic management in Auckland. We should make every crossroads a Barnes dance and the city should market them as a tourist attraction. I know this proposal is ‘inefficient’. I don’t care. Reclaim the streets!”




What would New York do?

“One of our greatest innovations is our ability to move quickly. The normal capital construction program takes about five years. But we’ve been able to transform city streets virtually overnight. You can literally paint the city you want to see. You can do it with two traffic cones, a can of paint, and stone planters.” JSK BusinessWeek.

Related to the evolving #pieceofcake project, this is a bit of an inspirational detour. Over the holidays I did some research on the work that New York City has done over the last few years under Mayor Bloomberg’s leadership. Spearheading the initiative is the  highly quotable Tranportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn.

“It’s not only a safety project, it’s not only a livability project, it’s an economic development project”- JSK 

Regular readers are likley familiar with the ambitious work that has been conducted to return the streets back to the people including re-purposing street right-of-way for plazas, adding separated bike facilities and sponsoring “open streets” events like – Summer Streets. For every Madison Square and Broadway Street there has been about a dozen less complicated interventions designed to re-allocate pubic space for both better mobility and public realm improvements. These programs are developed from a highly organised system where city staff are engaged to develop innovative designs and implement them outside the traditional planning/construction delivery time frames.

Particularly inspiring is the use of inexpensive materials to test designs and to create as Randy Wade, Group Director, NYCDOC Pedestrian Projects  calls, “ a 3D environmental impact report” one that can be evaluated and tweaked on site, or even dismantled if necesarry. As part of the program the City has developed a toolbox of materials used to re-gain public space including textured paint, ‘flexible delineators’, salvaged granite blocks, planter boxes, and my favourite- bell bollards used in combination with raised concrete islands to further protect pedestrians from vehicles. The City often enlists local sponsors (i.e. business groups) to maintain the spaces.

Here are some examples of projects that may be relevant to Auckland. Note the simple materials and solutions- many of which were installed overnight.

Street Before (Source: NYCDOT)

Water + Whitehall Streets Before (Source: NYCDOT)

Street After (Source: NYCDOT)

Water + Whitehgall Street After (Source: NYCDOT)

Street Before (Source: NYCDOT)

Schermerhorn Street Before (Source: NYCDOT)

Street After (Source: NYCDOT)

Schermerhorn Street After (Source: NYCDOT)


Union Square Street Before (Source: NYCDOT)

Street After (Source: NYCDOT)

Union Square Street After (Source: NYCDOT)

For the bean counters here is a comprehensive report on the mobility efficiencies, safety and economic benefits of these projects (PDF).

Here are a couple of intersections in Auckland that have been identified in the #pieceofcake project thus far. How hard would it be to reclaim some of this space for better use? What would they do in New York?

Victoria Street before

Victoria Street before


K Rd / Queen St Before

K Rd / Queen St Before