There are a number of little things about Auckland that makes you realise how wrong we have our priorities when it comes to transport. Little things that we just get wrong, or things that show how generally public transport is looked at with disdain, or how pedestrians are seen as second-rate citizens, even in supposedly pedestrian-oriented areas such as the CBD. This post is intended to create a list of little things that Auckland just get wrong, which it shouldn’t, and which could be fixed quite easily (and cheaply) if only someone gave a damn.

  1. Why can’t bus drivers on the Link Bus at Victoria Park tell you exactly how long it will be until their timetable says they’ll be leaving again?
  2. Why is the pedestrian traffic light near the intersection of Durham Street and Queen Street so pathetic in taking so long to give pedestrians a turn that everyone jay-walks across the road anyway?
  3. Why is the right-turn arrow phase from Queen Street into Karangahape Road (heading up Queen Street) so short? A lot of buses need to make that turn, so it’s stupid to give them such a short phase.
  4. Why are pedestrians crossing Jervois Road at the intersection with Redmond Street and Dedwood Terrace held in such disdain that they have to wait two phases to cross the road?
  5. Why is graffiti around the motorway system cleaned up almost immediately while that along the railway corridors stays in place for months, if not years?
  6. How on earth can Manukau City Council justify giving Great South Road a speed limit of 70kph as it passes through their town centre? Do they want to kill off pedestrians?
  7. Why does there have to be a difference between the 004 and 005 bus routes? I mean seriously, what does that do other than confuse people and put passengers off using the service?
  8. Why is our main street a four-lane highway? (OK that can’t be particularly easily fixed, but it’s annoying all the same!)
  9. Why is the 224 bus always 15 minutes late?
  10. Why are we able to roll out real-time information signs for buses (seemingly quite a complicated task), but not for trains (seemingly a relatively simple task)?

Please feel free to add in your “pet peeves” about Auckland and its transport system. Perhaps I will be able to gather them all together and email them to a whole bunch of people at Councils, ARTA, NZTA, KiwiRail or whoever else is responsible and we can get some action on the simple stuff we should be getting right, but just aren’t.

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  1. I think one of my biggest peeves in Auckland is the free left turns that almost all roads in the city have, and of which maybe 2% have zebra crossings. Many of these are downright dangerous and really hammers home the message that the car has priority over anyone on 2 legs.

    Another is the insistence that all crossings in the city have to be light controlled rather than simple zebra crossings: in cities with mainly the latter, a road no longer feels like a road as you can step out and carry on your journey rather than standing and waiting for 5 minutes for the light to change. This is really something that should be on all streets in a cities CBD.

    A third is the fact that next to no streets in Auckland even have pedestrian crossings except where there are traffic lights for cars i.e. feels more like the pedestrian part was tacked on later.

    A fourth is the old dirty narrow footpaths, whilst next door is 3 metres of on-street parking, is on street parking really necessary in a city over-supplied with car parking buildings? It’s time the former was retired.

    A fifth is the horror that is the in bus next stop system running in the link – why can’t we just have what other civilised cities have, a map with the next stop few stops and the last stop on it, rather than what is basically a McDonalds and Starbucks video ad with the bus route tacked on.

    None of these would really cost much money to change, just a different attitude to the people walking around in a city. But let’s not forget we actually have politicians i.e. Banks making council policy i.e. the Birch report, to discourage walking and cycling because they don’t pay petrol tax.

  2. My pet peeve is the pedestrian crossing outside AirNZ by the on/off-ramp to the harbour bridge run-up. It takes an inordinate amount of time for pedestrians to “get a go” and the tendancy is to just barge across the traffic as it comes on/off the motorway. An overbridge makes sense here in the same way an overbridge makes sense over a railway line.

  3. RTC, I pretty much agree with everything you say, although I don’t have much of a problem with the “next stop” feature on the link bus. but maybe that is because I don’t catch the Link very often.

    A couple of somewhat contrasting examples highlight the “lowest of the low” attitude to pedestrians in the CBD:

    1) High Street. This is a very nice narrow street, but the footpaths are horrifically narrow. It really should be either fully pedestrianised or become a shared space. The reason why it stands out to me as such a classic example is because it was only upgraded a few years ago. That upgrade did NOTHING to widen the footpaths, while basically made it politically impossible to justify upgrading to a shared space any time soon (otherwise it would have been the obvious first street to do).

    2) Corner of Mayoral Drive, Cook Street and Vincent Street. It’s roads central over here, with gentle curves making it possible for cars to speed like crazy around all the giant left hand turn slips lanes. It takes practically forever to cross here, and the amount of space dedicated to the intersection is rather embarrassing.

  4. Apl, yes I think some sort of pedestrian overbridge of Fanshawe St will probably be required eventually. Although I must say I am not a huge fan of them except when the road is in a gully, because they really do tell the pedestrian what a second class citizen they are, by having to inconvenience themselves by climbing up to the bridge, then across it, then down again.

    Of course they are essential for motorways and railway lines.

  5. As a component part of your fifth point about grafitti: why are pest plant infestations removed from the landscaped verges of motorways on a regular basis wheras rail embankments are neither landscaped nor are their (significant) pest plant infestations controlled in any way, shape or form (apart from a little rough chopping for LE sighting purposes)? We have an unique flora in this country but you wouldn’t know it if you travel by train. And where they did do some landscaping – as a part of the first DART phase – they’ve both neglected it and are now in the process of destroying it; and what’s the betting that it won’t be remediated.

  6. 1. The fact the insist on calling the peice of paint painted on the footpath at Tamaki Dr a ‘bikepath’ – painting a bit of paint which leads you into light poles while having to dodge families, fishermen and stray dogs does not and never will constitute a ‘bike path’ – thank god Joyce hasn’t decided that using ‘bike paths’ is compulsary yet.

    2. On-road parking between Mechanics Bay and Ngapuhi Rd – well apart from a big arse rock wall into the water, a minigolf course (with off-street parking) and a marina (also with off-street parking) there is nothing around there except spaces for those too cheap to actually pay for their parking, makes the road more dangerous for all road users.

    3. The pedestrian crossing just by The White House on Queen St – when I have time to press the button, pop into the dairy, purchase something and have a brief chat with the owner before wandering out and still having to wait 30 seconds before I can cross on the light, well tells you something about priorities.

    4. The fact that all on street parking, particularly in high congestion areas (Mission Bay, city fringe, Mt Eden etc) is not charged for.

    Also, I second High St and any other street around there which is of a similar nature (O’Connell, Fort is another, Commerce etc).

    Just amazes me the influence that Robert Moses style thinking has even after 40 years of seeing the abject failure of his thinking.

  7. High St oh High St! What a nightmare. At one point on the western side the gap between the shop front and a street pole is about two feet! Ok I realise this is Auckland we are talking about and car parking is up there with oxygen and potable water, but does this narrow laneway in the historic part of town really need parking up *both sides*?!

    The ironic thing is on a busy sunny lunchtime it becomes a defacto shared space as pedestrians are forced out into the roadway. And don’t get me started on the square having a road across it. Why?

    2) Corner of Mayoral Drive, Cook Street and Vincent Street…
    I had a chat with one of the urban designers on the Queen St upgrade, she spent months battling the road engineering team who wanted to do the same thing for the intersection of Queen and Mayoral. Apparently they just could concieve not having a full multi lane intersection with left turn lanes and traffic islands. The engineers were convinced that if the didn’t do the intersection to the standard in their engineering manuals it would become filled with crashes and injured pedestrians. Somehow they didn’t catch on to idea that designing an intersection on the main street of the metropolis so that people can drive through it as fast as physically possible might be a bad idea for crashes and pedestrian safety.

  8. There is precious little foot traffic across Gt South Rd Josh.

    Remember all the car parks about which people have been complaining?

  9. – Why are all the bus lanes in the suburbs and none in Queen Street?
    – Why are there so many traffic lights in Queen Street? It’s quicker to walk than to take the bus down or up town.
    – Why can’t Auckland buses influence traffic lights so they can ride a green wave for a change?
    – Why don’t buses which go to the same destination stop at the same bus stop? (K Rd to downtown is a toss up choice between Pitt Street corner and K Rd overbridge, you can’t cover your bases)
    – Why isn’t there a one-way system down Albert and up Queen Street so both can have permanent bus/tram lines and we wouldn’t need an expensive underground tunnel (which would only serve to make more road space available to cars)
    – Why are NZ motorways always inside cities instead of between them?

  10. It’s because the motorways have a maintance contract with Fulton Hogan through NZTA and a graffiti contract with Graffiti Solutions through NZTA. If these companies don’t do a satisfactory job they will loose out the next time the possition goes to tender. ARTA don’t have as extensive contracts and neither the budget for them. Also through construction contracts NZTA expects and rewards the contractors for removing graffiti on their sites, and from progress photos on the rail projects I assume rail contractors are not expected or rewarded the same.

  11. @rtc, I think both on AND off street parking need to be reduced especially off street parking provided by the regions councils…

    @Joshua, I thought Ontrack would be responsible for the railway corridor not ARTA, the Labour government actually brought back the Auckland network before the National network and IIRC correctly Ontrack was set up to manage that initial purchase…

    One of my pet peeves is the lack of green around some of our roadways, for example where medians are raised why are they allowed to be concreted in..? Next time you are travelling along Dom Rd and going over the grade seperation of New North have a look at the large, long and wide median and ask why 75% of the red chip inside the curbs isn’t dug up and planted out with bushes..? Why couldn’t this be replicated 100 times over the city..?

    Another is the lack of muralisation around the city, there are literally 1000s of graffiti covered walls that would be perfect for large murals which are the most effective thing I have ever seen for discouraging graffiti… Why are all our train stations not colourful and muralled/painted..?

    Why is there a complete lack of a public art fund or public art startegy..?

    Why are we not copying overseas cities plans to very cheaply encourage cycling by reallocating quiet suburban streets for residents cars and bicycles only..?

    Why isn’t the council looking to move all bus interchanges next to railway stations..?

    Why isn’t the council completing a traffic modelled study to see if a reduction of the speed limit to 40 km/hr will increase the safety of pedestrians and cyclists and increase speed of travel..?

    Why is getting our arterial roads used correctly and to capacity not the priority for any council or government..?

    Why is ARTA not using their power over bus contracts to return the profits from commercial bus routes to the publics coffers..?

    Why is “through routing” of buses not a priority..?

    Why do we not have a paper integrated ticket..?

    Why are bus routes not being reorganised or planned as feeders for after electrification..?

    That’s all I can think of for now…

  12. Why does Auckland love roundabouts so much?
    Why is it so dangerous to be a pedestrian or a cyclist in our town centres?
    Why is Ponsonby Rd a double lane speed track?
    Why do we have so few bridges over our creeks and rivers?

  13. I second that BA. People outside of Auckland just think the city is a nightmare! and never want to have to live there. There is even a sense of pity for those who have to put up with living in Auckland.

    Why are there so many 4 lane roads the run through suburban townships? I’m thinking of Remuera in particular, but I’m sure there are many many other examples in Auckland! (like Broadway!!!)

    Why are there hardly any bicycle lanes in and around the city?

    The best solutions for Auckland (in my opinion) are around the allocation of capital funding towards projects which enhance the city and its accessibility.

  14. That’s a lot of pet peeves Jeremy.

    Ideally I’m looking for small stupid stuff that could be easily fixed without spending much money. Stuff that Councils/NZTA/ARTA/KiwiRail etc. have no real excuse to not be doing.

  15. Lots of my peeves are creative things from overseas that could be copied very cheaply or free, namely:

    – Adding greenery around roadways
    – Speed limit to 40 km/hr study
    – ARTA utilising it’s contract powers
    – Re-organisation of bus routes
    – Quiet streets being reallocated to cycling and resident vehicles only

  16. Yup that’s true. 40 kph for non-arterial local roads seems pretty damn obvious. I guess the only reason against it would be the cost of putting up all the signage to show what was arterial and non-arterial.

    Lowering arterials to 40 kph might be OK in some circumstances (ie. Ponsonby Road where it’s happened) but I’m not sure about across the board.

  17. – Why are there so many traffic lights in Queen Street? It’s quicker to walk than to take the bus down or up town.

    Very true – but not unique to Auckland. At almost any time of day or night, it is faster to walk up/down Robson Ave in Vancouver (or indeed, to stroll gently) than to catch the poxy #5 bus!

  18. Why did they decline the gas-electric hybrid buses? They will save money in the long run, cause less emissions, and offer a far smoother ride. And importantly, they’re much much quieter. Noise is harmful, and it isn’t at all pleasant or good for you sitting behind a noisy and noxious diesel belching bus on a bicycle, or standing next to one waiting to cross the road. They could afford them, they just need the right financing arrangements.

  19. To clarify my earlier comment and make it more directed at action: why can’t they lower the speed limit on Symonds Street to 40 and give greater priority to pedestrians with more crossings with better phasings?

    It goes right through a university with 50,000 students, and right past one with 20,000, and goes right past the court – all of these are important public institutions. Now that the motorway extension is there, the excuse that they used to use – it’s necessary because the motorway hasn’t been built – no longer applies.

  20. Exactly, now that the CMJ has all its links and completely encircles the CBD, why are so many streets (Quay St, Symonds, Queen FFS!) still treated as major arterial distributors?

  21. You’re right Nick.

    When will they ban trucks and vehicles over 3 tonnes from most city streets? Vehicles making deliveries and buses could be excepted, but it would improve things greatly if arterial traffic could be restricted to arterial roads.

  22. I certainly agree with that Nick. Almost all roads in the CBD are set up to move traffic through as quickly as possible, which is really silly and really spoils the streets as public spaces. Also creates enormous intersections, that are up to six lanes wide, which is completely crazy, and creates barriers between different areas of the CBD.
    Even Customs St, where it crosses Queen is 6 lanes wide, and the intersection with Albert is even worse. Although Mayoral Drive probably takes the cake, although is not so much of an issue because it has killed the street life so much there is no reason to go there.

  23. Why is there only one train per hour on the Western line on the weekend?
    And why have peak and off-peak timetables?
    And why, when your train is late, it will be announced at the platform but not when your train is cancelled?

  24. 1) Damn good question. I think the general excuse used is that there is a lot of upgrading of the Western Line going on, and half the time it’s closed on weekends anyway – so what’s the point of improving frequencies? Hopefully we’ll see half-hourly frequencies along the whole of the Western Line on both Saturdays and Sundays within the next few months.

    2) Peak timetables are necessary for pretty obvious reasons – that’s when demand is highest. If you kept running such high frequencies at all times it would probably be a waste. However, I think that off-peak timetables could and should be standardised. By that I mean that inter-peak weekday timetables should be the same as weekend timetables. So you basically have a “standard base timetable” with peak services lumped on top of that.

    3) Damn good question again. Hopefully within a few months we’ll have real-time info signs at all train stations.

  25. Biggest pet peeve: give way signs in pedestrian areas. 2nd biggest: give way signs and stops sign stripes placed beyond the pedestrian crossing area (after the cars rolls through the pedestrian crossing). Fix= paint and new sign.

  26. My latest peeve is the narrowness of High Street’s footpaths. This street was repaved quite recently, what the heck were the idiots thinking who made such a pedestrian friendly street have such narrow footpaths?

  27. Asphalt is OK outside high-pedestrian areas as I guess it’s quite cheap to construct and maintain. But there are tonnes of inner-city streets that should do better than that. Customs Street is a classic example.

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