A few months back I explored the idea of turning Nelson Street and Hobson Street, probably the most horrible streets in Auckland’s CBD, from massive six-lane wide onramp and offramp extensions into two way boulevards. A few discussions since then that I’ve had with various people indicate that I’m definitely not the first person to think of this, and that actually there’s potentially a growing level of support for what would be a great, but pretty dramatic, change to the transport functioning of the western part of Auckland’s CBD.
What has further reinforced my feelings that we need to do something to make this Nelson/Hobson area more pedestrian friendly, and just a more inviting place to be, is some data that blog commenter Luke has put together on population densities within the Auckland CBD, this is shown in the map below (the darker the colour, the higher the population density): This is done at what’s called a “meshblock” level, which is about as “zoomed in” as it’s possible to get census data. What this shows (and once again let’s remember that this is 2006 data and things are likely to be even more the case these days) is that a significant number of people live around Hobson Street and Nelson Street, particularly in the upper and lower parts. At the moment these poor people not only live in “chicken-coop” apartment buildings, but whenever they want to walk anywhere they’re confronted by a six lane superhighway. Something like this:The lane layout could be changed to something like the following: The middle could be a painted median or, probably more preferably, planted up to create something more like a boulevard feel.
If we decided that we wanted to one day build the Northwest Busway, and need to get it from SH16 down to Britomart, you could even put bus lanes along this road: Of course the “tie-in” with the motorways at the southern end of Nelson Street and Hobson Street will be the trickiest part of the project, but at the same time in many ways I feel that this is where many of the biggest benefits could be felt. I don’t actually think it’s advantageous for road traffic to have all the traffic heading to the motorways stuck on Hobson Street, similarly Nelson Street always ends up seeming as though it’s hugely under-utilised for the amount of roadspace available. Making both streets two-ways would mean that each would link in with one particular motorway: Nelson with the Southern Motorway and Hobson with the Northwest Motorway.
All you’d need is some small realignment of a couple of the ramps, and one small bridge structure – as shown in the map below: While obviously I’m no huge expert in designing onramps, offramps and other roads, it seems as though this would work OK. It would certainly be fantastic to have both Nelson and Hobson Streets back as “normal roads”, rather than two massively oversize traffic sewers as they are now. Heck, they’d become useful bus routes in and out of the city too.