Tuesday’s Herald had a lot of good coverage of transport issues. No fewer than four good reports by Mathew Dearnaley. Rudman on the Remuera buslane rebellion, covered here on this site. And even a piece on the transformation of LA back towards being a transit town.
There was also really good coverage of this site’s founder, Josh Arbury, in his new role as Transport Strategist at the Council on value for money in Auckland’s PT; here. A piece on design of the new trains, here. And coverage of ways to raise infrastructure investment funds via proposed road pricing here. This issue deserves its own post and will get future coverage on this site. All this follows earlier an report on fewer road deaths here, and a really encouraging report on Shared Spaces with not only Alex Swney of Heart Of The City saying really good things about the improvements they bring but even the AA’s Simon Lambourne managing to not see the world ending at the removal of parking spaces; here, although still demanding more parking buildings.
But the one I want to look at in detail is about a seemingly insignificant little road with a boring name; who was/is Ian Mckinnon? Dearnaley’s article is here.
I have always hated this road. I hate driving on it. I certainly hate cycling on it. I hate the detail of its design. I hate its programme of speeding vehicles up briefly in the middle of the city. I hate the way it turns its back on its surrounding sites. I hate the way it cuts off Eden Terrace. I hate the way it spreads the quality of a motorway a little further into the surrounding area. And now it turns out to be so bad that it kills its users too….. In short the whole thing is a disaster. Why? Well first let’s look at its reported problems.
Although the road was built almost to motorway standard for the 30,000 vehicles that use it daily, and includes long downhill sections in both directions, it lacks a median barrier and has become notorious for crashes on its main bend.
So the idea of building a road ‘almost to motorway standard’ to link ordinary streets in the middle of the city has led to bad outcomes. Surprise me. And despite a road design that encourages speed it is now expected that declaring a lower speed limit will fix the situation, although police concede that this is unlikely.
But although the police intend monitoring the new limit, they are expected to “exercise discretion” until drivers get used to it, with prompting from electronic message signs over the next two weeks.
Hopeless really, it should have the physical characteristics of a city road; in particular it would be best to reduce it to one lane each way to help slow drivers. This would also provide the opportunity to add a real cycle lane here on the resultant spare tarmac. Something urgently needed because the NorthWestern cycleway stops at the Newton Road overbridge and this annoying little road could provide a way to link the cycleway up to K and Queen, to Symonds Street and therefore the Universities and the hospital, through to the Domain and so forth. A low cost way to get a great deal of cycling connection and some traffic calming thrown in for free! Like this:
Now let’s go back a bit further and look at what else is so bad about this road. Here’s a wider view from above:
Ian McKinnon Drive is a relatively new road [anyone got a date?] inserted through a much older street pattern and a sorry consequence of the terribly over-engineered and land gobbling monument to post-war planning that is the Dominion Road/New North rd interchange. Originally designed to be part of the Dominion Rd Motorway, yes!, this interchange clearly needed somewhere to head to once the motorway was thankfully abandoned, so Ian Makinnon was rammed through. Here is how it was:
Ok you can see the problem; both Dominion Rd and New North Rd converging into one road city bound. You can also see what’s good about this intricate and interwoven neighbourhood street pattern; housing and employment mixed together, walkable and interconected streets; a modern urbanist’s dream. But to allow [or force] a car based transport model on a city like this can only mean getting out the wreckers ball. It also means, of course, choosing to prioritise those living further out and wanting/needing to drive in over the value of the land and buildings and the community already existing in this inner area. New outer suburbs over older inner ones. Spirit of the times. Here is work by Kent Lundberg showing what value was directly destroyed by putting this road in [Twitter: @kentslundberg]:
Interesting to see just how much of old inner Auckland has been lost to expanding the roadspace to accommodate our imbalanced car focussed system, especially in the light of how valuable this kind of inner city property has become. What great rating income if nothing else has been abandoned by choosing this kind of city. Lost wealth. But that isn’t all, this demolishing and severance, as well as the presence of more and more vehicles rushing past has kept the remaining odd parcels of property low value, underdeveloped, and underperforming. Auto-dependency waving yet again its magic wand of anti-agglomeration. In the top left you can see a stretch of Newton Gully which has also, of course, been sacrificed to auto infrastructure. Making complete the separation of the remaining housing of Eden Terrace into a strangely stranded island. And one that few walk to and from as Ian McKinnon and motorway form such barriers to pedestrians.
You can also see there is a rail line running through these pictures. Had the earlier versions of the City Rail Link been built and a real Auckland passenger service been invested in so many of the commuters that these interventions were designed for could have still got to the CBD efficiently. Then could the costly destruction of so much of this neighbourhood have been avoided? It would have had to have been considered valuable for that to happen or at least there would have had to have been the ability for local view to have been heard and considered instead of distant decisions being forced down from City Hall and Wellington. We could still do much to improve this area, undo a lot of the damage, but we’ll never get the old street pattern back. The good news is that reducing the road space will become more and more viable as we build effective alternatives car commuting and as it would release a fair of land for productive use such rehab work might pay for itself. Here is an earlier post about this by Josh Arbury.
Let’s also remember the wider lesson from this story, we must balance place value and movement benefit more sensibly than was done here. Motorways and other invasive insertions are always more likely to happen in areas of low value but are those values permanent? How much have we already lost? Grafton Gully, for example, is a terrible loss to the city and clumsy separation of the city and the Domain, and put through in an age when we valued wild places a little less. Is it any surprise that the road lobby are now proposing to complete the total separation of Onehunga from its harbour by motorway; a lot easier to get its payday among the poorer and less connected of South Auckland after getting a bloody nose in the eastern suburbs.
So we can see in this one example how the auto-dependent model is considered the least productive and most wasteful system of movement for a city; it is a costly destroyer of place value. But we’ve always known that: