A few months back I wrote this post where I awarded some prizes based on my own best and worst transport experiences of recent memory. While at the time these awards were meant to become a regular feature of the blog, shortly thereafter I was re-located to work in Brisbane – which caused me to postpone my planned follow-up posts.
Now that I’m settled back in Auckland for a bit I’m keen to kick things off again, so this week’s award for best transport experience goes to:
Lorne Street: This quaint little street located just to the east of Queen Street has always paled in comparison to the glitz and glam that is found on nearby High Street. Lorne Street, however, is increasingly finding its feet. A few years back Auckland City embarked on a streetscape upgrade that managed to kick-start something of a wave of subtle urban redevelopment. New apartment buildings and higher quality, more intensive shops have attracted new residents and visitors. Now you can find jewellers, cake shops, and Shanghai style takeaway food bars all within about 150m. And at the southern end of the street is the absolutely delightful Khartoum Place, complete with beautiful trees and the Suffragette Stairs/sculpture. Crossing Wellesley Street is the City Library, complete with a new shared space out the front (part of a more recent upgrade). Walking along there yesterday in the sun was just lovely. Credit to the old Auckland City for their work on Lorne Street.
On the other hand, my award for this week’s worst transport experience goes to:
Intersection of Victoria Street East, Bowen Avenue, and Kitchener Street: For those of you who are not familiar with this intersection, it’s located just on the edge of Albert Park, as shown below.
While the intersection does not look that bad from this altitude, from the ground things get decidedly ugly …
For those who can’t see what the problem is let me help: Imagine you are approaching the intersection as a pedestrian walking down the footpath on the right hand side of Bowen Street (i.e. about where the Google Earth label is in the photo). If you then look up beyond the left turn slip lane you will find that there is no pedestrian crossing across either Bowen Street or Kitchener Street (where the green bus and white car are respectively). So if you approach the intersection from this direction and find yourself on the little raised island to the left of the white car then you actually cannot legitimately cross the intersection in any direction, i.e. you actually have to pick a gap in the traffic and run across.
There is no reason (that I can see) for the absence of pedestrian signals on either road; the rest of the intersection has a pedestrian scramble crossing (i.e. all green for peds = all red for cars) so you could include pedestrian signals on both roads without reducing vehicle capacity at all. From what I can tell “fixing” this intersection requires little more than four little “green man” lights, a pole or two, and some paint. The farce is only compounded by the fact that this intersection is 1) barely 100m from Queen Street and 2) was recently re-sealed.
You may wonder why, out of all the bad intersections in Auckland, I chose this one. Well, I am personally very frustrated by the configuration of this intersection because 5 years ago I spent some time providing written feedback about this intersection (including drawings of the signal phases) to Auckland City. Yet 5 years later absolutely nothing has changed. In this case I just can’t fathom any reason why the intersection would be configured in this way, because it is highly unsafe and unnecessarily so.
So who do we blame? First and foremost it has to be Auckland City Council’s traffic engineers. Maybe I’m getting a bit self-righteous, but I would suggest that the configuration of this intersection suggests collective professional incompetence. So the cold hard hysterical finger of blame has to point at Auckland City Council in general, and their traffic engineers in particular. When I’m not being so hysterical I just feel sad because it feels like the only way for change to occur is for pedestrians to be killed by this death machine.
My boney fingers are crossed that maybe, just maybe, Auckland Transport is able to rectify the issues with this intersection. And before someone dies. Enjoy your weekend.