A few weeks ago I wrote this post on red light running.

In my experience the intersection of Symonds and Alten Street suffers from this fairly regularly, especially in the PM peak when vehicles heading east onto Alten queue back across the intersection. My friend encountered this issue recently and snapped the great shot showing how cars have blocked the pedestrian green phase.

Poor peddy ped peds

There’s two things that I think are needed to solve this issue: 1) Driver education and testing needs to drill into drivers’ heads that this is not OK and 2) the NZ Police actually need to get out and police these intersections at peak times a little more regularly. Or give Auckland Transport the authority so that they can do it themselves.

What other intersections should be added to the red light running smackdown list?

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  1. Although entering an intersection when you can’t exit it is not always due to red light running, in many cases vehicles proceed into the intersection on a green light, but cannot wit due to banked up traffic at the exit,

  2. Gillies Ave @ Alpers Ave. Often you can’t get out of Badminton Hall on your light phase during peak because of drivers who think because they’ve got to that side of the road from Alpers they’re OK.
    We have to reinforce the rule that- as with rail crossings- you can’t enter the crossing if you can’t complete it. I wondered about painted cross-hatching on the road like they have on Hobson St and the top of Nelson Street as a reminder at these problem areas.

  3. New North Road/Blockhouse Bay Road/St Jude Street/Crawford Street East intersection. Minimal pedestrian crossing opportunities combined with impatient drivers annoyed because the at grade rail crossing at St Jude Street slows down their afternoon sprint home. A real danger to pedestrians.

  4. Intersection of Symonds St and Newton Rd – there are frequently cars still driving at high speed through after the green crossing signal has been going for a few seconds. It’s dangerous as hell, and made worse by the fact that by waiting for cars to pass you barely have time to get across before the crossing goes red and cars staring driving through again.

  5. At peak times the heaviest flow should have right of way as motorists would be far less aggressive if they knew it was a short wait.. Instead the start of your 45min journey is halted by those traveling 2mins. Surely lights need to stay green longer at certain times. Am I missing something?

    1. I know I am going to sound pretty arrogant, but yes, you are missing something. Mainly the point that these intersections already ARE hyper-optimised for cars. Why do Auckland intersections have such massively long (120 seconds are oftent typical) cycle times? Because that is the way to get more cars through / hour. And screw the peds who have to wait, even though THEY weren’t stuck in traffic.

      Intersections already are optimised for the heaviest flows. There’s a whole computer centre up in Smales Farm doing nothing but adapting cycle times all the time to improve car throughput. The agressiveness of those drivers is because they already get 90% of the city, but think if they would just get 99% (and all to their particular route they want to go), then all would be fine…

    2. Josh, I think it’s wrong to assume as you do that motorists would be less aggressive if they knew that they had more priority. Motorists already have a lot of priority, even in places like High St where there are more pedestrians about than cars. The narrowness of the footpaths there is just silly. The converse seems to be true: motorists are generally less aggressive when they know that they don’t have priority, such as in the shared spaces (ignoring those who ignore the existence of the shared space, like those who speed through Fort St; police really should be ticketing them).

      Even if you’re right, though, wouldn’t you be making those people who use side streets a bit desperate and therefore more likely to be aggressive? Your reasoning would seem to imply that if they knew that they had to choose between running a red light or waiting forever for the lights to change, they would be more likely to drive dangerously or perhaps block the intersection, as above.

      Besides which, why should people who are making longer journeys be treated better than those making shorter ones?

    3. I’m really curious: who will be travelling for two minutes only? Did you mean pedestrians? Did you ever think of the fact that often pedestrians might have a 45 minute commute as well – they might’ve taken a bus or train and walk the tail end of their commute. Or they might’ve walked their entire commute taking them up to 45 mins – both examples from my own household.

      Or do you mean people who go for a two minute drive? Admittedly, if their destination is two minutes away by car you could see this as another annoyingly unnecessary car trip hindering those people who have a 45 minute commute – regardless of their mode used. But that behaviour is exactly what you’ll encourage if handing over even more right of way to already heavily privileged motorists…

  6. Fair enough. And yes I have figured out there must be a control centre adjusting cycle times as these times change throughout the day.. Ok let’s vote and those that affected by an intersection get to submit. 50,000 cars vs 100 peds.. Hmmmm outcome will be peds need to wait longer. And this applies only to major off ramps.. And I don’t mean to sound arrogant

    1. I don’t quite get your logic here, you seem to propose that because there are multiple users of a road space and therefore some people have to wait for others to walk/drive/cycle through that this waiting means you have the right to drive through a red light just because you happen to have a 45 min commute? If we are going to get democratic on all this then yet let’s vote on who gets to use Symonds Street. I think the 40,000 odd people at Auckland University and 30,000 odd people at AUT as well as all the tens of thousands of bus users would all vote to ban cars on the street. There done, when shall I organise it to be closed? I’d also suggest that in due course we do the same vote for the Auckland Harbour Bridge, pretty soon the majority of people crossing that will be in buses and I’m sure they’ll be happy to turn all but 1 lane into the city into a bus lane rather than the present where we have 11 lanes through St Mary’s Bay and only one of them for a short time is exclusive to buses.

      But regardless this post is about car drivers ignoring traffic rules which have the affect of blocking intersections and slowing the journey home for everyone, running a red light and blocking an intersection may save you 30seconds but it probably (as has happened to me many a time) just caused all those people in the buses 5 minutes. Democracy isn’t the same as you having priority over everyone else.

  7. Two things I would like to mention,

    In regards to cycle times, I believe they are automated. My wife drives triangle road to lincoln road every weekday, either side of 7am, pre 7-am, the phase is about 6 seconds, post 7-am, the phase is about 12 seconds. The same happens for those turning right from lincoln to triangle, which helps those going from triangle left onto lincoln.

    Also Alten vs Symonds, while I agree that people shouldnt queue across the intersection, a large part of the problem is the light phasing at stanley and alten. Works well for those from carlaw park ave, very very well for those from Stanley (which includes the port trucks, so there is a good argument for that), but the Alten rd side gets burnt full time, 1pm, 3pm, 5pm, 7pm weekdays, the light phasing does not reflect a major exit-route from the city.

    Oh, and I cycle 90% of the time, so most of the time this shit makes me laugh 🙂

    1. Why should Alten Rd be considered a major exit route? Beach Rd is already destroyed by its use as an exit, as is Wellesley Street, do we need to destroy yet another road?

    2. Tend to disagree with your second point: The problem has everything to do with bad driving rather than the phasing of the downstream signal on Stanley. Simple fact is that cars should never enter an intersection unless they are sure that they can exit it. In an urban environment there’s always going to be situations where vehicle queues extend back from the upstream signal, therefore only appropriate solutions are driver behaviour and enforcement. Tweaking signals is akin to twiddling thumbs while Rome burns.

      I cycle most of the time too, but cars blocking intersections is bad for everyone else on the road as far as I can tell.

  8. Turning phases at Ponsonby/K Rd/Gt Nth Rd.
    Pitt St/Hopetoun St/Vincent St.
    Bond St/Gt Nth Rd.
    Khyber Pass/Broadway.

    While the New North Road/Blockhouse Bay Road/St Jude Street/Crawford Street East intersection and also the proximity to Rosebank/Blockhouse Bay Rd is an awful arrangement, and weekend and rush hour traffic backs up in all directions, I can’t say I’ve noticed as much red light running as the other intersections above. The bulk of traffic through New North Road/Blockhouse Bay Road currently runs east-west, north-south, and a reasonable portion east-north. When SH20 New North Rd south facing ramps were on the table, there was also a link road proposed connecting over the railway tracks to Trent St and on to Rosebank Rd. As well as providing a better link between the Rosebank industrial area & SH20, the turning phases could probably have been removed from New North Road/Blockhouse Bay Road, and there would have been the potential for grade separation. This could have continued under the St Jude St level crossing.
    I’m doubtful much of the current traffic will shift to Maioro-Tiverton-Wolverton, once 4 laning is complete, or to SH20 waterview tunnels.
    The global economic recovery and doubling of fuel prices will probably be how this traffic nightmare gets resolved.

  9. A real baddy is Wellesley and Mayoral/Albert. Cars heading north often block the box for 3 reasons I’ve observed:
    1) There is a brow of the hill, people travel fast and don’t really look properly at the queue in front
    2) 2 lanes merge into 1 immediately after the lights as bus lanes begin on Albert
    3) General NZ problem of traffic light phases running too long, giving drivers a desperate feeling to get through

    Another problem one is Federal and Victoria St. It has stupid long phasing as it is linked into the motorway Hobson lights. One can only hope it will be fixed up with the shared space going in.

  10. Surely the turning phases or light phases at any particular junction are irrelevant. The fact is that if the exit of the intersection is not clear, then it is illegal (and downright selfish) to enter and the police should monitor and punish those who offend. Can’t see it happening though. They don’t seem to be doing a very good job in picking up those motorists who have no registration or warrant on their vehicles. Where I work, probably 20% of all the parked vehicles have expired rego or warrant or both!

    1. I agree Bob – the issue is driver behaviour not signal phasing. I’m not qualified to comment on the rego/wof checks, but my feeling was that the parking wardens do most of the checking there.

  11. I you want things changed, complain to AT. Ignore their first brush off response and keep “suggesting” and get all your friends to “suggest” also. Eventually they will do something to stop the “suggestions” coming in. For every pedestrian that complains, you probably get several motorists complaining about the exact opposite. Most vocal group wins.

    Cycle times vary by how busy the road is. NZ seems to have higher cycle times than some other countries but also more control than other countries in the form of red arrows. In the US, you can filter right turn across several lanes.

    Phasing can change pedestrian/driver behaviour so can’t be discounted. If you know its going to take 2 minutes till you get another chance, you may risk running a red light.

      1. Reply from AT: “The behaviour observed (queuing across an intersection) is a traffic offence and is best dealt with through enforcement. As this is the responsibility of the NZ Police, we will raise this with them to carry out enforcement in the area.”
        “…Auckland Transport is currently investigating options to improve capacity at the Alten Road and Stanley Street intersection to reduce queue lengths on Alten Road. This would reduce the likelihood of queues extending through the Symonds Street intersection and therefore mitigate the issue raised. Unfortunately we are unable to provide you with an expected timeframe for completion of this study or the implementation of any changes that may be made as a result of the study.”

  12. Thanks for this post! 🙂 I have been tempted to take a camera along myself to document the intersection blocking. What your photo doesn’t show is the buses coming up Symonds St which often are stuck for a whole light phase because some idiot is across their lane.

    1. Yes I’ve seen that too – very frustrating for all concerned when a whole line of buses is delayed because some douche bag driver could not get all the way across the intersection.

  13. I’ve got a novel solution to this problem. Build fire or ambulance stations at each of the problem intersections. People are less inclined to blocking an intersection when there’s emergency vehicles that need to come in or out. You’d hope so, anyway.

    I am prepared to concede that this solution may be more expensive than slapping down some paint on the road.

  14. Why are fines in NZ so low? My guess is that if you are caught blocking an intersection – an extremely unlikely event – the fine will be $100 tops. I imagine there would be a rapid change in behaviour if it were publicly increased to $1k.

    Likewise the US $750 fine for littering from cars in some states and the doubling of speeding fines through roadworks would be a good thing in my humble opinion.

  15. It was even worse than usual today. Some fuckwit even had to reverse across the intersection (back into Waterloo quadrant) because he was blocking both lanes. Buses were regularly having to wait an extra signal cycle to get through. And some cars turning into Alten from Symonds were waiting 2-3 cycles. We need a camera there now.

  16. I was amused to see in the Herald that the Police ticketed 10,000 cyclists last year for not wearing a helmet. This figure seems to out by a factor of 20 IMO, can it be correct? Anyway, given that stopping a cyclist and ticketing them would take say 5 mins, thats 800+hrs of Police time that could be spent at intersections like the above giving tickets to motorists running red lights. If they don’t its only a matter of time before some lone vigilante sits on a nearby grassy knoll popping off red light runners with a paint gun.

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