Ponsonby Rd is on of the cities most iconic streets but unfortunately that it doesn’t make it ideal or not able to be improved. Despite the varied and interesting activity along the street, it struggles to balance the desire to be a better place with its role as a major traffic arterial and for a long time the latter has taken priority while all other modes have suffered as a result.
Yesterday the Waitemata Local Board released its Draft Ponsonby Rd Master plan, I had planned to attend the launch but unfortunately was not able to make it. Here is the foreword
We are delighted to present the draft Ponsonby Road Masterplan for public consultation and feedback. The plan represents the work of a diverse group of people passionate about one of Auckland’s most celebrated destination roads. It builds on previous work done and acknowledges the people who have travelled this route in the past, fought to save Ponsonby’s heritage, slowed the traffic and been part of creating the “hippest strip”. The plan recognises the regional significance of Ponsonby Road and our responsibility to take a development approach that results in wider benefits to all Aucklanders. We want to make sure the Masterplan meets the needs and ambitions of the community now and in the future.
Bringing together a working group to develop a draft masterplan has been a unique, collaborative process supported by the Waitematā Local Board. It has been done in partnership with Manū Whenua and local representatives and was only possible with the voluntary contribution of a significant amount of time from the working group. We are grateful to all the participants for their commitment and good will.
The vision we are putting forward in the draft is to develop Ponsonby Road as a vibrant, well connected place for people whilst protecting, enhancing and celebrating its unique heritage, reinforcing its role as a key entertainment and boutique shopping destination and improving the natural environment. It is clear that change is needed in order to achieve this vision and for Ponsonby Road to meet its full potential. Ponsonby Road
must be developed as a place for people rather than just a through-road for traffic. There are a number of exciting opportunities presented in the draft that we are looking forward to discussing with the wider community. In particular:
- the redevelopment potential of the Council-owned site at 254 Ponsonby Road
- pocket park and shared space concepts for Rose Road, Pollen Street and St Marys Bay Road outside the Leys Institute
- new road layout options that could provide for a continuous pedestrian experience and Auckland’s first “Copenhagen” style lanes for cyclists
- a public realm and civic space that protects and interprets all the many cultural and heritage layers that make up a unique destination.
We encourage you to get involved and provide your feedback on all the proposals and concepts in the plan. The draft is just the starting point of the discussion as we embark on an extensive consultation process before looking to reach a final Masterplan.
Thank you to everyone who has contributed to the Masterplan so far
Here is the area the master plan covers
Six key outcomes have been identified and from a transport perspective while I am really happy cycling and walking feature strongly I am quite disappointed by the lack of mention of buses.
For this post I’m going to ignore the land use – art, culture and heritage – natural environment and open space – opportunities at 254 sections and focus mainly on the transport part. Perhaps one of my fellow bloggers can look at those parts in a separate post.
Transport issues are different at different locations along the road so the master plan divides Ponsonby Rd into three distinct sections – Three Lamps, Three Lamps to Franklin Rd and Franklin Rd to Gt North Rd with the main aim being to improve the street for pedestrians and cyclists.
Three Lamps is a southbound one-way segment of Ponsonby Road. The speed limit is 40km/h. Northbound traffic is diverted around Redmond Street. This arrangement reduces legibility to users of this section of Ponsonby Road and causes complexities for bus operations within this area, with bus stops not closely aligned.
There are 36 on street carparks in Three Lamps, with angled parking on the eastern side of the street and parallel parking on the western side of the street. Three Lamps is one of the best serviced areas along Ponsonby Road in terms of parking as there are three Council carparks (Redmond Street, Pompalier Terrace and Margaret Street). There are currently no dedicated cycle lanes in Three Lamps.
There are three different concepts for how to improve this section.
A – Add a one way cycle lane to the western side of the street but leaving parking and everything else the same.
B – Two way this section of the street with no changes to parking and no cycle facilities being added.
C – Two way the street and adding a cycle lane each side by turning the angle parking on the eastern side into parallel parking. Only loses 9 car parks
Of the three I think that option C is by far the best although it is odd that the route down Pompellier Tce and Redmond St is retained as is.
Three Lamps to Franklin Rd
The Ponsonby Road corridor from Three Lamps to Franklin Road currently has two northbound and two southbound traffic lanes. There is a flush median and on-street carparking on each side of the corridor. As the southbound traffic utilising this segment of the road is not as heavy as on other parts of the corridor, there is an opportunity to continue the single lane from Three Lamps further to Franklin Road before where it becomes two lanes.
The following concepts are examples that illustrate different ways that space within the Three Lamps to Franklin Road segment of the Ponsonby Road corridor can be allocated to accommodate and prioritise different modes of traffic.
The idea of continuing a single lane southbound from Three Lamps to Franklin Rd is a good one but I can see some locals making a lot of noise about it so it will have to be done carefully. There are two concepts for this section and both revolved around removing one southbound lane and raising the median strip but with some level sections to make it easier for people pushing prams or in wheelchairs.
A – Use the additional space created by the removal of the traffic lane to widen the median and add a northbound only cycle lane. No changes to on street parking.
B – Retain the current median width and add a cycle lane both northbound and southbound.
I prefer option B but in both cases I find it disappointing that there isn’t even a discussion about removing carparking to provide space for cycling
Franklin Rd to Gt North Rd
This is obviously the longest section of all and also the part that has the highest traffic volumes.
The Ponsonby Road corridor from Franklin Road to Great North Road currently has two northbound and two southbound traffic lanes. There is a flush median and on street carparking on each side of the corridor. As this section of the Ponsonby Road corridor typically carries traffic volumes of around 28,000 vehicles per day, four lanes of traffic are required to cater for vehicle movements between Franklin Road and Great North Road.
There are three concepts for this section too. Due to the traffic volumes all provide for at least four traffic lanes during the peak which is something that will obviously limit the amount of space available for other improvements like those mentioned in the section above.
A – Remove parking from the eastern (southbound) side of the road enabling a slightly wider median strip which would be raised but with level sections as described above and the addition a cycle lane southbound. There would be no cycle lane on the other side of the road.
B – Remove parking from the eastern (southbound) to add a cycle lane on each side of the road however the median would need to be reduced to only 1.1m
C – Similar to option B except retain parking on the eastern side by having one lane as a clearway during peak hours but allowing parking off peak.
To be honest I can’t see how concept C would even work, a cycle lane outside of parking which then moves to the side of the road during peak time as the parking is removed. Only the Copenhagen lane arrangement seems feasible for this concept. But overall each of these concepts seem like a significantly poor outcome for one group of uses (except drivers). It is choosing between making things better for pedestrians at the expense of cyclists or making things better for cyclists at the expense of Pedestrians. Why is it not possible to do a variation of the Copenhagen lane proposal on concept C and have the second northbound lane also a clearway/off peak parking lane and thus allowing for a wider median. During peak times that would still allow for two lanes each way with off peak parking still being retained.
Along with Ponsonby Rd itself, the master plan also proposes upgrades to three other streets in the area. The first is to the start of St Marys Bay Rd where the intention is to slow traffic and make it easier for pedestrians by turning the first part of the street into a shared space. As far as I’m aware this would be the first time we would have a shared space as just one part of a street so it will be interesting to see exactly how it would work.
Another proposal is Pollen St which is primarily used for parking. There are two concepts, one a shared space which retains quite a few car parks while the second option widens the footpath on the northern end but otherwise retains angle parking. My personal feeling is that a shared space with angle parking seems absurd and could serve to undermine other shared spaces around the city where it is already hard enough to stop people thinking they are able to park in them.
The last one Rose Rd between Pollen St and Williamson Rd which again appears to be proposed as a shared space (although the text doesn’t actually say that is what is proposed.
Associated with all of these proposals are a few other good ideas. These include extending the footpaths across the side streets using raised tables to help improve pedestrian priority, building out bus stops to the edge of the lane so that buses don’t have to pull out of the lane and introducing Barnes dance to the signalised intersections.
All up there appears to be a lot of really good ideas in the plan however in some ways it perhaps doesn’t go far enough. It is based on the thinking that just because a lot of people might drive currently that it will always continue and so little can be done to change that. The same thinking goes towards buses by suggesting that demand isn’t strong enough for bus priority but it isn’t likely to be until buses have priority that enough people use them to require the priority in the first place.
Consultation runs until the 4th September so if you are in the area make sure you get your thoughts in.