I’ve left this a bit late; today is the last day to get your feedback in on some quick fixes coming to P Rd. But it doesn’t take a moment to choose between the two near identical options and just a few moments more throw a word or two it in as well. Go here.
In general AT and the Local Board are to be commended for the proposed changes as they will enable the street design to better follow the development of a new depth to the Ponsonby Rd strip; the noticeable lift in intensity throughout this area from Ponsonby Central and other places where the retail and hospitality now reaches further away from P Rd itself: Trading activity here is now much more 3-D and there are simply many more people.
Option 2. Fullsized PDFs here
What is at stake and why does this matter? Ponsonby Rd is one of Auckland’s many urban centres that all deserve the same kind of improvements, the same re-tilting back towards providing better amenity for people and granting less space and free-reign for vehicles. So everything I say here about Ponsonby Rd is also true for other areas, adapted to local conditions. Additionally Ponsonby Rd can act as a leader in this change, because it has that kind of role in our city, it is an early adopter kind of place; the forces driving change are evident here earlier and more powerfully than other areas.
The importance of this cannot be overstated. Small nudges can lead to big improvements; if only we could get our institutions to lead instead of follow on these issues, or at the very least be more responsive. In practice traffic engineering’s inbuilt methodology of ‘predict and provide’ with regard to anything other than vehicle traffic actually becomes; ‘lag and reluctantly catch-up’ and only when forced to. This has become an unhelpful conservativism that is a tremendous brake on placemaking by those controlling our streetscapes. I get the tradition of technical conservatism inherent in other branches of engineering, for example in structural engineering, but this is an unhelpful carry-over into street design, a field that ought to have input from both spatial designers and engineers, but without the later having a veto over final outcomes. A subtle shift in the pecking order around street design could unlock a great deal of potential in our city.
For example take the intersection of Ponsonby with Richmond and Picton [below]. This used to have a Barnes Dance crossing, like there still is at the top of Franklin Rd. It now has pedestrian movements concurrent with vehicle traffic movements complete with every variety of arrowed turning manoeuvres across pedestrian flows. Simple observation shows this to be overly complicated and delaying for the ever increasing numbers of pedestrians. A small group of locals approached AT through the local board about this and got the following response:
Certainly it doesn’t have consistently high pedestrian levels; it does gets quiet here around 3am, but it sure as hell has very high numbers for an intersection outside of the City Centre, and is surely busier than the Franklin intersection. The shot below was taken on a sunny Saturday in December so shows it at a peak, but similar levels are not unusual through the day. And the schools remark is double curious, first it is an odd criteria for what is primarily a shopping and hospitality area, but also it fails to spot that this intersection pretty much exactly triangulates Richmond Rd School, Auckland Girl’s Grammar, and Freemans Bay School; students for all three certainly travel through here. And note there is absolutely no claim that what we are requesting might be unsafe in AT’s view, we can only assume [it isn’t stated] that they are, as usual, privileging driver time over pedestrian time, assuming there may be additional delay for some drivers with a Barnes Dance? They can’t deny that there would be greater clarity for all users with a Barnes Dance.
Happily the writer also added this:
but then this:
More positively AT are now catching up with reality on the issue of the side streets off P Rd. We have long campaigned for raised pedestrian tables on these, and at last they look like they’re coming. Fantastic. The footpath on this long spine is the key public realm here and is appallingly fractured by continuos carriageway that gives all priority to the one or two occupants in any vehicle over the often multitudes on the pavements. Might is right, is what the current street design says to us all. We look forward to seeing this solution at the tops of all these lovely narrow Victorian lanes eventually. A consistent and clear communication to us all when driving that this is a people place first and foremost.
The other great opportunity is to continue the existing street-tree amenity along the length of the area. These are of inestimable value; living proof of the old urban design truism:
‘Whatever the question; the answer is almost always a street tree’
In particular a row of trees is proposed for the over-wide Mackelvie St. This is good, the street needs compressing and enlivening now that it has many more attractors further down it. It has a new laneway through to Richmond and is soon to get another through to Pollen St as well. However it is my view that trees should not be in the middle on the street as proposed but rather on the eastern side where there are already hospitality businesses with outdoor chairs and tables. This means that people could sit under them on the widened pavement and they wouldn’t constantly be being pruned by passing trucks. They would be able to be enjoyed physically as well as visually by people. The second raised table probably ought to move up to connect the two laneways too.
There’s plenty of width here to narrow the carriageway in order to draw pedestrians down into this newly activated zone of retail, hospo, and laneways. But the trees should, in my view be where the parked cars are on the left in the above picture, not in the middle of the street, moving the parking out to where the silver car is now. Those power lines could surely be undergrounded too.
Lastly this is a set of minor changes and it has to be mentioned that the issue of cyclelanes has been kicked down the road for later. The addition of new parking on Ponsonby Rd is not helpful for cyclists as this a street with a growing reputation for dooring incidents. The number of riders is increasing noticeably. There is a lot of additional parking coming to new buildings in the area and we feel this plan fails to take a sufficiently holistic view of the whole area and this new supply in particular into consideration. An issue for future action.
Below is what I added to my preference for Option 2:
Ponsonby Road Improvements
For both options:
First general context; as a local, who uses the street everyday with all modes, I am astounded by the rapid and sustained increase in activity everywhere in the area currently. Especially people on foot, but also on the road; driving and cycling, and stepping on and off the buses. I don’t believe that the physical environment is at all appropriate any more. The auto-domination of the entire width of P Rd is not helpful. A whole lot of additional parking is coming with Vinegar Lane which will further increase attempts to drive through what is increasingly a people rich environment. While 40kph limit is good the street design doesn’t support it.
The most important public realm here is the long fabric of footpath, it’s kind of like the biggest organ of the human body; the skin, an overlooked but vital resource. This needs improvement in duration, connection, and quality. So fixing the constant breaks at the side streets with raised tables is a vital and urgent upgrade. This will at last support the pedestrians’ right to the street for at least the length of the slim width they are currently allowed. Its virtual extension across the carriageway is also desperately needed. This is why we support the return of the Barnes Dance to Richmond/Picton.
Street trees offer so much all users, the gaps in their appearance on P Rd and side streets need filling at every opportunity, especially anywhere people might linger [everywhere]. Shade and beauty are glorious utility.
Mackelvie St is currently over-wide, and needs compression to be more attractive to users, to draw people down to the attractions away from P Rd, to the new laneways and other businesses. The narrowing of the carriageway is good, however I really think the new trees would be far better down the southern side of the street where the carparking currently is, instead of the middle of the street, as there are already cafe table on the pavement here, and the increased width and new shade would be fantastic for users of the hospitality businesses here. This seating faces north and is blistering for the times of the year there are leaves on the trees. And this would help these businesses, this may not be what the owners say, retailers seem to often be extraordinarily fearful of change, and to misunderstand what us customers are drawn to.
Right hand turning into and out of MacKelvie needs looking at in more depth, and may need restricting.
The second raised table in MacKelvie should align with the new laneways, ie needs to be higher up the street.
Cycling gets new parking but no where to ride but for us over-confident types; this will need to be addressed soon; the numbers are rising fast. Until then how about at least some sharrows on one lane each way on P Rd?
I am concerned that the increase in on-street parking on P Rd is a step backwards and will create problems later when more long term improvements are proposed. Quick fixes are great; but keep an eye on the longer term.
In summary: The raised tables are great, any increase in street trees is fantastic. Until proper bike lanes are added I think sharrows in the outside lanes on P Rd would go a small way towards legitimising the ever increasing cycling there…..all good for a quick fix, and I look forward to further improvements.