It seems that Auckland Transport have found a use for the large medians they so often like to include in road projects, another lane. They announced on Friday that they would be trialling what they call a Dynamic Lane Control system on Whangaparaoa Road.
Dynamic Lane Control, uses the existing road more efficiently for moving people and goods. It is a travel solution which makes use of Traffic Control Devices and an adaptive LED light system instead of traditional painted on-road markings.
LED lights show road markings that can change configuration quickly and safely, creating an extra lane during peak hour traffic. Traffic control gantries will clearly display which lanes motorist are to use.
Around the world different kinds of Dynamic Lane Controls have been used to get traffic moving at peak times. In Auckland similar arrangements operate on the Panmure Bridge and Auckland Harbour Bridge.
Dynamic lanes are relatively quick to build and cost effective compared to road widening. They allow for the better use of existing road space, accommodate peak period movements and reduce the need to widen roads or build new roads.
AT has been investigating the concept of dynamic lanes on road corridors since 2014. Following a driver behaviour study conducted with the University of Waikato, AT is now aiming to do a full scale trial in the second half of this year.
Whangaparaoa Road, between Hibiscus Coast Highway and Red Beach Road has been selected for the trial, as the road has two lanes with a wide central flush median equivalent to a third lane. This stretch of road has pronounced tidal traffic movements during weekday peak periods. The installation of dynamic lane controls along Whangaparaoa Road would also require relatively low use of surrounding land, which will minimise disruption to residents.
Andrew Allen, Auckland Transport General Manager of Transport Services says “We are currently finalising our investigation and design of an appropriate system to be tested on Whangaparaoa Road. Rest assured that the safety and convenience of the local community will be a key priority for this trial and affected members of the community will be consulted with.”
The results of the trial will determine the suitability and best approach to potentially introducing the controls along Whangaparaoa Road as a permanent feature as well as its suitability in other parts of Auckland.
Some impressions of how it would work are below.
It’s not the first I’ve heard of the idea after AT conducted some online consultation on designs for this some months ago.
On the surface it seems like a good idea. It obviously saves AT from having to expensively widen roads which is good as they don’t have unlimited funds but I can also see a number of potential downsides too, especially if used in other locations like AT say they want to consider. So here are a few thoughts I’ve had about the idea.
- This section of Whangaparaoa Rd is fairly unique in that it doesn’t have a lot of development either side of it and is unlikely to in the future unless there are significant zoning changes. The section in question is shown in red below
- If there are two lanes of busy traffic and no-where to wait safely, how will people get across the road – say to catch a bus. This could be a huge issue in other, more developed parts of Auckland. We’ve seen in the past the inclusion of medians as being justified on the bases that it also provides a refuge for pedestrians.
- If the idea is used elsewhere, especially in places close to centres, this could also impact on bike lanes or bus lanes.
- If AT are adding extra lanes through this method, perhaps they should be for the exclusive use of buses and high occupancy vehicles.
- In this case specifically, what happens when traffic gets to Hibiscus Coast Highway? I assume that HCH is already pretty full in the mornings and opening up another traffic lane might address the Whangaparaoa Rd volumes at the expense of everyone else who uses Hibiscus Coast Highway.
- AT have said in the past that widening this section of road is a key alternative to Penlink. Given how expensive Penlink is, delaying it would be a positive outcome.
Do you think this is an appropriate idea and where else do you think it could be trialled?