Vincent and Pitt, Thursday 5:49 pm. Every corner occupied with people wanting to cross, including eight on this silly little delight of a ‘pedestrian refuge’, or nine if you include me, as I stepped back into the vehicle priority slip lane to take the shot, including at least one genuine princess. There appears to be one vehicle using the intersection and another a long long way in the distance up Pitt street.


Auckland Transport have a lot of work to do to fix the dated modal priority that dominates City Centre streets as it is no longer fit for purpose. This design dates from a time when very few lived in the city, fewer worked there and those that did didn’t stay on to recreate in the city either. It is also from before the time that the economic and social value of well designed walkable streets were so well understood. People not in cars need more space and time afforded to them from the people that control this critical part of our public domain. The value of this in supporting the modern urban services economy and the social well being of everyone is overwhelming.

After all transport infrastructure is simply a means to economic and social ends; not an end in it self.

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  1. And I could show you the shambles that is Queen St, complete opposite where cars and delivery vehicles are stacked up and two pedestrian crossings occur during each full light sequence. I can also show you the Greenlane Gt Sth Rd crossings where 1 person crossing holds up many cars, trucks and busses and traffic backs up from the Gt Sth Rd to the Domain. Selective photography doesnt help. What we can take from your message though is that the Council needs to do more to make sure all forms of transport are more efficient by sequencing traffic lights to best flow ALL modes of transport. Sadly last week’s ColdPlay event showed the Council to be incredibly inadequate at managing anything remotely related to traffic management. Appalling for all concerned.

    1. You clearly haven’t been on Queen Street for a long time. Even if we ignore the “level of service” for pedestrians, the double-phasing of the Barnes dance is still necessary due to the sheer volume of pedestrians. There’s many, many times as much people passing by on foot than driving.

      1. The double phasing of the pedestrian scramble is gone already.

        And luuulz to Ricardo’s view of priority on Queen St, the literally hundreds of people on foot wanting to cross at each an every cycle are somehow an irrelevant inconvenience to dozens, at best, of vehicle users.

        1. RE: Queen St – Why the heck do people still try to drive down Queen st? What possible benefit could it have for them? On a Friday evening, you see Elliot St turn into a car park as people try to avoid Queen (always amusing). With where (most of) the parking buildings are located, driving along Queen makes no sense. In the meantime, pedestrians still have to wait a fairly long time to cross the major intersections…

          “luuulz to Ricardo’s view” – I concur.

          Greenlane Gt Sth – Errr, really? I have on occasion had the need to make the southbound trip along that road in the PM rush – Exaggeration at best, telling porkies at worst. Backed up to Market road isn’t uncommon (motorway off ramp adding to the traffic), by Newmarket intersection (or the extra KM to the domain) is very rare…

    2. AT have quietly dropped the pedestrian double phasing on Queen without, I understand, involving Council in the decision. It was Council that introduced it. So as ever R, you are out of date and wrong.

      Where you are right, however, is that private vehicles are holding up essential Transit, delivery, trade, and emergency vehicles in Queen St. Compare to Bourke St in Melbourne, where because it is completely free of the spatially inefficient private vehicle, delivery etc have much better access, and Transit vehicles have total priority.

      Much, much, more efficient, and way, way, more attractive:

      1. I was wondering about Queen Street/Wellesley Street. It was so good while it lasted. There are so many people and so little vehicles in comparison. AT’s excuse is probably that the buses were being held up too much… It’s about time to start removing the cars from Queen Street – that’s the real reason the buses are being held up, not pedestrians! And once that happens, then maybe single-phasing peds will be OK !

        1. Yes the cars should obviously go. First step could be to remove right hand turns and reinstate double phased crossing, and full time unbroken bus lanes on whole length [change Inner Link route to Mayoral Drive].

          Throughput would actually improve, especially for East-West journeys which will remain.

    3. “ColdPlay… Appalling for all concerned.”

      Yep, that’s about how I feel about Coldplay too. Each to their own though, eh?

  2. Try Symonds Street / Wellesley Street intersection. During the day – fantastic. No longer than 30 second wait and sometimes even less. Try crossing the same intersection in “peak” where cars are back-to-back, and then you have to watch this carpark situation for 3 minutes. Yes 180 seconds of watching cars stuck in traffic and a few buses going through. AT have been contacted and their response was that this 180 second cycle is so that the buses don’t get slowed down as this is a very important corridor. Problem is that adding 3 minutes to my walk (or run) means that I’ll miss my bus. Anyway, I don’t think it’s acceptable for 3 minute cycles in such a busy pedestrian area (most people, especially the ones crossing Wellesley Street, just ignore the red light anyway)…

    1. The crazy thing is that everything AT are charged with doing is way harder and way more expensive when they try to do it with private vehicle priority everywhere. It just creates a rod for their own back. It certainly makes buses much harder and more costly and to run.

      Motorways exist, they have total vehicle priority, as they should. City streets are simply the wrong place for this out of date and wrong headed approach.

      Perhaps what is most puzzling is that AT have articulated no coherent high altitude purpose behind this policy [or rather anti-policy], as far as I can find out it is simply a combination of self-appointed Status Quo defending, and an over sensitivity to the complaints of a few well connected determined drivers. Perhaps there’s also something of a power struggle with Council over control of the streets buried in there too…? If so I think they will lose that one.

      1. >they have total vehicle priority, as they should

        Freight and HOV (High Occupancy Vehicles) – yes, I agree, but SOV (Single Occupancy Vehicles) should get to the bottom of the pit. While there are incentives for HOV to get into the city (T2/T3 in some parts of Auckland), there isn’t any incentive for them to get out of the city. The Grafton Gully outbound SH16-SH1 connection is desperately needing some HOV priority, and possibly even Fanshawe Street. I’m not advocating for converting busy bus lanes into T2/T3, as they are definitely needed as “bus lanes”.

        However, I understand that Great North Road Avondale to Waterview is to have bus lanes. Why not T3? or even T2 to start with? That would really send the message that “single occupancy cars are not welcome”.

        And there’s a whole joke with the broken bus priority… It takes 15 minutes on a good day, 20 on average and 30 minutes on a bad day, for a North-Shore-bound bus to actually get onto the motorway – that’s 1.7km – and then there’s no priority for buses on the motorway before the bridge either – as NZTA built the bus lane on the wrong side of the road. Same route can be traversed by car in 5 minutes off-peak.


          1. I agree that T2 is not “high” occupancy. I say start with T2, when we are ready move to T3, then to T4 even, and after that… bus only lanes. Onewa Rd is already on T3 and I think that’s appropriate. And I think that Great North Rd from New Lynn should have a T2 lane (not bus lanes) all the way to Waterview (the motorway on-ramp already has T2) – at this point of time.

      2. “The crazy thing is that everything AT are charged with doing is way harder and way more expensive when they try to do it with private vehicle priority everywhere. It just creates a rod for their own back.”

        Totally agree. Good example of this is the recent Bullock Track/Great North intersection consultation. One could make the whole safer at very little expense by either closing Bullock or at least making it left turn exit only at bottom. but no, a highly expensive intersection redesign is being pursued just to preserve existing options, apparently because modelling says the intersection at the top of chinaman’s hill is “at capacity”, which is rubbish (and who cares anyway – the strategic priority is to improve PT, cycling and walking, so why car priority should be a justification for just about anything now is beyond me). Very dispiriting, especially when it is such a waste of public money.

        1. Good example. AT always seems to choosing super sizing any rat run rather than calming and re-emphasising main routes. This is so counter-productive. That Bullock Track intersection is terrible.

  3. I just can’t understand AT’s reluctance to improve bus lanes. Almost every survey of Aucklanders says that they want better public transport. Surely part of that improvement could be more and longer bus lanes to improve speed and reliability of service?. Incremental change might have a significant effect on bus users, but a lesser effect on private motorists as they have many options. ( e.g. there is about 40m of missing bus lane on Esmonde Road that can cost two missed light phases on occasions).
    The CRL could have been a huge excuse to revolutionalise inner city public transport during the build. Wellesley St is something of a shambles that would seem to benefit with less private cars.
    My big “what if?” in life is if the likes of Rob Fyfe had been secured to run AT; bringing commercial savvy, marketing flair and engineering skills as a bonus. At the moment we seem to have a risk averse team that are trying to tinker with a largely broken road system.

    1. Well doesn’t everyone get so upset about traffic congestion? Isn’t it the number one issue? And what is it? Too many people all driving at once. Too much traffic, too many drivers.

      Few viable alternatives. Well what we feed grows, and all we’ve been feeding is the traffic monster…. is that all fine?

      1. Yes I am always amazed that people are often positive about the experience of driving in Auckland and tell me it is easy. Then in the next breath will give a long list of “vital” roading widening that “needs” to be built, usually for a cost equivalent to the PT/cycling budget for 10 years.

        Moving everyone around by car is REALLY expensive and registration and fuel tax don’t pay for any significant portion in Auckland. So roads are subsidised by rates and general taxation. We need to find cheaper ways to move people around the city.

    2. Feeding the monster. So true. It’s like climate change. We just accept it without doing much about it. We don’t know any better and we are so short sighted.

  4. If we look at the intersection in your photo as a clock and make your vantage point 6 o’clock then we see 8 people (9 incl. you) at 6 o’clock, 2 people at 9 o’clock, 1 person at 12 o’clock, and 2 people at 3 o’clock. So that’s 14 people waiting to cross, so… what?
    What is your point, other than “People not in cars need more space and time afforded to them”? Were you annoyed that you had to wait so long at the lights when there were almost no cars? If so I can share your frustration – it happens all the time to me too, when I’m in the car wondering why I’m waiting when there are no other cars coming; or cursing the one pedestrian who has stopped the lights so they can cross.
    You mock the pedestrian refuge but the reality is that it makes no difference to the wait on each corner for pedestrians, the issue is still the phasing of the lights. I’m not sure if you want more crossings or a barnes dance implemented at this intersection (or were just using this to illustrate a wider point) but either way, in a parallel universe there’s a car driver complaining how busy the road was with cars and how they all had to stop so a single pedestrian could cross the intersection.

    1. You understand the difference between a single pedestrian turning up, pressing the beg button and waiting for a traffic light that suits cars in an area where cars are the priority and 14 pedestrians turning up pushing a beg button and waiting for the traffic light that suits cars in the CBD right?

      The only way that your pedestrian would be analogous would be if this entire intersection had a Barnes Dance as a default phase and only allowed cars through for the minimum amount of time it took for them to cross.

      1. Patrick has said “There appears to be one vehicle using the intersection and another a long long way in the distance up Pitt street.” The implication (to me) is that because there are more pedestrians than cars then pedestrians should get priority at the lights. That’s actually a worthwhile discussion, especially since we have the technology (surely?) to tell if there are cars on the road or not. But then presumably the reverse is also true – in ‘peak hour’ pedestrians might have to wait longer to cross as the system gives preference to all those cars?
        It’s also worth noting that 64% of those pedestrians pictured are waiting on one corner, so possibly it’s not indicative of the usual spread of pedestrian demand. Besides, those 9 people have been waiting no longer than the first person to arrive – it makes no difference if there is 1 or 9 people there on the silly little ‘pedestrian refuge’, the ‘beg button’ cracks into action at the first push. A pedestrian should no more expect to ‘cross now’ as a car would when they pull up at a red light.

        1. “in ‘peak hour’ pedestrians might have to wait longer to cross as the system gives preference to all those cars?”

          You are aware that we already do this right? And that in the CBD most intersections still have far more peds than cars even in rush hour?

          “It’s also worth noting that 64% of those pedestrians pictured are waiting on one corner, so possibly it’s not indicative of the usual spread of pedestrian demand”

          Spend an hour in the CBD just watching, please.

          “the ‘beg button’ cracks into action at the first push”

          This is the difference between the treatment of cars and peds in this picture. Imagine that the default phase was a pedestrian Barnes Dance instead of the phasing shown in this image and cars only got 4 seconds of green time per phase; that is the reverse of this situation.

        2. You’re almost definitely conflating the amount of people being held up, vs how many square metres they occupy. 30 pedestrians waiting on a corner of that crossing would not look like a lot of people, but 30 people in cars will appear as congestion.

          I’m not so sure about this crossing — on one hand for pedestrians it’s cut off from most surrounding areas by the spaghetti junction, but on the other hand there’s a lot of apartments in this area and this is a main walking route towards K’road. Pedestrians may well be the majority here most times of the day.

          And note that cars going straight actually get a “cross now“ for a significant portion of each cycle. Pedestrians don’t have that luxury, they get red light by default and often have to wait almost an entire cycle after pressing that button. The next time you’re waiting at a right turn which only gives a few seconds green per cycle, remember, that’s situation for pedestrians at every single signalised intersection between here and the waterfront.

    2. Nick the issue is that AT spend a great deal of time and money counting and modelling vehicle traffic flows and then spend even more time and money, and space, trying to accommodate them at the peak of their peak, with as little delay as possible. Big wide roads, slip lanes, no or little cycling or Transit priority, scary little ‘pedestrian refuges’ (really traffic light islands), few street trees (isn’t Vincent St great?), and consequently no retail or other amenity.

      This is classic second half 20th Century traffic engineering methodology. And within it are a whole lot of assumptions about what is important and what isn’t. And one of the main things it assumes is that people walking either aren’t there or are unimportant and must just fit around people driving. It also assumes that the inner city economy is sensitive to ‘driver delay’ and ‘private vehicle accessibility’ rather than to walkability and place quality, safety, and comfort, Transit effectiveness, cycle amenity etc, etc. That is not current thinking, it is not contemporary street design.

      The old approach is a trickle-down from highway design and management methodology, so they were almost certainly never the right approach to take to city street design, and they sure as hell are now completely out of date in the economy and society of the 21st Century. The city is back on the strength of the urban services economy and on people living in the city: People walking! This kind of design is not fit for purpose, is holding the city back.

      The shot above is simply an illustration of the changing nature of our streets. AT must change to serve this new urban world, whether that’s what they learnt at engineering school in the 1970s, or even more recently, or not.

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