Following on from my post the other day about The Spinoff’s interview with the City Rail Link team and some of their concerning comments, I thought I’d take a look at a few issues from a slightly different angle. In particular I thought I’d look at the issue of the Mercury Lane entrance and the access from there to Karangahape Rd, where most people will be going.

As a reminder, this is the comment the CRL project made in relation to it

As for Mercury Lane, passengers will have quite a steep walk up the street to K Road. I asked why there won’t be escalators rising to Karangahape Rd itself.

“That’s not a difficult walk,” he said. “It’s good for you.”

But just how steep is the walk up to K Rd? Helpfully the Council’s GIS viewer includes a contour map and I’ve included the location of the station entrance with the red circle.

The contours show that the station entrance is at about 56m above sea level while Karangahape Rd on the intersection with Mercury Lane is at about 65m. As you can also see the distance is about 93m. So, we have a grade of about 1:10. In the previous post, I mentioned looking at Auckland Transport’s Code of Practice for rail and how talks about how access to stations needs to be designed to meet the needs of requirements. It also talks about stations need to comply with the NZS 4121:2001 Design for Access and Mobility – Buildings and Associated Facilities. So what do the building the standards say?

As I said the other day, I think the CRL team need to treat access from the station to K Rd as part of the station. That’s because K Rd will remain the most common destination for users. The standards document seems to back this up in Section 4 where it notes that people with disabilities shall be able to approach the accessible main entrance to building or facilities by footpath on an accessible route.

Further, in Section 6, which talks about Footpaths, Ramps and Landings, it notes that grades steeper than 1 in 33 but not exceeding 1 in 20 need a 1200mm level rest areas every 18m. Where the gradient is more than 1:20, it needs to be treated as a ramp. Ramps should ideally have a gradient of less than 1 in 14 but the absolute maximum is 1 in 12 with a maximum between flat landing sections of 9m. Given Mercury Lane has a gradient of 1 in 10, this doesn’t qualify as an accessible route.

By comparison, as you can see from the map above, the route from Beresford Square is almost flat with only about a 1m rise over the 60m from there to the K Rd intersection. That would be ideal and given they’re building most of what’s needed for the Beresford Square entrance anyway, it’s absurd they’re not doing it at the same time,

I also wonder if enough space is being made available on Mercury Lane for all the people exiting the station. The render doesn’t seem to show a massive improvement over what exists now, other than some nicer paving. I wonder how much this is related to the same modelling that they claim justifies not building the Beresford Square entrance. Their model says that by 2041, in the busiest peak only around 6,600 people will exit the station, with about 1,300 getting on. That’s probably about what Britomart does today in a normal peak hour (does around 10k over the two-hour peak).

While on the subject of the CRL again, I also thought I’d raise another issue from The Spinoff’s interview, that of station design and art.

I suggested the “concept drawings” have a very samey feel. They’re not conceived as unique places like Britomart was, but look like they come from the same design kitset. Meale said the stations will be “cousins rather than twins”.

He also said the contractor will be responsible for designing the “front of house”.

So the concepts can change? “Yes, but there are guidelines.”

Is there a budget for art?.

He said, “Are you offering?”

I asked if that meant there was no budget for art. He said the council has a “project envelope” for art associated with the CRL. Not a lot, then. “But,” he said, “it’s not so much about putting a sculpture here or there. We’re building art into the architecture.”

I don’t claim to be an expert but I know others are and there’s clearly a concern that what’s being planned is basically engineered boxes with some patterns thrown on the wall, instead of truly making the architecture a work of art in itself. Of note, there’s recently been a lot coming up online about Melbourne Metro Tunnel which is under construction and includes five new stations. Firstly, it’s worth taking a look at this neat interactive map of the project. CRL need to do something similar. What I wanted to particularly highlight though, was the designs for the CBD North and CBD south stations.

Melbourne CBD South station concourse concept
Melbourne CBD South station platform concept

By comparison, here’s the concepts for the planned Aotea and K Rd station platforms

Let’s hope the bidders come up with some more impressive designs.

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58 comments

  1. Art on in the public environment is so often overlooked, it doesn’t have to be expensive installation art or built into the infrastructure. The art work on the shed at stations like Newmarket and Penrose are good examples.

    As for communities making a really conscious effort, San Francisco’s Art on the BART is a great example.
    https://www.bart.gov/content/art-transit-program

    And a personal favourite, the waiting passengers at Brixton Station in London
    http://www.urban75.org/blog/waiting-passenger-sculptures-brixton-railway-station/

    1. I love these and it reminds me of the Paris Metro. Each station has different artwork which, as a tourist, helped me remember which station was mine on more than one occasion.

      I think the tukutuku panels in the the Aotea concept above look great. Not so sure about the K Road one though – maybe get Paul Walsh to come in and decorate it with some street art similar to the St Kevin’s Arcade steps…

      I quite like how New Lynn Station has the local topographical clay tiles

      https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/05/New_Lynn_Rail_Trench_Construction_Site_III.jpg/308px-New_Lynn_Rail_Trench_Construction_Site_III.jpg

      And here’s some photos of a subway station entrance in Frankfurt 😀

      http://i.imgur.com/0ekV139.jpg http://i.imgur.com/ZL7IybO.jpg http://i.imgur.com/x0yMfOR.jpg

      1. I don’t think those are clay tiles on the walls of New Lynn trench station.
        They look like mass produced plastic or plasticky cement and don’t look much better than a concrete wall. Pity there couldn’t have been some minimal effort to reflect the New Lynn character with imaging such as that used at Grafton, although God forbid any real artistic effort.

        1. The walls at New Lynn started off concrete grey and then several years of diesel engines slowly turned them brown. The effect is not unattractive and has presumably reached its final state with the arrival of the electric units but it doesn’t begin to compare with what could have been done with a bit more thought towards art and aesthetics at the time.

    2. BART’s de-minis art program should not be used as a template for any transit system. The only (San Francisco) station with a unique feel is Civic Center, where it uses marble on the station platform walls and floor as an homage to its surrounds. My take-away is to make each station vary architecturally, instead of focusing on art installations. Eg: different materials, patterns & colors for the columns, ceilings, and floors. This really can’t cost that much, but helps to make the stations immediately identifiable and relate to their environ.

  2. Matt, you are right to keep agitating on this issue of Mercury Lane as an inadequate single entrance to K-Rd Station. The arguments you put for the dual entrance stack up irrefutably to the lay-person (and to prospective users). It is very hard to see any credible argument against, and if one is being put then it tends to suggest a petty power-play at work, nothing more. But there is no place for games on a project like this. As has been officially acknowledged, it is vital to get this right from the start. So why this issue at all?

    Given the influence that GA blog seems to wield, one hopes notice will be taken that the project is in danger of veering from good practice here, and that someone with clout and concern will override this nonsense.

    Phil Goff maybe?

    1. There’s another, serious issue with the way that the Mercury Lane station has been designed – without Beresford Square entrance, there are going to be massive amounts of people crossing Karangahape Road, and causing massive build ups of people on all the corners – the pavements are not designed for that now. Far better to let people cross the road below road level and come gracefully up to the ground at Beresford. It’s the only sensible response – and AT will only realise this when it is all too late.

      Build it in now!

    2. Umm I think cost is the main argument against it!
      They would be quite right to do cost benefit analysis on every aspect of the project, and I guess in this case it didn’t stack up.

      1. The thing about cost-benefit analyses (CBA) is that they are very sensitive to timeframes. Something that doesn’t meet a CBA over 40 years suddenly will when looked at over 50 years.

        I understood the CBA for this has been done over 50 years. Yet they all talk of it being a 100 year asset. So let’s do the CBA over 60 or 70 years, and then get the infrastructure right.

        1. And the cost of not doing it is much less! I wouldn’t assume they’d ever come back to start digging up K Road again to add it in. Under what scenario would that happen, who is going to front with $50m or whatever and start another huge disruption after the fact? Its either now or never, retrofit isn’t a viable outcome.

      2. Jimbo – you’re assuming that having good design is automatically more expensive than bad design. Not so.

        I suspect that it was just engineering driven right from the start, and thus we’re stuck with a dumb design for eternity.

  3. Art will always be applied / removed to projects if it is treated only as a last-minute, only-if-we-have-enough-budget-left-over-in-the-kitty type thing i.e. if the project is designed as an engineering-led project. Yes, we have greater seismic constrictions than they do in Melbourne, but I believe they may have had a more enlightened design ethos. But few projects do.

    When Roland Paoletti was working on the MTR in Hong Kong, the project was led by Tunnelling Engineers, and the architects got to choose the colour of the tiles. When he was asked to go and lead the team on designing the Jubilee Line, he insisted on one thing: that the Architects be picked first and given 3 months to work on the scheme, before the Engineers were bought in. They were also tasked with getting daylight down to the platforms at all the new stations.

    The answer, I think, is self evident – amazing, exciting, world-class-leading stations. Compared with the previous iterations of the Underground, which were lead by tunnelling engineers right from the word go, the Jubilee Line was a breath of fresh air.

    If that approach had been taken here on the CRL, we would have more interesting, more enjoyable stations.

  4. The artwork being built into the Christchurch Anchor Projects are a great example of how to build infrastructure that is both practical & beautiful. The work of Matatpopore Charitable Trust has been integral in these projects and would be a great example to follow in the CRL process

  5. Good on you, Matt. Keep the pressure on. Have you asked for the safety audits that will have been done at concept and at each stage of design? I imagine there’ll be a nice little interplay on the very issues you raise between the client, the designers and the auditors, and that would be great to read. The client’s reasons for rejecting the requirements of the NZS and ATCOP would be interesting, for example.

    1. 4.5m at K Rd, which is considerably wider than a train. So unless there is more than a train without seats worth of people waiting then there won’t be any issue.

      1. K Rd is ok as the platforms are separated. Aotea on the other hand will be a nightmare due to how busy it will be trying to walk the length of the platform will be a mission and a half.
        Britomart, Aotea, K Rd, Eden should all have platform safety barriers. All it takes is one person to slip or jump or be pushed and be hit by a train and it will shut down the entire CRL in both directions for hours on end.

        1. Aotea I believe is 9m wide, so 4.5m either side. Aotea is expected to make up 50 – 60 % of CRL use I think and has four running patterns in the 2045 plan, although many stations are covered by more multiple running patterns, so there won’t be many waiting for the 3rd and 4th trains due.

          I doubt there will be more than 100 % of a full train on each side of the platform at any time even during the evening peak. Given the platform is 1.75m wider than a train and longer too I can’t see this being a major issue. If there are delays it is always possible to restrict entry to the station as they do on the tube to stop overcrowding.

          1. It’s not so much about how much theoretical physical space people take up, it’s the dynamics of people moving around and needing to spread out over the length of the platform. There will also be “bunching” effects around the bottom of escalators at busy times. The safety issue is the potential for people to get “squeezed” in an unsafe fashion towards the tracks. Hence the argument for platform doors as well. Singapore also has painted arrows telling you not to stand directly in front of the doors until passengers have alighted too – this crimps remaining platform space, while also enhancing the efficiency of disembarking/embarking.

            Edit: 4.5m each side seems pretty reasonable. It’s obviously the image that’s distorted.

      2. Jezza, its not crush load stacking capacity that is the issue for the platform, its when you have perhaps a couple hundred people getting off a train as a couple hundred others are trying to get on, concievably while the crowd from the previous one are still making their way about.

        Also bear in mind that you’ll have at least two service patterns per direction on a frequent service network. So you could have a whole train load of people waiting to get on a western line while the southern line is still coming in, and the same with the eastern and onehunga the other side. Two key points there:

        1) Not everyone will be able to get the next train, often they’ll be waiting for the one after the next and they will wait on the platform itself for turn up and go.

        2) Both sides of the platform will be peak direction in both peaks.

        That makes for some very busy platform spaces. Imagine if all the train arrivals and departures, all the waiting, boarding, alighting etc at britomart happened on only platform 1/2, that the sort of thing we are talking about.

      3. This is not a valid comparison. You need more space per person on a platform that on a train –
        – because people naturally want to keep away from the platform edge;
        – because people need more space for circulation;
        – because people won’t be spread evenly.

        Having adequate space to get out onto when a train stops is vital to minimising dwell time. A crush around the foot of an escalator, for example, can blow out dwell time and seriously reduce the total capacity of the line (increased dwell increases the headway and so reduces trains-per-hour capacity).

        Go to Youtube and look up ‘Melbourne parliament station’. These 4-metre wide platforms are seriously inadequate at peak times. For comparison, look up “Paris RER A Auber’ or Nation for examples where wise planners made sure they provided generous platform width.

        1. Playing devil’s advocate – Platform width isn’t the sole consideration to effectiveness.

          If your concern is getting too close to the platform, platform screen doors solve the issue. In Hong Kong, many platforms are kinda narrow – ex: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:HK_%E9%B0%82%E9%AD%9A%E6%B6%8C%E7%AB%99_Quarry_Bay_MTR_Station_platform_interior_sign_Tseung_Kwan_O_Line_Jan_2017_IX1.jpg

          Yet as narrow as some platforms are (including busy ones, like Central), trains normally run to schedule. Yes, some people try to hold the doors, but that isn’t very common in my experience.

          As for the escalator crush, that’s an egress issue, not a boarding issue. Especially as the only times there will be a lot of people corresponds to when there’s a frequent service running.

          1. Egress issue: that’s exactly what I mean. At worst you can have a slow-moving queue of people that stretches back from the foot of an escalator right into the carriage. There’s no spare space to dump the alighting riders onto the platform before they join the queue, because that space is crowded with people waiting to board.

    2. Another benefit of platform screen doors, is the lower operating costs of the HVAC system. Also increases fire safety a small amount (no chimney effect).

  6. Most of Auckland city is pretty steep. I guess at some stage you have to balance accessibility and cost. I seem to remember $50 million or so for the extra entrance – surely that could be better spent elsewhere…

    1. I don’t want to sound flippant, but $50M isn’t a lot of money when you look at the total cost, or even how much is spent on other council and central government expenses. http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/92963646 – “…Tourism New Zealand’s annual budget is $117m, plus the the Government is spending $53m on the New Zealand pavilion to promote trade at the World Expo 2020 in Dubai.”

    1. We had to install PED (Platform Edge Doors) on the Jubilee Line at a very late stage in the design – took a fair bit of redesign to integrate it into the platforms. Arguably a bit pointless to install PED on 12 new stations when there were already about 250 existing stations without PED, but I guess new health and safety rules meant that it was inevitable. Took a lot of faffing around to get the door systems on the train to work seamlessly with the door systems on the platform – and seemed to mean that the trains were slower, as they had to stop exactly, or within about 10cm, of where they were meant to be. Not universally popular with users! But: great that no one can accidentally fall or deliberately jump into the path of the train, on those 12 stations at least.

      In Auckland though, there’s only 37 existing stations, and arguably it would be a simpler project to do, for the couple of new stations. But still relatively pointless in the whole scheme of things…

      It actually complicates things a little more with respect to escape from a train on fire – and I think that the renderings of K Road and Aotea stations have it here – you need a ‘smoke hood’ to encapsulate the smoke coming off a train, if it should catch fire at a station. That’s the black stripe behind the blue name tag line. The smoke hood then discharges into some bloody great fans which click on when the train trips the system, and they discharge to the atmosphere. I’m not sure where the designers are planning for that to go – up through the new apartment building above the Mercury Lane entry? Or over at the other end, in the middle of Beresford Square?

  7. K Road is a serious destination, perhaps not Britomart serious, but it will be an extremely popular station. Karangahape Road is the most interesting street in the country, full of excellent eateries and nightlife, not to mention it’s proximity to Ponsonby Road, adding yet more eateries and nightlife to the station’s reach. In addition have the planners noticed how many sizeable apartment blocks have been built off K Road over the past five years? The residential population is potentially large. Having a single access to the station is shortsighted and unhelpful. Beresford Square would sweep up all of the new apartment buildings and upper Greys Ave, Vincent St and Pitt St. Mercury Lane encompasses a bike path and a less and less seedy Cross Street, although for lunching at Mercury Plaza will be perfect, but a much less useful entrance than Beresford Sqaure could be. Apart from the fact that Beresford Square already has a monument to trains. How many signs do these planners need? Also, if I am correctly interpreting the sketch, it seems quite a long passage to escape to Mercury Lane, followed by the climb. I know we are a fat, lazy population, but I don’t think more dumb station planning (i.e. Parnell) is the solution. If they are to build both entrances eventually, why not both, or at least the more useful of the two first?

        1. At times I forget that Wellington is in the same country. And yes Cuba Mall, with it’s pedestrianised advantage is a jazzy place for sure. Forgive my JAFAd unconscious bias.

      1. Nah… Get off the grass. The most interesting street in NZ is Main St in Napier! 😉

        Now that’s a bloody steep street to walk. At the top of it, it’s steeper than Baldwin St Dunedin.

        1. Been down Main St in Napier many times – never want to walk up there though! Madness!

          But…. not so interesting, as a street, except if you consider that it used to go down to the sea – and now it looks out to nothing but dry land. It is also the site of Napier’s first shop – owned by Alexander Alexander, who married one of the local Maori princesses and then farmed several tens of thousand of sheep over in Poraiti, across the water. Yes indeed, that makes it fascinating!

  8. Well those designs are boring. Even using a powerchair 1:10 would be steep. Imagine pushing a pram and holding a toddlers hand. I dare say the person you spoke to drives everywhere, is fit and healthy and has no children.

  9. My concern is the graph that shows how many people are using the station exits may be underestimated.

    When they model it, did they take account for the future apartments and business that will be built for future rejuvenated k-road?

    Area surrounding Britomart used to be just a waste land. If they only build the capacity at that time, it will be very short sighted.

    1. “When they model it, did they take account for the future”

      Induced demand? Current clowns do not grasp the concept at any scale.

  10. If they just won’t do Beresford: Why not put everything into making Mercury Lane work? Get the cars out. A nice green tree strip. An escalator that takes wheelchairs, prams and pushchairs. Some wonderful stormwater art features taking runoff from K’Rd and purifying it as it goes down the hill, A skateboard ramp. And bring me a shrubbery.

      1. We are no longer the knights who say Hg! We are now the knights who say heck heck heck change plan zoom Beresford!

  11. No wonder people head to Australia. I guess it won’t matter about K’Rds design, few will use the Mecury Lane station.
    Does Mr Meale use public transport? Maybe the ferry from Devonport.

  12. Sometimes all a station needs is platforms and a small ticket office,
    For an underground station like at K’rd I would expect it to have a combination of escalators, paths, lifts and elevators as access from points N, E,W and S. A large building is not required like at Otahuhu and as in your picture of Mercury Lane station in your article above.
    Underground shops can be fitted in alongside the paths leading to the platform where possible.

  13. Building K Rd without the Beresford Square entrance, in order to save about ONE PER CENT of total CRL project cost, is completely crazy. It’s called spoiling the ship for a haporth of tar.

    1. I think there are technical issues with the heritage buildings around Beresford Sq. The rail tunnels themselves run directly under the George Court Building to align themselves with Pitt St on the other side. The reinforced concrete construction of the George Court building means it can mostly withstand the effect of the tunnels, and the excavation for the station acess will be on the site of the Mercury Plaza – to be demolished. A similar excavation for the Beresford side would be closer to the heritage buildings which are un-reinforced brick type structures.

      The issue with the Mercury lane site is the Motorway is a barrier to easy acess to offices and flats that would be built in the area and the vast majority of passengers will want to cross K Rd to access buildings in the areas from Symonds St to Vincent and Hobsons Sts

      1. I doubt that’s the reason, or the brick theatre building 15m uphill would be an issue too.

        I heard that one building owner was objecting to the entrance in Beresford Sq, though why you’d so that is beyond me.

      2. I understand they are still building a excavated column from the stations to Beresford Square as emergency secondary egress. So I don’t think it’s any geotechnical reason not to fit it out as a permanent entrance/exit.

        And yeah, whoever the local landlord tosser is fighting to have beresford built, he’s cursed himself to miss out on thousands of potential customers walking past. I don’t get that at all.

    2. “spoiling the ship for a haporth of tar” is a fantastic expression, even if it is about 500 years old.

      But I agree, it is a loony decision. Do it once, do it right.

  14. So would CRLL be breaking the law (NZS 4121) if they don’t provide a complying means to access and egress the new station?

    Would a differently-abled person/group be able to sue CRLL?

    Could a court force CRLL to do the right thing?

    Any lawyers out there know the answers to these questions?

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