Hobson St runs through what is probably not only the densest residential neighbourhoods in Auckland, but probably all of New Zealand. Yet despite the huge numbers of people in the area, nothing has been done there to improve things for thousands who live there. Instead, it acts like a sewer, draining vehicles from the western side of the CBD out of the city. Many drivers, eager to get home, race along it like it is part of the motorway network. Combining dense urban areas and five-lane psuedo motorways is a recipe for disaster, and in fact has seen disaster in the past.

So it’s good to see AT are looking to improve things a bit adding a mid-block pedestrian crossing between Wellesley and Cook streets.

Auckland Transport is working to transform the city into a safe place for people to walk around.

The latest proposal is aimed at improving Hobson Street where someone was recently killed, and a number of people have been seriously injured, crossing the road.

AT is proposing a new signalised crossing between Wellesley and Cook Streets (136 Hobson Street), to make crossing the five lane road safe.

Manager for Walking, Cycling and Safety Kathryn King says people need safe places to cross the road and a lack of crossing points leads to deaths and serious injuries.

“Auckland Transport is committed to creating a road system that keeps people safe. We are dedicated to zero deaths and serious injuries and we are coming up with plans to meet that vision.

“We know that this is a common place for people to cross the road so we want to ensure that we are meeting their needs. This is a busy road with around 35,000 vehicles per day but we want to help create a city centre that is easy for people to move around on foot.

“We expect a high level of community support for this proposal. Around 2,300 people cross the road between the Wellesley and Cook Street intersections each day so this crossing will be well used and will protect people travelling on foot through this area.

“This proposal shows our focus on moving people around the city, not just vehicles.”

Auckland Transport will be consulting local residents and businesses about the crossing, with a plan to install it in the 2018/2019 financial year.

My main concern with this is why it needs to be consulted on at all. This is a critical piece of safety infrastructure and we don’t consult on whether the water networks should be separated, or if private businesses should be able to ignore health and safety legislation so why do AT need to consult on improving safety on our streets.

There has been some concern that a single mid-block crossing won’t be enough to change behaviour and that we’ll still see a lot of unsafe red light running. Interestingly I think that might be helped a little by the Convention Centre. One of the images released this week (below) shows a mid-block crossing between the casino and the convention centre (as well as an air-bridge). One mid-block crossing in the wilderness on it’s own might not change the worst behaviour but two in successive crossings should help make things safer for those on foot and bike. Both will help to detune the city and make it more people friendly

 While we’re on Hobson St, it would be great if Auckland Transport to include the missing leg on the Wellesley/Cook St intersection.

Where’s the pedestrian crossing. There should be one in the foreground

And while we’re talking about consultations, Auckland Transport have come to their senses and are looking at permanently closing car access to Freyberg Square (with the exception of emergency and authorised vehicles). This will be achieved by just leaving the retractable bollards up.

I guess it’s better late than never but it is a shame as the design of the square was compromised a bit to retain vehicle access.

If you’d like it to be car-free, make sure you submit by 1-July. The consultation for the Hobson St crossing closes 14-June.

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42 comments

        1. 🙂 Does NZTA still allocate safety improvements according to DSI? Instead of looking at the work of traffic safety engineers who have found better ways to analyse the safety of an environment?

  1. “While we’re on Hobson St, it would be great if Auckland Transport to include the missing leg on the Wellesley/Cook St intersection.” ~ if they’re going to put one there can they please make it a ‘Barnes Dance’ crossing for pedestrians? As a vehicle user I have enough trouble crossing right from Wellesley or Cook onto Hobson St already. I’m a big fan of ‘Barnes Dance’ crossings – I think it’s safer for pedestrians and reduces driver impatience.

  2. I’m happy with the Freyberg Place/Square renovation and think they’ve finally got it right. But is this the third or fourth run they’ve had it? How much have they spent in total – IIRC I saw some plans costed at $10m a pop. And they each got re-done years later.
    As for the vehicle access I think that’s needed since presumably the Square will be used for public events, as will Ellen Melville Hall. Those set up’s will need truck and van access. I don’t see how it’s compromised the design.

    1. It’s not a particularly big square, surely a truck parked on one of the adjacent roads isn’t particularly onerous for event setup?

      1. Indeed. Silo park has plenty of events without the need to provide vehicle access into the public squares themselves, you just access from the surrounding roads.

  3. I know that the walking/cycling team are fighting for each and every win but this seems like a fairly paltry improvement to be crowing about.

    If we really want to make the area safe the whole Hobson/Nelson/Cook system needs a complete rethink, by all means chase the quick wins in tbe short term but not to the exclusion of the required higher level planning. Now there is a plan in the CCMP to convert Hobson/Nelson to boulevards but why should we wait for more death and injury to do something when we can make real changes now with some programming, paint and some road dividers?

  4. That’s the missing leg on the Hobson St/Cook St intersection. And yes it really needs a crossing.

    And that signalised crossing, these things generally take 3 minutes or so to give green light after pressing the button, which makes them completely useless.

  5. I agree that consulting on the midblock crossing seems bizarre. Is it legally required under RMA? Or LGA?

    1. And how do we turn the tables? To make the ‘step-change in safety’ that the government has called for, can we make it illegal to introduce unnecessary delay and expense for straightforward safety infrastructure like this?

  6. +1 as well. This is a sticking plaster over the issue, which is the area IS the most densely populated area of NZ, including many families walking to the nearby primary school. It’s a death trap every day. There is no safe way to cross at the top of Nelson and Hobson to get to the school, and red light running is so bad that the pedestrian crossings are a joke. Anyone at AT with children should send their kids for a solo walk through the area and then see how they feel about it. The area needs a transformation into a people friendly place, not an extension of the motorway.

    1. Yes. These roads encapsulate everything wrong about the legacy of bad transport planning in Auckland. They demonstrate well what the urban environment is like when a motorway is allowed in a cbd.

      Bandaids like this need to be applied immediately all over the city, but the long-term solution needs to come from a more fundamental shift, with massive reallocation of road space to PT and active modes. Let’s start with the harbour bridge.

      1. They also encapsulate some of our worst architecture with a number of the buildings frequently wearing the “Soviet” label. These two things aren’t unrelated, after all, why spend money on thoughtful design when the surrounding environment is so horrendous?

        1. I’m ambivalent every time someone says this about some of the apartments on Hobson Street.

          So, I have a big apartment on Hobson. Many owner occupiers in our building, because it is really very nice. I wouldn’t want to live in a small apartment. But then, my family has that choice.

          I have friends through my playcentre who live in some of those small ‘Soviet’ apartments. Some low income families, and some new-resident families, with one or two children. Good people, doing what they can with the resources they have. And those small apartments are a way that they can afford to live in the middle of town, somewhere warm and dry, cut commute time to a minimum and thus see more of their kids, not own a car, etc.

          So maybe those apartments could be better. But the cost of constructing apartments is really driven by size. So… affordable homes in the middle of town are always going to be small.

          1. Absolutely no slight against the occupants of the buildings intended and, ultimately, if they’re happy with where they live that’s all that matters. We can and should build thoughtfully designed buildings affordably because if we dont we’re only passing further costs on fhe cuture generations who will either refurbish or completely replace them long before their time.

  7. AT are not looking to improve things. Instead it is skycity who owns convention centre pressure AT to look into it.

    In other words, nothing will happen unless some elite want it.

    It is very sad no one cares about those poor residents living in hobson st.

  8. Good to see. I helped an ambulance get a Korean language student to hospital. This was a few years ago so not new. The traffic was down to lanes so cars started driving on the footpath 430 on Friday afternoon! Shows the cars need control as they don’t share nicely

  9. No argument with the crossing. Given the road width though, is there any chance of a kerb build-out to the edge of the parking and bus bays? This road is effectively six lanes wide, even though “only” four lanes are used for traffic. It would be more cost, but much safer and a shorter signal cycle time that could be run more often.

    1. Further to that, this road pavement is 20 metres wide. Some European guides are recommending that urban pavements with pedestrians around should be no more than 12 metres wide without some form of median refuge.

  10. And anyway what difference would there be if 20,000 drivers submitted complaints about an extra couple minutes of travel time? Amend the decision from “Proceed” to “Proceed and suck it up”?

  11. Yes a pedestrian crossing, but what will the implementation look like.

    A couple of years ago the implemenation of shared streets was much heralded. Here’s my impression of the streets that I use daily or weekly:

    Fort Street – difficult to to walk on because important people seem to want to go wherever they are going in a hurry; and my experience in the last month has been to have a car that I was unaware of rapidly pull up behind me and rev; and with a crowd who were crossing the street at the Queen St end, for a car driver to try and push their way through.

    Elliot St. Worse and bizarre. When this was first changed to a shared street there was a sign that said 10kph. It has been removed because obviously when you are doing something as important as driving to a car park this is way too slow. I now assume that the speed limit is 50kph because when there were road works a couple of weeks ago there was a temporary 30kph sign.

    Federal St. This used to be a great street to frequent. One of my favorite places was to eat at Depot on the outside furniture. Now, the issue is important people doing important things -driving quickly down the street to have their car valet parked. Taxis are an issue also because it is difficult to hear the electric vehicles coming. It was disconcerting a couple of weeks ago when sitting at an outside table for a double decker tourist bus to rumble past at what seemed like 40-50 kph.

    I wonder how the restaurant owners feel that they are satisfying their obligations to their employees under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

    Shared streets – a great idea, but failing due to lack of enforcement. Much like red light cameras?

    1. Do you think proper enforcement – which of course is needed urgently – will be enough? Or do you think there’s a cultural difference in NZ that means shared streets will never work?

      1. They are just poorly designed. Through routes can’t work unless they are tortuous to drive throough. Bollards at the Queen Street and Shortland Street ends of the Fort Street shared space would fix it for a few thousand dollars.

  12. You said you can’t understand why they are consulting on it then immediately give feedback on how it could be done better.

  13. As long as Hobson Street remains a major route to the Southern Motorway, there will be problems, no matter how many pedestrian crossings you install. The fact that it is up hill, and not every driver is a competent uphill starter so avoids having to stop at all, also adds to the problem. It is a problem that needs far greater thought than just adding pedestrian crossings.

    1. Uphill ? Its a gentle slope.The side roads are far steeper like up from Queen St. And those who arent comfortable in hill starts will have automatic anyway.
      This has to be one of the more bizarre reasons to not have a pedestrian crossing

  14. I always found Nelson and Hobson the easiest streets to cross at any point, as the traffic is all one way. It’s just so easy. But adding another formal crossing means another 40 metres of road is off limits to pedestrians, as it’s illegal to cross within 20 metres of a marked crossing.

  15. From my reading Matt commented on another part of Hobson street, rather than provides feedback on crossing per se. Or did i miss something?

  16. What’s with all the judder bars on the road running parallel with the kerb where this new crossing is proposed? Is that to help tradies mount the kerb and park on the footpath?

      1. The road is temporarily a route for double decker buses which stop on the left of that link. The kerb prevents them from hitting the awning.

  17. Re: Freyberg Place, I am gobsmacked that they caved in and kept the road there during the redesign when the road only carried 40 vehicles per day. What a waste of everyones time to split it into two projects and compromise the design of the square.

    Before (Oct 2014)
    · Volumes weekday morning peak hour – 9
    · Volumes weekday Interpeak hour – 2
    · Volume weekday evening peak hour – 12
    · Volumes Saturday midday peak hour – 17

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