Over the holiday break we’ll dig into the archives a bit. This post by Matt was originally published in July 2014.

On Wednesday Kent presented a plan to the Waitemata Local Board for dramatically improving one of the worst corridors in the central city – Stanley St and The Strand. The plan was originally dreamed up by Nick (who is currently overseas). You can read the full presentation here and below is the area he sought to improve.

Grafton Gully Blvd - area

The route is a crucial one for Auckland yet it serves none of its users well. It’s fed directly from the motorway network so gets a large volume of vehicles many of which are trucks heading to/from the port. In addition it serves people moving east-west from Parnell as well as the growing developments between Stanley St and the rail line.

Grafton Gully Blvd - Traffic

The photos below show how bad the area is, particularly for people walking and cycling. Let’s also not forget that a man recently lost his life on the intersection of Parnell Rise and Stanley St. It’s been said that he was at fault however it’s my view that no one should have to pay for a mistake with their life.

Grafton Gully Blvd - existing

Grafton Gully Blvd - existing 2

A large part of the problem is that the current thinking involves extending the motorway to the port which is no easy task the development that already exists. It has been assumed a tunnel would need to be built but that would cost huge amounts of money we simply don’t have, it would take up a lot of land, especially as it would need a full interchange and probably create even more severance, not less. An elevated structure would be no better and also made difficult but the rail lines. The indecision over what will happen has left the area in limbo creating urban blight and stagnation, particularly on the pieces of land that the NZTA already own primarily to the east of Stanley St. A summary of many of the issues is below

Grafton Gully Blvd - Issues

So if a motorway too expensive and creates even more severance what can we do to improve things for all road users? One potential solution is a Multiway Boulevard.

But what is a Multiway Boulevard, the key functions are:

  • Designed to separate through traffic from local traffic
  • Parallel roadways serve distinctly different functions
  • Side roads designed for slow speeds, high access (including parking), and pedestrian movement and comfort
  • Central roadway designed for vehicles travelling longer distances (through) at higher speeds

Examples can be found around the world, particularly in Europe but also increasingly in other places like San Francisco.

Grafton Gully Blvd - Multiway Blvd Examples

Key design concepts involved include

  • Different realms for different tasks e.g. a movement realm, a pedestrian realm
  • Buildings that face the street with direct pedestrian access and parking/loading areas on the street.
  • Intersection Priority
  • Closely spaced street trees to provide a full canopy.

So how would it work on Stanley St and The Strand? With just the removal of a handful of buildings, most of which would go as part of any motorway type development anyway, a continuous 40m corridor can be created. This includes under the rail bridge which already has a 40m main span over The Strand. The buildings that would be needed for 40m are in yellow, but it looks like a slightly narrower corridor might avoid them? Note that the curve next to St Georges Rd is already a road reserve, long planned to cut the corner and straighten out the route.

Grafton Gully Blvd - Corridor Width

Within a 40m cross section you could fit the below layout.

Grafton Gully Blvd - 40m Cross Section

A smaller cross section could be provided if the local access road was only provided on one side.

Lastly addressing the corridor would open up a large number of sites for development/redevelopment. In San Francisco a Multiway Boulevard replaced the Central Elevated Freeway and the selling off of the excess land more than paid for the redevelopment of the road.

Grafton Gully Blvd - Development

Overall this seems like a fantastic idea, we address an important corridor while still allowing and improving the experience for a significant number of vehicle movements. At the same time it improves the experience for walkers, cyclists as well as local traffic. It opens up land for more development and in the process might actually help pay for a significant amount of the project. Importantly it also allows us to cross off the list what would have otherwise been a large and expensive project, that’s good for taxpayers and ratepayers. I really can’t see any downside to this proposal. Great work Nick and Kent.

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11 comments

  1. Timely reminder, it looks like lots of people going to the ASB Classic at the moment prefer to park all the way up in the Domain rather than deal with the bleakness that is Stanley St and Grafton Rd. I wonder how many tennis fans are intrepid enough get there by train – since this means getting to the venue via the isolated, poorly lit Domain Walk dogging area

    1. Would love to catch the train to the ASB womens tourno but they stop for maintenance of the tracks this week most years. Also there is a new Parnell station around the corner from 1 tennis lane that would’ve been even closer than the Grafton Station this year.

  2. Crikey! Turning the Strand into the Passeig de Gracia would be some feat: one of the most beautiful streets in the world.
    The Strand is a disgrace; total eyesore.

  3. Interesting that this area is still unresolved after half a century of debate. After decades of considering various possible ways of linking SH16 to the Port, in about 1998 TransitNZ (now NZTA) settled on their preferred option for a 1.3km viaduct rising from the mid point of the Strand and passing above the Railway, Parnell Rise, Alten Road and Grafton Road before returning to ground level on the slope up to and under Grafton Bridge. This was known as option 2A and everybody (Council and community) hated it but there seemed to be no practical alternative on offer. The chief conundrum which lead to the viaduct concept was the difficulty of getting past the intersection of Parnell Rise and the railway (the new link either had to go over or under both). In response I came up with a proposal (which I called Option 5) for the motorway to go under Grafton Road, Alten Road, Parnell Rise and the railway – thereby completely obviating the need for the viaduct which would have been up to 14 metres (46 feet) above ground level – not only a massive blot on the landscape but also radiating noise throughout the lower Grafton Gully with no practical way of mitigating its effects. Expecting massive push-back I prepared detailed CAD drawings to the same spec as the NZTA plans to demonstrate how Scheme 5 might actually work. Surprisingly, NZTA caved on the viaduct and came up with a hybrid scheme known as 2A/5 (combining elements of their scheme 2A with my proposed scheme 5) which terminated the motorway at Alten Road (rather than continuing some 30-40 metres west of Grafton Road in a trench as I had proposed) but they did build my suggested underpass below the railway connecting Grafton Road directly to the Strand (previously there was a 50 metre offset dogleg via what is now Shipwright Lane). This underpass was deliberately over-designed with a far wider span than now required to future-proof for whatever finally eventuates (my proposal would have the motorway extension in a trench more or less at right angles to the railway whereas the Strand extension as built is at about a 45 degree angle). Given that there is not much point extending the motorway just 300 metres to the railway underpass only to have it revert to local road (the Strand) I fully support the proposal to create a “living arterial” within a 40 metre corridor – allowing space for high volume traffic lanes (including a significant proportion of heavy trucks) down the centre but leaving room down the sides for pedestrians and cyclists separated from the traffic lanes by a boulevard of street trees.

    1. Thanks for the info Graeme. We’ve searched for the designs and options considered in that area but due to being done in paper era we’ve not been able to find it. I’ve always been intrigued by the 2A scheme, and your option 5 with the trench, but never seen the plans.

      To be honest I’m glad neither the viaduct or the lesser-evil trench was built. The viaduct would have been abominable. But also that last stretch of trench along the side of Stanely Street would have killed any chance of it ever being an urban place again. A street with a trenched motorway alongside would have been sterilised, we only need to look at what happened to Union Street on the other side of town…

      Glad we have your support for the boulevard concept.

      1. Hi Nick – the trench as proposed would not have been immediately next to Stanley Street. It would have run behind (West of) the existing row of buildings down the west side of Stanley Street – this Western offset was mainly to allow headroom under Alten and also to allow a “half-and half” underpass of the very western end of Parnell Rise just before it links with Beach Road. My suggestion was to have a relatively shallow trench of 3-4 metres depth where it passes under Parnell Rise (close to sea level which would be problematic in itself but any deeper would have required some very clever tanking or constant pumping) while Parnell Rise would ramp up to 2-3 metres above grade at the point of crossing (a significant offset to the West was required as this important local road has to retain clearance under the railway). A North-facing off-ramp could link with the south end of Beach Road, and a South facing on-ramp could run off Parnell Rise close to the abutment of the underpass – thus providing a half-diamond interchange with a fairly small footprint. Anyway, all this is academic now – there are still those who hanker for a direct motorway connection for container trucks to service the port but I think that the port will at least partially relocate long before that happens. I will see if I can dig out copies of the original plans for Option 2A and its variants 1-5, and my scheme which I now think was actually option 6!

        1. Cheers Graeme, I think I follow the concept better now. My gut feeling is that when you take that idea and apply highway geometric standards to curves, ramps and grades; you’d end up with a much, much gnarlier beast that expected.

          One of the main advantages of the boulevard concept is that it’s just fundamentally widening the road with standard surface level treatments: kerb, channel, tree pits and paving. So it highway terms it’s cheap, easy and quick. Ramps, trenches etc add massive cost and complexity.

        2. I was not setting out to design a motorway – but in order to defeat the awful viaduct there needed to be a credible alternative. TransitNZ was only interested in motorway solutions so that is what I devised – lots of people were in favour of going under the railway embankment rather than high above it but this desire was never going to persuade TransitNZ until there was a workable concept on the table that actually managed to thread its way past both the railway and Parnell Rise without diving below sea level. Unfortunately I have only been able to locate hard copies of Transit’s 5 options but I think I may still have a disk with digital copies of their preferred option and my proposed alternative which spawned the finally adopted plan.

  4. I like the multiway design Parking may not be necessary in all places. It’s hard to imagine it as a shopping street like Passeig de Gracia . Landholdings and block shape/connectivity are a major problem in the entire area – very disjointed due to topography and crap transport design but huge potential exists for a rethink (with access to parks being primary!). Creating strategic re/development opportunities should be easy.

    So I thought of a design – initially to alleviate the big ugly intersection and use The Strand and Stanley Street as the main freight route/onramp ..then just to activate parks and things at different levels, plus improve local streets. Although it’s odd to think about it, in many ways turning our back on Stanley Street could be a good thing.

    Here’s my quick design (very quick)
    https://imgur.com/a/3wmiIOl

    The logic is:
    1) Parnell Rise would now be at a level where it could connect directly to Anzac Ave (alongside the Constitution Hill park and UoA)
    2) New buildings that would be created could address directly to the uplifted Parnell Rise (their third storey becomes their ‘ground floor’). There’s nothing much of merit at street level anyway right now.
    3) Carlaw Park Ave, Roaynne Street and Shipwright Lane could be upgraded into nice local streets and connected more logically to become the primary access for existing buildings (including tennis center).

    All the ingredients are there for a fantastic little precinct – not a cheap project but activates a lot of development potential.
    Obviously getting Parnell Rise to climb above the rail bridge could be an issue..very steep. But not hopefully insurmountable.

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