Back in May the NZTA announced the new design for
Skypath, the Auckland Harbour Bridge Shared Path. Their new design is for a wider, 5m path but at the time they said they were still working on how it would connect at each end. Since then the engineers have come up with two options and are seeking feedback on them – feedback is open until Wednesday 4 September.. The two options re explained in more detail below but in short they are:
- Lifts and stairs
Just from that description alone it seems like a no brainer that it feels like a sham consultation as I can’t think of many situations where #2 would be better. Here are the two options.
Option 1: Ramps
This option, which is emerging as our preferred design includes a ramp design that is simpler and shorter than the consented SkyPath ramp(s) on the northern side, and would connect seamlessly to the wider path of the new preferred design. The new ramp design aims to further reduce effects through its smaller footprint and urban design treatments, along with integration with the SeaPath section of the shared path.
The ramps (one at each end of the bridge) have been designed by the Transport Agency to connect with the five metre-wide shared path. This design offers a highquality user experience as well as a high level of safety because there is higher clearance under the bridge; and, in contrast to the lift/ramp design, there are no waiting times for people.
The bends are wider than the consented option to preserve the width and accessible gradient of the path.
There are good opportunities for urban design and placemaking under the bridge and we can explore these with mana whenua, the local community and people who will use the path during the next phase.
These ramps will be relatively low cost to operate and maintain because there is good access to them.
On the north side (Northcote Point) there is a smaller footprint for this ramp design under the AHB than the SkyPath ramp option, meaning less impact on residents.
The challenges that the Transport Agency is considering include: any additional consenting that may be required, and the increased cost of these ramps, which is balanced by the better level of service provided by the five metre-wide connection.
We are also considering the effects of a new pier in place of the consented SkyPath columns in Stokes Point Reserve on the northern side. We are aware of concerns around change of character and traffic impacts on the surrounding community and we will continue to work with people about these issues.
Option 2: Lifts and stairs combination
This option has been designed by the Transport Agency to ensure that we have investigated all possibilities. At this stage it is less preferred than the emerging ramps option. Comparable bridge paths around the world often have this sort of entry and exit, but it is almost always in addition to a ramp.
This option proposes two high-speed lifts at each end of the bridge which would be designed to accommodate pedestrians, people with bikes, and those travelling with mobility aids, along with a single staircase at each end.
The key benefit of this solution is that some people would find it less visually intrusive than a ramp and it also has a smaller footprint. There would be good opportunities for creative urban design and artwork on the structure.
There are quite a few challenges with this option including the cost to build, monitor and maintain the lifts. People with bikes would not be able to use the stairs, so they would need to dismount and have delayed journeys waiting for the lifts. During times of high demand, there could be crowding issues as people with bikes need to line up to use the lifts.
There are more potential safety issues associated with this option because people would have to wait underneath the bridge for the lift and if there was a lift failure, it would have a significant impact on accessibility and waiting times.
On the north side, the location of the lifts and stairs in the Stokes Point Reserve may create negative environmental and cultural impacts.
Given the choice, it’s hard to see why someone would choose the lifts and stairs option.
The NZTA still say the soonest this can start construction is at the end of 2020 so this in’t something that is about to start soon.
For more information, you can also look at the Bike Auckalnd post on it.
While we’re on the topic, it’s also worth mentioning that a few days ago the NZTA announced they’ve awarded a contract to start the design and consenting phase of SeaPath, the project that will link Skypath to Esmonde Rd along the motorway.