People who work in and visit the East Tamaki Commercial and Industrial Area will soon be able to choose from a vastly better offering of travel options. The first project on the books – all the way to Botany – is the Eastern Busway.
And hopefully the Airport to Botany project along Te Irirangi Drive will get going soon, too.
Both projects will include rapid transit and safe, separated cycleways.
At present the area is, of course, extremely car dependent. This can be seen on Timothy Duhamel’s excellent maps of the 2018 Census data, Flowmap.blue. There were apparently only 60 people who “typically” took public transport to work in East Tamaki in 2018:
The census showed that using bikes wasn’t a “typical” way for people to get to work in East Tamaki. Clearly, the “easiest choice” for reaching East Tamaki is driving. Over 20,000 people said they typically drove to an East Tamaki workplace:
Which is about the same number as drove to work in Penrose, or to the airport precinct. If we could reduce driving to these three areas, it would go a long way to reducing emissions.
The Eastern Busway and the Airport to Botany route could contribute significantly to mode shift. This means we can expect to see people walking from the busway and cycling from the cycleway to factories, warehouses, showrooms, workshops, outlet shops, and to the supporting services like lunch bars.
But this is an industrial area, with many big trucks.
What can we do to make this change welcomed for truck drivers, so they feel their stress levels lower rather than rise? What can we do to keep people on foot and bike safe? Resolving the conflicts now with good street improvement plans would help maximise the mode shift from driving to sustainable transport, ensuring we get the highest possible return from the rapid transit investments.
This is important because Auckland needs to largely decarbonise its transport by 2030. Parts of town receiving investment in their transport systems need to respond with substantial mode shift, as there are many parts of town that won’t see that investment, and will have less ability to respond.
I’m not sure if there’s anywhere in the world that designs active travel in industrial areas really well yet, but some cities are clearly taking steps forward. In Rotterdam, for example, areas near the port have been developed over the last decade to cater better for people biking and walking.
The roundabout above was improved with green infrastructure and cycleways in about 2014::
In this post I’ll use the East Tamaki industrial area to explore:
- Planning ideas to improve conditions for walking and cycling
- The benefits
- The public discussion required
Sized for trucks: Planning changes in industrial areas differs from other areas because there are more trucks:
- Some street dimensions needs to be larger, including widths and turning radii, and
- Stopping areas on the main streets for trucks are useful, as truck drivers don’t want to turn into a driveway unless it’s clear, and they’re sure it’s the right one.
General improvements: All streets in East Tamaki need
- Well-designed kerb buildouts to reduce crossing distances for pedestrians, with proper pedestrian crossings, at frequent spacing
- Safer driveway entrances. Where possible, they should be narrowed, and modern technological advances using lights and rising bollards could be useful
- Cyclelanes, protected by a generous buffer to accommodate the turning bodies of trucks
- Intersections redesigned to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety
- Marked loading or stopping bays. Bookable if competition arises
- Competent parking enforcement, including consistent messaging so drivers are clear
Traffic circulation: Creating a stronger street hierarchy, such as the low traffic neighbourhood approach, allows different streets to perform different functions:
- Local streets are quiet and provide access to properties, with low traffic volumes and speeds
- Main arterial streets take higher traffic volumes
- Through-traffic stays on the main arterials
- Walking and cycling is safe and direct on all streets, becoming the easiest way to travel short distances.
Space for cycle lanes: A key question is where to take the space for cyclelanes from, given trucks are large and need space to manoeuvre. Ideally loading zones will still be available on the street, so repurposing kerbside parking isn’t so easy.
One possible solution is to make the local (non-arterial) streets one way. This frees up a whole traffic lane, allows properties to be accessed, and retains space for moving and parking trucks:
Here’s one layout to consider. If the concept is used, the final design would need more local knowledge:
I’m imagining two types of streets would remain two-way:
- The arterial streets – in darker yellow above – eg Highbrook Drive
- Some of the local streets where a one way loop is impossible, like cul-de-sacs:
Providing space for the cycle lanes on these streets would involve either:
- Widening the paved paths in the grassy berms to include cyclelanes.
- Reallocating kerbside space into protected cyclelanes.
Widths seem generous enough that one or other of these solutions should be possible in most places.
The benefits of investing in safer walking and cycling facilities are well-documented. Let’s look specifically at who’ll benefit from improving the East Tamaki industrial area.
Workers and their families
People in the area already walk, even if it’s just to get their lunch or find a spot in the shade to eat it.
But they should be able to reap the same benefits of switching away from driving to work that people who work in the city centre have already discovered.
These benefits include being able to reduce household expenditure on transport. Sometimes people can sell a car, which reduces parking requirements at home and gives them more choice about where to live.
Biking is particularly cost-effective, and e-bikes have really increased the distances people are able to cycle. More and more people have recognised that e-bikes are cheaper than cars to buy, store, operate and maintain. So although the upfront cost of an e-bike can seem expensive for people who have always thought of bikes as recreational, in fact they can be excellent for the household budget.
Some people haven’t been able to consider working in East Tamaki because they can’t drive or don’t have access to a car. More choice in jobs for these people is a considerable benefit.
Families also benefit. Sometimes the shift from driving to work every day doesn’t enable households to sell a car but it does mean other family members have access to a car when previously they were stuck in transport poverty. This can be good for taking up work and educational opportunities, and for relationship health. And they benefit, too, from having a healthier working family member – fitter from cycling, more relaxed from using public transport, and healthier from the walk at each end of the journey. This makes for a happier family, and lowers the health care burden as well as reducing the number of illnesses the family member takes home.
And there’ll be plenty of people working in East Tamaki who’ll still need to drive. They, too, will benefit if others shift to sustainable travel, with less competition for parking and less traffic on the roads.
Visitors and customers
Visitors include customers, couriers, suppliers, service providers of all kinds, family members coming to after-work social functions, or carpooling buddies meeting after work.
Some of these people would make good use of improved walking and cycling facilities and of the busway, giving them options for sustainable travel.
There are already logistics and courier companies located in East Tamaki. With safe cycling infrastructure they’re likely to start using e-cargo bikes to deliver to local companies.
The benefits to truck drivers include:
- Lower traffic volumes, due to the mode shift, meaning less congestion and less parking demand
- Lower stress as there’s infrastructure to separate the different road users, keeping everyone safe.
The traffic circulation pattern would only add on a few hundred metres to a truck’s journey. As long as it is intuitive, the changes would be insignificant compared to the benefits of easier driving.
Transit and improved active travel facilities have been found to benefit businesses in a number of ways. Walking from the transit stop to the workplace, or cycling to work, provides regular exercise that can increase health and fitness substantially, leading to improved concentration, stress management, job satisfaction and attendance. Absenteeism due to car failure and maintenance can also be reduced.
Business managers also benefit from being able to choose from a larger pool of potential workers, as there’s more demand for jobs in areas that are easier or cheaper to travel to.
Some workplaces in East Tamaki use a lot of land for carparking.
Some of this land could be developed, providing more revenue for property owners. Or pockets could be converted to courtyard gardens, making the properties more attractive to tenants.
You can fit a lot of bikes into a carpark.
Once people can walk and cycle freely in an area, they are far more willing to walk to the local lunch bar – or stationery shop, or work safe supplies store. This provides local custom for local services, and should help the area become more mixed-use, providing the services people need.
Wider Society and the Economy
The public health and environmental benefits of having more people using sustainable transport are well understood. Most people also understand the reduction in traffic danger and congestion if people switch from driving, too.
What’s less well known is that investing in cycling has an excellent return on investment:
Safety should be a bottom line; something that is neither queried nor resisted. Yet I’m under no illusions here. The political economy of car dependence means some people are primed to ridicule change before they’ve tried to imagine what it could deliver.
Aucklanders deserve to have the best shot at a good climate response, and we deserve to get the best return from the investment in the Eastern Busway and other rapid transit projects, so we should encourage a proper discussion.
I think this is a great project for using deliberative democracy. The process would involve inviting a representative group of people – who work, visit, manage businesses and own property in East Tamaki – to discuss street improvement options, in an unthreatening and informed way. If chosen in proportion to the area’s demographics, this would give a far better idea of what people really think than a traditional opt-in submission process. It would also help Council to hone the material for a wider engagement process, in order to properly answer any queries or concerns that people might have.
If people don’t want safe and healthy travel options, then Auckland Transport would learn from this process not to focus on this industrial area, and to put their efforts elsewhere.
Funding changes with such a good return on investment is really a matter of the government finding the right way to evaluate investments and matching the right budget with the project. The main street reallocation costs of what I’ve suggested wouldn’t be too expensive, but some of the intersection changes and the technology to keep people safe passing driveways might add up.
But there is an obvious way to source the funding for these improvements now.
The Eastern Busway itself could easily be scaled back, with less property purchase, less construction, and much more mode shift. Spending less on widening the corridor, and more on the areas the project serves, including the industrial area, would improve outcomes and optimise the return.
Even in areas conventionally considered too car dependent to improve, there would be enormous gains.