Back in late 2018 we first learnt about a programme to roll out improvements to bus priority, active modes, safety and town centre improvements to a number of key arterial corridors across the region and to help encourage mode shift. The programme was later renamed Connected Communities but the routes that are meant to be receiving these improvements are shown below and I’ve also written about it here.
Just over three years on Auckland Transport have finally launched consultation for the first of these corridors, New North Rd and part of Symonds St – the Gt North Rd improvements are also part of this programme but that project was already underway before this process kicked off.
As a quick disclaimer, I’ve been on a working group, along with a lot of others, for this project. Though it didn’t feel much like a working group – mow like a box-ticking exercise with pre-determined outcomes and not much time to even discuss them, let alone digest them.
The part that AT are consulting on runs from Karangahape Rd down Symonds St, New North Rd, and along Rosebank Rd. Trying to deliver all of this within our existing corridors is understandably hard, there’s only so much space available. In response to that AT have come up with three different options for to do that, which is what they’re now consulting on. They say:
We’ve worked with our technical team to take what we’ve learnt from community engagement and identify four pillars. We used these pillars to design and develop our three approaches.
Our four pillars are:
We want to work towards our Vision Zero goal of zero deaths and serious injuries on our roads.
- Thriving town centres
We want to improve street environments and create vibrant local centres where people want to live, work, and play.
- Public transport and connectivity
We want to provide better transport links between town centres along New North Road, the city centre, and future developments.
- Walking and cycling connections
We want to encourage cycling by giving cyclists better options and helping them feel safer.
All three approaches incorporate the pillars, just with different weightings. Your feedback will help us choose the best approach to meet our goals for a better New North Road corridor.
Approach A – Two Routes
My frustration and perhaps you could say anger at this process is mostly related to this option. It is frankly unethical for Auckland Transport to even suggest it as a potentially viable option. The proposal seeks to maximise bus priority without touching kerbs – which can get very expensive. In order to achieve that, between Morningside and Avondale they provide an ‘alternative off-corridor cycle route’.
The unethical part is that this would involve removing the existing cycle lanes through the Mt Albert Town Centre. This appears mainly focused on trying to appease some shop owners but also shows that AT think that all they need to do is to put a cycleway to an area and ‘job done’. But just like our road network, cycleways are only useful if they connect you to places. They’re not a lot of use if they just disappear and chuck cyclists onto the road with buses and cars. If we’re trying to get people out of their cars this is not the way to do it.
Other issues with this are there are also no cycling provisions for accessing St Lukes, presumably AT have taken the view that people can’t possibly ride their bike to the mall, and also no cycling provision on Rosebank Rd, I guess kids wanting to cycle to Avondale College or Intermediate will need to do so in traffic.
Approach B – Minimal kerb changes
Of the three options, this is the best of them. It keeps cycling provision on New North Rd though at the expense of not quite as substantial bus priority. It does also include a small amount of widening just west of St Lukes Rd.
Option C – Road Widening
This is the ‘if money was (almost) no object’ option and would involve widening a significant proportion of the corridor in order to fit most things in. The big downside though is that space comes at the expense of footpaths which, 60% of which would need to be narrowed. It also costs twice as much as the other options.
Interestingly, even with this option it will still see the existing bike lanes in Mt Albert changed to a single bi-directional cycleay.
A comparison of the three options is shown below. To me Approach B does seem to provide the sweet spot between improvements, disruption and cost. I suspect this is what they want the outcome to be and put the other two in, in part to test the waters. Though I’ve learnt though that when it comes to transport, you should never put in a bad option in the hope it will make people pick the right one.
They would have been better to have used Approach A as an ‘out of the box’ thinking idea with far more radical thinking, such as potentially one-waying some parts of the corridor, or even blocking general traffic through town centres with much more space given over to trees and public realm space. Basically, ideas that might get the public thinking or understanding that there are other ways we could reallocate space on the corridor.
While all options do include cycle provision, just where and how that is provided differs based on the option chosen not just for the route but also where in the corridor it is located. Concerningly, this means that based on some options, it might see cyclists having to chop and change sides of the road which isn’t going to lead to a great experience. This is shown on these road layout diagrams
You’ll that in some areas, even in the road widening scenario, there just isn’t space to provide for bus priority, such as through Kingsland. One of the options discussed for addressing bus priority in these situations is to use bus priority to get buses to traffic lights at the edge of town centres, and then hold traffic back to enable buses to jump ahead. We do have some bus advance signals at a few intersections but this would be taking it up a level.
Over the next year AT say they’re hoping to also come up with similar consultations for the Manukau Rd, Mt Eden Rd and Ellerslie-Panmure corridors.