One of the big challenges for Auckland Transport (and other transport agencies) is how to get more out of our existing road networks, because large scale road widening is both politically challenging and any time you need to move kerbs and services it becomes horrendously expensive.
Getting more out of existing roads can include things such as reallocating space to higher-capacity modes such as with bus lanes or providing safe cycling facilities to give people more options in how they get around. Another tool AT have employed in recent years has been the installation of dynamic lanes on Whangaparaoa Rd and Redoubt Rd. Dynamic lanes also have a longer history in Auckland with the both the Harbour Bridge and Panmure Bridge featuring them. In all those cases, the dynamic lane is used to increase the number of general traffic lanes but AT are now looking to use the idea to improve bus priority on Maioro St in New Windsor.
Before getting into it in more detail, there are a few of positive things AT are looking to do here.
- Bus Lanes – Maioro St is currently used by both the 24B and 24R buses that also run along Sandringham Rd. This is one of Auckland’s busiest bus routes and at peak times as many as 16 buses an hour are running along Maioro St in the peak direction. That’s roughly a bus every 4 minutes. But those buses are often held up by heavy congestion travelling to and from the motorway.
- Pedestrian Crossing – The wide road and heavy traffic also makes it very difficult for pedestrians to cross the road, something particularly important for those trying to access bus stops. Maioro St currently doesn’t even have a ‘refuge island’ meaning there is no formal crossing in the 670m between New Windsor Rd and Richardson Rd. AT want to change that by adding in a raised and signalised pedestrian crossing.
- Intersection Improvements – In addition to the pedestrian crossing, AT are planning to install raised tables at the side streets along route and at the intersection with New Windsor Rd. The New Windsor intersection will also see the removal of the signalised slip lane and the addition of a missing pedestrian leg.
- Remove the Median – On so many of our roads it seems the need to serve other modes has outweighed by engineers desires for median strips. On Maioro St at least, AT are looking to remove the median.
What I’m concerned about is how they’re planning the dynamic lane and in particular how it’s being used to retain four general traffic lanes. As the diagram and video below shows, the plan is to turn the road into a 5-lane road making it an even more unpleasant area to be while providing nothing for people on bikes.
The decision to retain four general traffic lanes at all times seems to be primarily driven by ATs desire for vehicle flow
Traffic modelling of the proposed dynamic central lane, to allow for two peak hour general traffic lanes and one peak hour bus lane, has indicated overall travel time savings for all vehicles of 28s/km and 1m58s/km for buses in the AM peak; and 9s/km for all vehicles and 15s/km for buses in the PM peak.
AT even have the nerve to claim keeping this general traffic capacity, which will continue to encourage people to drive, supports climate action.
Alternatively, they could have used the dynamic lane idea over four lanes (bus plus two in the peak direction with one lane in the counter-peak direction) and that could have freed up space for some proper cycling facilities.
AT argue there are already shared paths along Maioro so they don’t need to provide anything else, but the reality is those shared paths are simply not of a standard that should be accepted today. They’re relatively narrow and are often narrowed further by street light poles and rubbish bins, they’re also bumpy with frequent dips in the path for driveways making them more like a pump track in places.
Speaking of poles, at least the plans seem to show the poles for the dynamic lane gantries outside the footpath so presumably they won’t be narrowed further.
So there are definitely some good things AT are wanting to do here but it’s disappointing that they’re so focused on traffic flow and not making the road suitable for all modes.
There’s more information about the plans on AT’s website including details of a couple of information days later this week.
If you want to make a submission, feedback is open till 20 May.