The completion of the City Rail Link may be delayed, but when it does finally open, up to 40,000 people will flood out of the entrances to the Karanga-a-Hape station every day. Tens of thousands more are expected to arrive or pass through the area on buses, too.
Yet, while Karangahape Road itself has recently had an impressive upgrade, the plans for getting to and from the station entrances was underwhelming – with most of the space on Mercury Lane dedicated to what would be just a handful of cars and Pitt St effectively unchanged, straight out of a 1960’s traffic engineer’s fever dream.
Thankfully, Auckland Transport has been working on plans to change that, and the consultation has just gone live. More importantly, the changes look fantastic. This is welcome, given more than a few rumours were flying round that AT was going to cancel the improvements.
There are four key parts to the proposal AT are consulting on:
- A pedestrian mall on Mercury Lane
- Walking and cycling improvements
- Changes to parking and loading zones as well as to traffic circulation
- Improved infrastructure for buses
Let’s take a more detailed look at what’s proposed:
Mercury Lane Pedestrian Mall
AT is proposing to make the top part of Mercury Lane a pedestrian mall. This will be from Karangahape Rd down to Cross St, giving much more space for pedestrians, people on bikes and for trees.
And, seen from above:
This is a vast improvement from previous plans, which were shown with images like the one below, with cars speeding through the area and narrow footpaths so parking for a handful of cars could be retained.
As a quick reminder, this is what the space looked like before work kicked off on the CRL.
South of Karangahape Rd
On the Southern side of Karangahape Rd, AT is also proposing to add a bunch of new bike connections on surrounding streets. This includes:
- A dedicated bidirectional cycleway on the rest of Mercury Lane not that is part of the pedestrian mall – and also widening the footpaths here.
- Shifting the existing cycleway on Canada St from a current shared path into its own dedicated space, thus separating bikes from pedestrians.
- Retaining the tactical bidirectional cycleway on East St, which was initially a temporary measure for safety and access during CRL construction.
To support this, AT is also retaining and formalising the current one-way section of road linking Canada St westbound to East St, and creating a teardrop turnback so cars don’t get stuck:
And this is at the Upper Queen St end of Canada St – a slightly more intuitive and manageable link across to Grafton Gully cycleway, as well.
Cross St also gets an upgrade, with wider footpaths and general on-street parking removed. There may still be some loading zones or other options such as spaces for car share or short stay pick up/drop off.
Pitt St changes
Pitt St is also getting some love, with changes including:
- A signalised pedestrian and cycle mid-block crossing, with bus priority signals
- Northbound and southbound bus lanes
- New bus stops, ensuring users of the new northwest bus services have a convenient connection to train services as well as local amenities
- Dedicated one-way cycle lanes, to replace the current/ interim Pitt Street shared path situation on the footpath
- At least one lane of general traffic in each direction
- New trees and landscaping
- Removal of on-street parking and loading zones, and relocation of mobility parking to Beresford Square, recognising the need to prioritise movement and place on this key arterial
Here’s the first part. The raised pedestrian crossing to and from the Beresford Square entrance will also help towards bus priority, as buses will have priority signals so they can go before the general traffic lane.
And the northern end, which extends as far as Vincent St. The main concern here is at the northern end where the cycleway just disappears back onto the footpath just before the Greys Ave/ Hopetoun St intersection. Also, it’s a shame we can’t get some more trees in here – those are some pretty stark and unshaded footpaths.
There are a number of other changes proposed as well, which are intended in part to support the Northwest Bus Improvements that will see a Western Express introduced. Some of the changes include:
- A bus turning lane on Newton Rd
- Creating a new section of bus lane on Karangahape Rd and changing bus lane hours, with the lanes on the northern side extending to be 7am-7pm, seven days a week.
AT says these changes will make buses “1 to 2 minutes quicker and consistently more reliable“.
Note also some changes on Beresford Square west of the station, to narrow the traffic lanes to encourage slower speeds in this short stretch. Although I don’t understand why they’ve chosen to do this via a widened median, and not widened footpaths with more trees.
Overall, these changes look great and should be supported. They will build on and enhance the outcomes of the CRL and the recent Karangahape Rd streetscape upgrade.