Te Atatū Road (North) Gloria Ave to Yeovil Road – Making a road safer for all modes.

Auckland Transport are looking at ideas on improving the safety of all users along Te Atatu Road (prompted unfortunately by tragic events). This is a piece of road I (and others) have been pestering Auckland Transport about for a long time now. Hopefully this is an opportunity to create some long term fixes that benefit the entire community. With such a long time to think about this over the years, here are some of the ideas that have been kicking around in my head (and on emails to AT) for a long time:

Removal of 1 northbound traffic lane from Gloria Ave roundabout

Gloria Ave Roundabout looking north

Between Te Atatū Road / Gloria Ave Roundabout and Yeovil Road, there are just 2 roads that allow vehicular traffic to exit Te Atatū Road—Cellarmans Street and Vinograd Drive. Currently most traffic continues onward to Yeovil Road (which has traffic calming along it) or through Te Atatū Town Centre (and Gunner Drive).

The entrance to the town centre, at the Yeovil Road intersection comfortably copes with current traffic volumes as it merges into a single traffic lane,  so it stands to reason that the section of road between Gloria Ave roundabout and Yeovil Road can also function as a single lane. The 2nd northbound  lane prior to Gloria Ave could be converted into a ‘Left Turn Only’ lane to access Gloria Ave.

This could also provide the added benefit of lowering traffic speeds and volumes for users crossing from west to east at the roundabout.

Removing the northbound traffic lane between Gloria  and Yeovil provides space for a 2-way protected cycleway on the eastern side of Te Atatū Road from the existing shared path alongside Harbourview-Ōrangihina Park. This would be achieved by moving the current lanes and flush median westward.

Signalisation of Cellarmans Street

Access to Daycare

One of the most dangerous and inconvenient parts of Te Atatū Road, from a pedestrian or cyclist point of view, is the crossing near the northern part of Harbourview-Ōrangihina Park.

Te Atatu Road Orangihina Crossing

This crossing requires users to cross multiple traffic lanes. Motor vehicle speeds along here are often well over 50 km/h (as recorded by Auckland Transport) and an added issue is staggered vehicles (as shown in the image above).

Signalising this crossing has been suggested in the past, but a better solution is to signalise the Te Atatū Road – Cellarmans Street intersection. Based on current practice this would involve a 2 stage crossing of Te Atatū Rd with a beg button in the centre wait area. In my view, this would lead to low compliance of users at the 2nd stage of the crossing (and is visible at other similar signalised locations around the city).

Signalising the Cellarmans St intersection would create a single stage crossing for pedestrians and cyclists.

In this area there is a childcare facility and also an alleyway very close by that connects to Graham St. There is an opportunity to create many more connections for people and to remedy some of the severance issues that a 4 lane arterial creates.

As a bonus, with the removal of a northbound lane, there is likely room on the western side of Te Atatū Road for at least a shared path that would see significant use I suspect from the many Rutherford College students that frequent Te Atatū Road.

Gloria Ave Roundabout

Access to Gloria Ave and Harbourview-Ōrangihina Park off the roundabout is often at speed due to the multi-lane roundabout design. Both the Gloria Ave and Harbourview-Ōrangihina pedestrian / cycle crossings should be placed onto raised tables to enhance both accessibility and safety. The Harbourview-Ōrangihina crossing would then appear and function much more like a cycleway.

Te Atatū Road / Yeovil Road intersection

Yeovill Ave Roundabout

Lastly, and possibly the most controversial suggestion, is to replace the oft fraught intersection at Te Atatū Road, Yeovil Road and the McDonalds complex junction with a roundabout. This would have numerous benefits including reducing traffic speeds as motor vehicles enter the town centre, enabling safer access out of Yeovil Road and also safer right turns out of the McDondalds driveway.

No doubt other people will have ideas as well so hopefully this post kicks off a discussion on other improvements people in the area would like to see.

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Vision Zero – an example.

Below is a post based on knowledge that is available at this time but also makes assumptions about some of the circumstances. I do not see to blame the truck driver nor the girl that died in this sad incident. It is entirely to point out how design affects how road users interact.

Back in September a 7 year old girl, riding her bicycle home from school, was killed when she and a truck collided at the intersection of Miro Street and Rata Street in the town of Inglewood.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/taranaki-daily-news/news/97310767

As we can see in the image below, there is a zebra crossing for Miro Street and also painted cycle lanes on Rata Street. Based on media information, it appears the young girl was riding her bicycle west to east along Rata Street using the footpath and that the truck was turning left out of Miro Street onto Rata Street.

Miro Street_Rata Street Inglewood

Presumably due to tracking curves for trucks, the lane width at the junction is quite wide – 8.65m as measured on the Taranki Council GIS site.

Miro Street Lane width.png

This makes the entire crossing roughly 16+m wide for people to cross.

How did the young girl and the truck driver not see each other? The Google streetview image below gives us a clue. Look at the fence on the left hand side of the road and the distance from the sight line for a motorist arriving at the intersection vs a cyclist crossing from the left. Based on even a 10km/h speed, there is almost no time for a driver to react, even if travelling slowly. Yes, people are supposed to stop at a zebra crossing to check for traffic, and yes, legally, cycling across a zebra crossing is also a no no. But, we’re discussing a 7 year old. Shouldn’t we be designing so they can make mistakes and still survive?

Miro St Inglewood Street View

So, why wasn’t the bicyclist using the cycle lanes? Well, would you allow your 7 year old to ride, unaccompanied along these painted cycle lanes on a main road?

Rata Street cycle lanes

What else do we need to consider? Why is the intersection designed to allow trucks to turn out of it at all? There are plenty of streets nearby the offer far better turning options for trucks.

The proposed option as of today is to remove the zebra crossing and then, at some time in the future build something better. By better, people have suggested moving the crossing further up the street, which affects desire lines (will people simply cross at the current location? Evidence suggests that’s exactly what will happen). A proposed splitter island doesn’t fix the sightline issue. Are we simply shifting blame to the non motor vehicle users?

What about narrowing the intersection thus giving better sightlines? Building real – all ages, all abilities – cycle tracks? Close the intersection to motor vehicles – there are plenty of better aligned, but still connected, intersections available to use locally? Our usual position is to allow motor vehicles to always use the fastest / shortest travel option but, in the urban environment, should we?

Let’s take some inspiration from the Dutch (who use the same ideas as VisionZero to design and redesign streets):

https://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2016/09/27/designing-for-people-by-erasing-a-car-friendly-past/

In NZ, the continuing approach to road safety is still to try and ‘fix’ the problem without impacting motor vehicle travel. In my opinion, if we are to actually embrace Vision Zero, we must change this approach.

 

 

 

 

Dairy Flat, the Future Urban zone, and planning for transit

This was originally posted on Greater Auckland’s blog.

The area below is the proposed Future Urban development area of Dairy Flat under the Unitary Plan. Obviously we have the Northern Motorway passing through to the east of Dairy Flat but, how are we proposing to service this fairly large area with transit (Public Transport)?

Dairy Flat Unitary Plan

People will remember that NZTA and Auckland Transport commissioned a report called Transport for Future Urban Growth. The finalised report for the northern area proposes that the Northern Busway extension to Orewa should follow the SH1 corridor and includes new stations and park and rides.

As you can also see, much of Auckland Transport / NZTA approach seems to be along the line of ‘build more roads’.

TFUG Northern Busway Route

Now this all appears to be perfectly logical, right? But, is it?

A key component of the success of transit is ridership. And what is the cheapest source of ridership? Yip, walking and cycling catchment. This minimises the number of bus feeder services required. It also greatly reduces dependence on developing expensive, and ridership limiting, park and ride facilities for cars at stations.

With this in mind, how could (or should) we do this differently? Why not secure a transit corridor right through where the development is happening?

The image below has a theoretical transit line through the Dairy Flat Future Urban area with 2 x stations and shows 2.5km radius – a catchment within easy walking or cycling distance to the stations.

Dairy Flat Transit Corridor 2.5km radius

Not only does this route make it easier to catch transit, for most people it removes the need to use a feeder service and thus an extra transfer. It also serves to reduce volumes of local vehicular traffic.

Has anyone else done this? Sure. Pretty much everywhere in Netherlands for a start.

For today’s example, let me introduce you to the Dutch city of Almere.  Almere is a city with roughly 200k residents and is sited approximately 26km from the centre of Amsterdam. It was planned in the second half of the 20th century as a brand new city to accommodate the Amsterdam region’s growing population.

While the first homes were finished in the mid 70’s, the rail line wasn’t extended to Almere until 1987. But, as per many of these developments, the transit corridor was pre-planned. The rail line, shown here in blue, goes through the centre of the main part of the city. It is completely grade separated and has lots if bridges / underpasses to minimise severance between the 2 sides of the city. Worry not drivers as there is also a motorway (red) and a ring road (purple). There is also has a network of local busways and cycleways but that will have to be the subject of another post.

Almere Rail Line Route with motorway and ring road

From the network shown above, it is pretty obvious that the Dutch intended that transit would play the feature role in getting to and from Almere and also from one end to another.

How does Almere compare to the Dairy Flat future urban area? Below is the same 2.5km radius that I used for the Dairy Flat station example, but centred around one of Almere’s train stations. Notice any similarities?

Almere Rail Station 2.5km radius

In 2014, Auckland Council also created it’s Low Carbon Plan that sets out how Auckland will reduce it’s GHG emissions by 40% by 2040. Note the size of the pie that Land Transport (cars, trucks etc) occupies.

Auckland Council GHG Emissions plan

Then, in 2015 Auckland Council signed onto the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, a global network of cities tackling climate change, at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris (COP21).

If Auckland Council are really serious about reducing GHG emissions, reducing car dependence seems to be an obvious place to start. And, if we’re building greenfield housing, surely building a transport network that makes walking and cycling to transit is just the right thing to do.

In summary, why would we build a new greenfield town and yet not provide for a quality transit network from the start? Ditch the park and rides Auckland Transport. Embrace walking and cycling.

Give the children the ‘keys to the city’

With the introduction of ‘simpler fares’, it is great to see Auckland Transport offering up special child fares for weekends. And the recently announced availability of pre-pay HOP cards in selected supermarkets and other stores is another great step.

But, can we do more?

Recently we were in sunny Queensland for a quick winters break. While there, our means of getting around was mostly using public transport. On the Gold Coast one of the first stops was a 7-Eleven store to purchase some TransLink go cards (South-East Queensland’s version of the HOP card).

Expecting to have issues getting a card set up for our 8 year old child, I was pleasantly surprised to be given a Child version of the go card.

WP_20160629_19_49_25_Pro

This is simply a go card that already has the child concession loaded. While this can be connected to an account, just like the HOP card, it is not mandatory and no identification or proof of age was required. How very simple, quite unlike in Auckland.

Penalty Fares

Another bugbear, and potential barrier to getting children using HOP cards, is the ocurrence of penalty fares

Penalty fares are charged when you forget (or intentionally neglect?) to tag off your bus or train a the end of a journey.

TranslinkAU Penalty Fares

The image above is an example of penalty fares from TransLink. Since the Simpler Fares were introduced in Auckland, penalty fares are now set at 3 zones. That equates to $4.90 for adults and $2.72 for children.

While the penalty fare is probably not too bad, the biggest problem is that, after a number of transgressions, the card can be cancelled. And they can be cancelled with credit remaining on them, unable to be retrieved as I understand it.

This then requires the purchase of another new card.

In order to encourage children to adopt to the new way, we need to be looking at removing or substantially increasing the limit on the number of transgressions before the card is cancelled be scrapped for children?

Should we even be charging penalty fares for children? Let’s take a chance on them being honest young citizens in our fine city.

These children are the next generation of public transport users in Auckland. Let’s get them using it but without having parents worry about errors that could add considerable expense and trouble to parents while the children are ‘learning the ropes’.

Sure, we will have some children using the leniency to personal advantage but, most children and parents are honest. Let’s take a chance on it.

Design

As a way of encouraging use of Child HOP cards, let’s get a Child card up and going for Auckland.

Cards do wear out with use and need to be replaced from time to time and we also know children love collecting cards so lets go a bit further and introduce a competition amongst children to design a new card every year. How cool would that be?

So, what do you think Auckland? Let’s give the children the keys, aka HOP cards, to the city.

Thanks to Tina Plunket for assistance with ideas. Tina has first hand knowledge of the problems caused by children forgetting to tag off.

Orewa Beach and the proposed Sea Wall

This idea that is being proposed is something very much on my mind and I think it will be a very poor plan for Orewa Beach. It will effectively remove the ability (even more than now) to walk along Orewa beach at higher tides. Ben Ross has written a post with some other details here.

Talking Southern Auckland

Orewa readies itself in case of Tsunami

But Seawall will cause opposite to desired results

While Orewa gets itself Tsunami ready in the event that one does ever occur its quest to build a sea wall to stop erosion they will find will have the exact opposite effects they were looking for.

From Auckland Council:

Orewa follows the Tsunami signs and blue lines

Auckland Council will be installing tsunami signs in Orewa next week as part of a community-led initiative to increase the coastal town’s tsunami preparedness.

Six information signs will be erected at the facilities on the Arundel Reserve and Western Reserve, Orewa Reserve, Orewa library, community centre and Orewa Top 10 Holiday Park.

Evacuation signs will be installed to indicate major evacuation routes, and blue lines will also be drawn on the ground to mark the ‘safe zones’ for a tsunami practice walk taking place this month (25…

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