As promised, I write with an update following my meeting with Auckland Transport regarding the Speed Limits Bylaw and associated consultation and an update on Quay St works.
Proposed 30kph changes
Right now I am not yet 100% convinced that the evidence is there to support a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week, 30km speed zone for all vehicles on all streets within the city centre (CBD) and streets within Mission Bay and St Heliers.
I say that as:
1. I have yet to receive the evidence of 50 kms being wrong relative to these areas
2. It’s acceptable for a higher speed of 40 kms to apply to school zones yet not in the CBD or St Heliers and Mission Bay.
3. I don’t know what else is planned for the by-law to be enabled (AT say it will need more than signage changes, it will need engineering solutions but haven’t confirmed what they are)
Auckland Transport (AT) spoke of the urgent need to reduce death and serious injury figures. We discussed, at some length, the tension between this honourable intention and the need to keep traffic moving. There is no price on a life but we are also told that congestion is costing our city between $1.5 and $2B per annum.
AT do claim that they can do both – slow down traffic to 30km/h and improve traffic flow – citing international research that shows a reduction in speed limits can actually speed up traffic. They offered to provide copies of this research but have not done so as yet, despite my office following up.
Many of you have written to me in the past requesting pedestrian behaviour should be better managed – it is absolutely frightening to have someone step from the footpath onto the road into the path of your vehicle without looking. That’s actually one of the drivers (pardon the pun) around the slower limits. They want to ensure that even if people make mistakes it shouldn’t cost them their life.
An argument against is to point out the lack of pedestrian safety campaigns that target pedestrian behaviour. Should this not be explored before undertaking a change of this magnitude?
Hobson St has more people living on it than any other street in NZ; it’s currently a 50 km road leading onto the motorway which has a speed limit of 80-100kms. Because of this, there are lights and crossings at relatively close intervals throughout the length of the street, yet people are crossing everywhere and anywhere with no regard for where cars are coming from. Only last year somebody died jaywalking across Hobson St. AT say that potentially that death could have been prevented if vehicles were going at 30 kms rather than 50 kms.
Another campaign I suggested is a reminder stop when people are waiting at pedestrian crossings. This is common in some European countries where speed isn’t necessarily lower but drivers know to stop for pedestrians. I’m told 50% of deaths and serious injuries are at or near crossings, so I think this idea should have been looked at too.
Now in some suburban areas (I know Meadowbank is one), communities are requesting lower speed limits in residential streets. ‘Rat running’ in narrow streets is causing concern for residents and AT are very willing to look at speed management options to assist.
Please make sure you have your say if you think a lower speed limit is right for your area and encourage your neighbours to have their say too.
Central City speed changes
Below please find the map showing the central city area where reduced speed limits are proposed. There are some streets proposed to go from 50 kms to 10 kms (a better version you can zoom in on can be found here).
I have concerns around the timings of these changes, that I discussed with AT. The bylaw is proposed to take effect in August this year, five years before the Central City Rail loop is completed to finally provide an east/west public transport link; and while the level of construction is at an all time high limiting alternate routes with road cones and lane closures.
Mission Bay Village and St Heliers Village
Mission Bay and St Heliers are the two ‘town centres’ in the Orakei region where AT are proposing speed reduction from 50 kms to 30km/h.
They are currently seeking input on this proposal, however there is a second aspect that will be consulted on in the future: engineering solutions.
Changing to 30km/h does not simply involve changing the speed signs and hoping Police enforce it – Auckland Transport will design and build a series of engineered speed calming measures. The trouble is they will not confirm what those solutions will be until after the speed bylaw consultation is over.
Pictured below are the drafts given to me by AT of those solutions. I am told they are likely to be adjusted but here is what I have been provided thus far.
Engineering works at Mission Bay would include 9 new raised crossings, and the raising of one existing crossing. A new roundabout would also be constructed. The estimated number of carparks lost here is 10-15.
St Heliers would have 12 additional raised pedestrian crossings constructed, and an additional three existing zebra crossings converted into raised pedestrian crossings. Many of the new crossings are currently pedestrian refuges.
32 carparks would be lost as a result of these ‘solutions’ but AT say they are ‘trying to minimise this’.
Have Your Say- Tuesday 19 March, 3pm-5.30pm St Heliers Library
I pushed for an extension of time for the drop in session for people to learn more from AT representatives in St Heliers. This was denied by AT. People who commute through St Heliers and Mission Bay – especially through into the central city are significantly impacted and should have the opportunity to hear from AT. It’s a shame they cannot be accommodated.
Please join me if you can. Tuesday 19 March, 3pm to 5:30pm - St Heliers Library, 32 St Heliers Bay Road, St Heliers.
Auckland Transport Chairman Lester Levy committed his attendance to me for a local session on the speed by law. I am disappointed that despite regular requests, we still do not have the time he will attend. I will advise you as soon as I know.
Please, please ensure you tell Auckland Transport your views on the proposed speed by law.
You can submit your feedback online here: https://at.govt.nz/projects-roadworks/safe-speeds-programme/speed-limit-changes-around-auckland/
Feedback closes on 31 March. If successful, speeds will be reduced on 20 August 2019.
Quay Street update
I also met separately with officials to discuss Quay Street. Although officers were much more responsive to the concerns I raised, there are limitations.
Closing two lanes of traffic (one each way) was needed for urgent wharf strengthening works. The footprint of these works and the time needed for completion does not allow a return to four lanes, even temporarily.
Instead, they have agreed to investigate sequencing and other changes to Customs Street and the surrounds – and to work with NZTA who manage The Strand – as we work to mitigate the subsequent congestion chaos.
Those are the small changes but there is much more to do here at a larger scale.
I am advised there are approximately 33,000 vehicles travelling into the CBD from the Orakei Ward, and beyond, each day that we are trying to funnel through an increasingly narrow bottle neck. There have been alterations to the bus routes, but until the City Rail Link is built (and that isn’t due for completion until 2024) we also lack a true public transport connection into and through the CBD.
AT want our east/west route to travel via the Strand onto the motorway and back off again with new off ramps. However, NZTA have yet to prioritise new motorway offramps that allow this ‘unusual route’ to even be a viable alternative.
After the complete lack of communication last year on Quay St lane closures which prevented Orakei residents from sufficiently preparing for the change, the AT team have promised regular updates for me to share with you.
My Auckland Transport relationship has had a tense start to the year, and I am not happy with all their proposed changes, but I give you my assurance that I will work positively to try get the results you need and request and keep you informed of progress.