Auckland Transport (AT) are proposing improvements to the transport network and streets around the new City Rail Link (CRL) Karanga-a-Hape Station. The Karanga-a-Hape Neighbourhood and Bus Improvements will improve safety for everyone, make connecting between bus, bike, and train easier, and enhance the look and feel of the neighbourhood streets to complement the new station.
They are looking for feedback on the proposal to improve safety and make public transport more reliable. The proposed changes in a nutshell are:
- Make connections between the new Karanga-a-Hape Station and the surrounding neighbourhood easy, safe, and intuitive.
- Make travelling by bus easier, quicker, and more reliable. Create better connections between buses and trains.
- Make it easier for people to walk and cycle around the area safely.
If you are short on time, here are immediate links to the AT web-page for the project, and for the submission form itself. Submissions are due by Friday 26 May:
Auckland Transport's background and proposed changes
Auckland Transport's submission form
But we hope you have time to read Bike Auckland’s submission guide developed by one of our wonderful infrastructure volunteers! Todays theme: If Bike Advocacy Were A Video Game
If bike advocacy were a video game, then Auckland players in recent years have had a bad time; with development hype unfulfilled, release dates delayed again and again – and even the patches tend to have problems.
At times, you just want to put the controller down (“does this even do anything”?) and go do something else.
But every now and then, there’s a step forward which reminds you why you do this thing, and why you spend so much time grinding the hard and sometimes boring stuff. This time, it’s the proposed improvements around the coming train station at Karangahape Road.
Back when the City Rail Link was first consented a decade or so ago, bike advocates got a strong pushback against even considering bike parking as part of it. A marriage of “we already have a big job here, this is not part of the scope” and the classic disregard for bikes in a car-centric city.
As the years went by and bikes (and bikeways) became more common in the City Centre this reluctance reduced, and people like Auckland Council and Auckland Transport began to consider how the future stations would be integrated. This game’s developers seem to have listened to player feedback! At least a little bit.
The most substantial changes we have seen are those that are now being consulted on for the Karangahape Road area. The fact that they got this far was not certain at all – when we were shown a sneak peek a year ago, the changes were more limited, and even then, the staff at AT suggested that there was little certainty they’d be funded in time for the opening.
People were talking. Rumours were spreading. From the grape vine, it sounded like AT strongly preferred the option of not doing much at all – their minds set on providing for all modes except bikes. But there was hope yet! As the grape vine tells it, AT were told by new senior leadership that leaving the area “as is” was not appropriate. And so, doing nothing was no longer on the table.
And the senior leadership were absolutely right. Designing without bikes in mind would not be appropriate for the other changes that were already coming. With the station bringing a huge amount of new people into the area, and with new housing likely to concentrate in this part of town over the coming decade, there simply isn’t a world in which we can fail to provide for all modes and expect a good outcome.
So lets do it right, now. The design principles are there! The game developers can code this thing to be optimal and efficient now, or else they will be forced to dig it all up and patch it in a decade’s time – an expensive choice, and a foolish one.
So what’s in store in the improvements? Well, the change notes are pretty massive, and there’s no way we are able to cover all of them here. But lets go into the ones we care about most (note: the best way to look at a detail view is here):
- New Fast Travel Options
- Moving around the game world is now a lot less fuss in this area.
- First concept designs imagined a cycleway along the whole length of Mercury Lane past the main station entry, connecting K Road and Canada St bikeways. This has now been shortened to a dedicated two-way bikeway up from Canada Street to the station entry (#10) in favour of a pedestrian-only Mercury Lane space further up (#6). Though players who keep their speed right down should still be fine passing through here – also, voice chat options are enabled in slow-speed zones!
- Instead of the full Mercury Lane link, the beta-tested East Street bikeway will now be made permanent (west part of #11), albeit sadly not all the way uphill (only on the lower one-way part). If that doesn’t suit your playstyle, there is also the existing Upper Queen St lanes to connect between Canada St and Karangahape Road.
- The most substantial change will be a new two-way cycleway along the south side of Canada Street, running all the way, replacing the old shared path.
- Pitt Street will get protected bike lanes along most of it’s length (#1 in the map above), instead of the current shared paths. There are even improvements to the protected bikeways through the K Road / Pitt Street intersection (albeit they note the current design is still being developed).
- Improved Armour Class
- Since this game has pretty serious penalties if you get hit, the designers have now significantly improved the protective features in this area’s level-up.
- The biggest changes are, of course, that Pitt Street and Canada Street get a lot more space and protection from motorist players. Solid kerbs and buffer zones for the win!
- But pedestrian players are also going to be much safer from any less-careful bike players that used the former shared paths – footpaths for feet only are as much an improvement to gameplay as bike paths solely intended for wheels.
- By adding a separate bike path with a larger pushed-out radius at the corner of Canada Street and Upper Queen Street, the gradient on that corner also gets a bit better – a change that is always welcome among our “acoustic bike” players! Plus, there is generally more space to avoid others who might be walking or biking downhill while you are pedalling up one of the steepest path sections in the City Centre.
- Rebalancing Character Classes
- Don’t you hate it when your chosen way of playing was obviously deemed “The Wrong Way” by the game designers? Choosing “Car Driver” always got you the best power-ups, more route options, and added buffs. Wanting to pick a different character class shouldn’t inherently turn the game into Nightmare difficulty!
- In this update, this is now much more balanced for this specific part of the map – the introduction of one-way streets and the de-tuning of multi-lane roads means that there is a lot more space for people picking the “Walker” and “Biker” classes.
- There are also a number of places where all the classes which fall under the Active Mode umbrella now get right of way – and of course, all those protective buffer zones mentioned earlier.
- Other Quality of Life changes
- From minor design bug fixes like adding bike parking areas, to more substantial stuff like wider footpaths, bus lane improvements, and bus lane duration extensions. There’s a lot here. Plus, some minor tweaks to Car Player access in some places (switching one-way streets around etc.).
Overall, we think these are some awesome changes – which should bring a lot of new players, and keep the existing ones well entertained and satisifed.
But any serious game review needs to also consider bugs, bad design choices and omissions. So what’s maybe not that great?
- Pitt Street bikeway doesn’t connect ALL the way north. While a lot of riders will go along Lightpath instead, it would be good if at the minimum we’d see the northbound protected lane not stop 20m before the intersection – adding one extra turn lane for Car Players doesn’t seem justified. Even if the separation width and the bikeway itself both were narrower, this should go at least to the intersection, rather than peter out into a shared path.
- East St bikeway only goes halfway. Not so great – for the last section up to Karangahape you are back on the road and unprotected. For some players this will be fine – traffic should be pretty limited, especially northbound. But it won’t be fine for everyone, and could well be a deterrent for some to even get on their bikes in the first place. Short of making this road one-way, all the way (a big ask), this won’t change. At least there are other ways to and fro as alternatives.
- Northbound on Upper Queen St is tricky. For some of the more hardcore Bike Players, dipping back into the on-road car-dodging elements of the game won’t be a problem. But for anyone else riding Northbound, they will have to cross a shared path corner and then twist around a landscaping area to enter the lane beyond. Clearly, they are trying to keep a large existing tree, which is fair enough, but sadly this means a very awkward movement – especially when you consider that downhill riders from the bridge will want to cross here at a bit of speed, not slow down between waiting pedestrians. Maybe the bike lane can be put on road here too (with narrower separators) so riders pass waiting pedestrians to the right, rather than through them / to their left?
- Pedestrians wanting to cross Canada Street at Upper Queen may block the bikeway. The design here doesn’t leave much space for a northbound walker to stand between the road and the two-way bikeway. A lot of people walk into the City Centre this way, and with the station making the area busier, that will only get more common.
As you can likely tell, these are all fairly minor gripes. Ultimately, the design is pretty good. So in the end, all awesome, we just wait for this latest game update to be released, and start enjoying the fun, right?
Well, this kind of game development is never quite as easy or certain. The plans are proposed, but the chances that they happen – or at least happen in time for the opening of the train station in the next couple years – are far from all-certain.
As we all know, money is tight, and some decisionmakers still think that road safety for people on bikes and on foot is not a priority. It’s a luxury. An optional add-on. There may also be some Car Players who feel that the changes go too far, and that their need for convenience is greater than every other character class’s desire to safely participate at all.
So we (and the progressive people in Council and Auckland Transport) really do need a lot of people to give this their support, or it will still be watered down or delayed. For all the talk that consultations are not supposed to be beauty contests, it’s clear that popular stuff is much more likely to happen than the really crucial and fundamentally necessary stuff, which this is.
So lets make it clear in the consultation: this is some really popular AAA+ type stuff, and we really, truly want these improvements in our transport network!
Please state your support for all these great changes, and add what other features or bugs you may have found. And do it before Friday 26 May, which is the last day to provide feedback! Bonus points if you share with whanau and friends to submit.
Auckland Transport's background and proposed changes
Auckland Transport's submission form
There is also a “drop a comment” feedback link here, where you can go straight into map to explain where you might have a comment, support or concern.
Thanks for reading!