Auckland Transport is proposing to close the small level rail crossing at Sarawia Street in northern Newmarket. It makes a lot of sense, as level crossings have some safety issues, and the large numbers of trains here are increasingly held up by the need to let cars through.
What isn’t quite as good is that their consideration so far doesn’t seem to include any thoughts on retaining the walking & cycling access across the rail line here. Walking & cycling are different beasts than motor vehicles, and could be much easier served by a small overbridge – or even by a “pedestrian maze” level crossing like at Kingdon Street (which cyclists could also use).
Totally closing the link would just perpetuate the type of “cul-de-sac” design where any walk or cycle to even close-by locations requires you to make long detours – until people simply decide to drive in frustration. Closing off Sarawia totally would also deprive the people west of the rail line from easy access to Newmarket Park – and an easy way to get to the future “Parnell Rail Trail”.
So there’s lots of reasons for you to comment to AT to tell them that Sarawia Street crossing should still provide for walking & cycling. Please note that they have not provided a specific feedback form, but encourage comment via the standard form. Please do so.
CAA recently attended a public meeting regarding the upgrade of the Mount Albert Train Station. Shown at right and on the Auckland Transport website, the tired old station will be brought up the the same quality standard as many of the other newer stations around Auckland.
What isn’t shown (to the frustration of some of the residents at the meeting) is how the station will link with the planned Mt Albert town centre upgrade.
This much more ambitious project however is not ready for the limelight yet (unlike the direct train station upgrade, which needs to be done before electrification) – so the poor Local Board and Auckland Transport staff had to tell a somewhat sceptical populace that this wasn’t just business as usual, and that for example the tight access along Carrington Road bridge (where the footpath is as narrow as the road is for cyclists!) was not yet being dealt with.
However, they strongly hinted that such issues WERE very much on their minds – they just couldn’t tell us how they intended to proceed until the signatures had been done for all land purchases for the town centre upgrade. Partly for this reason, CAA also didn’t (yet) raise the lack of cycle parking. The current train station corridor is literally so tight, any cycle parking would just be an un-loved add-on tucked into some small corner, serving 2-3 bikes – if one was courageous to leave one there for a whole day.
Instead, like the locals, we are putting our hopes into the town centre upgrade. If this goes ahead in the way it was hinted at, the scope will be a lot larger – including, we hope, opportunity to provide much better bike parking. Maybe even a secure bike storage cage accessible only by swipe card, like Victoria’s Parkiteer cages?
As every month, we had a look at the business report of Auckland Transport to review any items of interest for cycling. Where possible, we will also provide additional context from our own discussions with Auckland Transport.
Note that where the below is italicised, we have copied the text from Auckland Transport’s report directly, without changing it.
The first item is a slightly negative one – compared with the Auckland-wide counts in 2011, the 2012 March counts resulted in a 6% reduction in cyclists across all of Auckland compared to the earlier year. AT does however note that 2012 counts were in a rainy period, so not well comparable with the better weather in 2011. The month-on-month statistics from the automatic counters on various cycleways paint a better picture, with quite significant increases – and for the most recent data, June 2012 was 7.7% up on June 2011. Now that sounds better!
For the second item, it’s trains again! Auckland Transport received a mock-up of our new electric trains from Spain – a full-size composite model that one can walk through and test: MU3, (a full size model of the drivers cab and 10 meters of saloon length), arrived in Auckland on 10 June and was unveiled by the Major and the Auckland Transport Chair on 18 June. Since then, it has been used by the Project for consultation with the train crew representatives, disability groups and cycling representatives. CAA in particular was interested to test the cycle storage area. While some fancier options for bike racks within the train will not happen – for various reasons – those of our committee who were there found the bike area easy to use, and able (at a pinch) to carry some extra bikes more than intended. And in two months, the first REAL train will start production!
Cycling and trains go together well. By using your bike to get to the train station, you don’t need to first wait for a bus that goes there, or drive there your car, hoping that that you can find a car park. Even if you don’t live close to a train station, it’s likely in easy cycle reach (just look at the slide at the right – it shows how much of the Isthmus is covered by just a 3km cycling radius around each train station). So “bikes to the train” should be a slam-dunk choice for many.
But during peak hours, you can’t take your bike ON the train (or at least you can’t DEPEND on them allowing your bike), because the train might be too full. That won’t change, even with the bike-carriage options in our new electric trains. So you have to leave your bike at the train station. And that is where the Auckland experience breaks down.
Overseas, train stations are often surrounded by well-utilised bike parking. Whether in a small village train station in Europe, or the one in an apartment suburb of Japan – acres and acres of bikes parked up there. In Auckland? Maybe a lonely bike or two*. I can’t believe that’s just because we still have too few cyclists. Something else isn’t working.
*(Contradict me if the situation is different at your train station – I’ll be happy to be proven wrong.)
Here’s a quick round-up of some Auckland Transport channel videos on YouTube. The videos that could be interesting for cyclists included this one about our coming electric trains:
You can see the dedicated cycle area in each centre carriage, and also the areas with the flip-up seats, where more cycles can be stored as long as the train isn’t already at peak loads. What you can’t see yet (because it hasn’t been finalised yet) is how the bikes will be held into place – the “bike rack”, if you will. CAA and other parties are still discussing the best way to incorporate this with AT, and the public will also have a chance to comment once the life-sized first train mock-up arrives in Auckland in a while.