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Submission on Safer Speeds Bylaw Proposal for Auckland’s City Centre

Submission
Tuesday 26 Mar 2019

28 March 2019

By email to:

ATSpeedProgramme@at.govt.nz.

Heart of the City: Submission on Safer Speeds Bylaw Proposal for Auckland’s City Centre

Background

Heart of the City is the business association for the city centre, which includes more than 4000 commercially rated properties and 12,000+ businesses. We are committed to the growth and success of the city centre as a vibrant, accessible, safe and welcoming urban community.

The city centre is the centre of the region’s economy.  It is growing at pace, with more than 120,000 workers, 57,000 residents and 60,000 students, as well as buoyant national and international visitor numbers.

Heart of the City’s interest in the Safer Speeds programme relates to Auckland’s City Centre and our submission relates to the area within the Heart of the City boundary, which broadly covers the area from Albert Park, Mayoral Drive and Victoria Park down to the waterfront.  

2.0 Our Position

Changing the speed limit across the city centre to 30km/h (and to 10km/h in the 'shared spaces') is a significant move, and there are disparate views as to whether it is a good idea or not, particularly outside of the core city centre streets where the average speed is already less than 30km/h.   Whilst we acknowledge that there are different views about what is proposed, we have taken the view that overall, within our boundary, this is a necessary change to create a safe environment and to support the rapidly growing city centre. 

Our submission to Auckland Transport supports the proposal, subject to the requirements included in this submission.  We have taken into consideration the evidence and benefits of reducing the speed limit, the views of business, the changing needs of a growing city, as well as understanding the impacts and proposed approach to better managing vehicle access in determining our position. 

3.0 What’s the evidence?

We have considered the evidence presented that sees lowering the speed to 30km/h delivering demonstrable safety benefits for people. Data from Austroads published in March 2018, indicates that lowering the speed from 50km/h to 30km/h significantly reduces the risk of death from 80% to 10% respectively, in the instance of a crash.  We support a preventative approach to managing this risk, particularly given the knowledge of recent city centre crash and injury statistics, as well as current and future population and density figures.

Between 2012-2017, there were 3,040 recorded crashes in the city centre, with 686 injuries and 105 deaths and serious injuries, and most recently in 2018 there were 354 crashes including 22 serious injuries. In an environment where we are seeing significant numbers of pedestrians coming from residential, worker and visitor growth we believe it is important to reduce the risk of harm to all of these city centre users.

With the highest population density in New Zealand, the city centre is one of the areas where setting safe speed limits can make the biggest difference.  On top of the 120,000 people working here, 60,000 studying, and hundreds of thousands of people visiting each year, there is currently an estimated 57,000 people living in the city centre, putting population density at approximately 12,000 people per Km².  The densest area, Hobson Ridge Central, has the equivalent of 91,000 people per Km², followed by the areas around Symonds Street.  These numbers are only going to grow, with the residential population projected to double within the next ten years, along with major developments such as the New Zealand International Conventional Centre bringing many more workers and visitors.  This means that even more people will be occupying streets throughout the city centre, not just in and around the Queen Street core.  

More people are arriving into the city centre via public transport.  Auckland Transport has released new figures, which show an 11% increase in trips across its network in February, and close to 98 million trips for the year – the highest number of passenger trips since the 1950s. This growth is set to continue, particularly in 2024, when the City Rail Link opens with New Zealand’s busiest train station at Aotea Square.

Why is this relevant to the proposal for 30km/hour speed reduction?  In October 2018, during the morning peak between 7-9am, nearly 79,000 people came into the city centre - 44% came by public transport, 7% by walking or cycling with the remainder coming by car.  This means that thousands of people are getting off buses, out of trains, cycling, walking and driving into the city centre at the busiest time of the day. Many will be getting off a bus on Hobson Street, or off the Northern Express bus on Fanshawe Street and walking across main roads to their place of work or study. Their safety should be given priority.

We have also considered research from Monash University, which shows that “benefits of slow speeds include increase in traffic flow, reduction in congestion and delays ... less pollution and noise”.  

We also note the importance of creating a consistent speed environment across the city centre to provide certainty for all users.

4.0 Impact on journey times

We have considered the impact that the proposed change in speeds would have on the journey times for vehicles needing to access the city centre.  AT has advised that a reduction in speed from 50km/h to 30 km/h would have a potential impact on journey times of 48 seconds per Km. We consider that this an acceptable impact given the demonstrable safety benefits which can be realised through the introduction of lower speeds.

5.0 Creating an efficient transport network

There are concerns that the proposed reduction in speed will exacerbate the already congested road network.  We believe that it is absolutely fundamental that vehicles needing to access the city centre can do so efficiently.  Space is increasingly scarce and there are challenges to access from growth and development, which makes it difficult to access the city for essential needs like servicing and delivering.   Congestion can be seen in areas such as around the Victoria Street/Albert Street intersection that causes delays for pedestrians and vehicles.  Any planned change of how the city centre transport network operates must be cognisant of the need to keep vehicles moving to support business. 

Our support for the 30 km/h proposal is conditional on Auckland Transport implementing the planned synchronisation of traffic lights on the corridors of Nelson Street; Hobson Street; Fanshawe Street; Symonds Street*; and Queen Street (Mayoral Drive to Ian McKinnon Drive* section) to create a 30km/h “green wave”. This would allow for continuous traffic flow over several intersections, set at a 30km/h speed.  We would also like to discuss the appropriateness of introducing this approach to other key corridors.

6.0 In summary, we are supportive of this proposal because:

We recognise that a reduction in speed is an effective way of improving safety for the thousands of people who work, live, study and visit the city centre every year.
The numbers of people located here is growing rapidly, and as a city we need to provide their safety.  
The city centre is a busy and constantly changing place, and there are many opportunities for conflict between pedestrians, vehicles including delivery vehicles, taxis, scooters, bicycles and public transport.  Having a slower speed environment reduces the risk associated with this conflict.
Whilst the average speed of 19km is the norm in some city streets, it is important to provide a consistent speed environment during the day and also the night, which brings other challenges for safety.  This will make it a more legible and clear environment for all users.
Whilst it may seem counterintuitive to put in slower speeds in some streets that are currently designed to feel like major arterials e.g. Hobson Street, the density of people living in these areas and increasingly working and visiting, particularly once the NZICC begins operating next year, justifies lowering the speeds in these areas.
We support the development of place. Slower speed environments will support the ongoing development of the city centre as an economically successful and attractive place – it supports better walkability and improves connections between places as well as making places more pleasant to stop and linger as we see in other international cities.  

7.0 In summary, if a slower speed city centre is implemented we want to see:  

The city centre being an efficient and accessible place for vehicle access, particularly for non-discretionary visits. Given this, Auckland Transport must implement their commitment to “green waving” signals – particularly in the peripheral streets such as Nelson, Hobson and Fanshawe Street to ensure that vehicles, including public transport, can travel efficiently.  We note that it is our understanding that this should not compromise the pedestrian experience.
Results. We would like to see regular reporting on the impact of slower speeds being introduced, including any impact these changes have on access and traffic movement across key points in the city centre, as well as safety statistics.  If there are adverse impacts, they will need to be addressed. 
Identified temporary or tactical urbanism interventions required to support the slower speed environments in relevant streets either in advance of any planned major infrastructure development, or in streets not identified for future investment. This may be of particular relevance in the western side of the city centre, particularly in and around the Victoria Quarter.

Finally, the city centre makes a significant contribution to Auckland’s GDP and it is essential that business can continue to be successful while the city centre environment continues to grow and change.  We would like acknowledgement that Heart of the City’s support for the 30km initiative is dependent on Auckland Transport’s commitment to the synchronisation of traffic lights and other initiatives that will ensure accessibility in, out and around the city centre remains a priority.   

Viv Beck, Chief Executive

Heart of the City

*Symonds Street and Ian McKinnon Drive are outside our boundary but they impact on accessibility to the areas within it.