1. Why have you closed the streets in Onehunga?
We are trialling changes to the street layout in Onehunga as part of a Low Traffic Neighbourhood trial funded by the Waka Kotahi Innovating Streets fund. The goal of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods is to redirect cars from narrow residential streets, like Grey, Arthur, Cardwell and Cameron, back on to main arterial roads like Mt Smart in order to create quieter local streets where people feel it is safer and more pleasant to walk or cycle.
Are these changes permanent?
No, all the changes are designed to be able to be installed quickly and removed quickly. This is a trial, and it will depend on the feedback from the community whether any of the changes are kept long term.
Who gets to decide if any of these changes are permanent?
The decision-making process will sit with the Maungakiekie Tāmaki Local Board and is approved by Auckland Transport. Decisions will be based on feedback from residents and recorded changes in traffic flows. Advisors with expertise on traffic systems will help Local Board members to analyse the data and provide advice.
If changes are made permanent, will the plywood boxes stay?
No, these are low-cost solutions for use during the trial as permanent solutions like speed bumps, speed cameras or roundabouts were not feasible. If some changes are made permanent, new solutions will be designed and installed over time. These could include bollards, small gardens and seating depending on the intervention, but it is an unknown at this stage.
Why weren’t we informed of changes before they were installed?
We wanted to inform people of the changes in advance, and we are sorry this did not happen. We had planned to distribute leaflets to residents living in the affected streets and talk directly to local businesses in the Low Traffic Area. The two lockdowns that happened in February impacted our plans, and we regret that there was not more notice of the plans being implemented.
Why were these streets chosen?
These streets were chosen as they were identified by locals as hotspots for traffic congestion and they had all the elements needed for a successful Low Traffic trial; proximity to public amenities, shops, schools and public transport.
Work on the project started in 2020. The project team held a public workshop in December 2020 and invited feedback via the AK Have Your Say Project Page. 60 local residents attended a workshop and over 200 people had their say via the website which shaped the Stage 1 design installed early March.
One of the main issues identified by locals was the heavy congestion on Grey Street and Arthur Street (particularly during rush hour from 4pm until 6pm) and unsafe driving on the side streets.
The problem was confirmed through traffic monitoring, which found in excess of 3,800 cars a day travelling along Grey Street and 3,900 cars a day travelling along Arthur Street. Traffic monitoring on Cameron Street over a 7-day period found that 20% of the 1200 motorists per day using it exceeded the 50kph speed limit, with 29 cars travelling in excess of 70 kph and two cars exceeding 90kph.
Why weren’t local residents consulted on the design before the changes were made to the streets?
Once the problems were identified by locals and the public feedback from the workshop and online gathered, the Stage 1 designs were developed and went through an approvals process and road safety assessments. For this type of project, it is important people experience the changes so all elements are experienced, rather than solely giving feedback based on plans and drawings, or immediate reactions post-installation.
Feedback is sought based on actual changes they were seeing in traffic flows and their experience of living, driving, walking and cycling on the affected streets.
Won’t these changes slow down Emergency Services?
All Emergency Services were made aware of the trial before it started and were comfortable with the notification and interventions. Overseas evidence suggests there has been no increase in response times within or around the Low Traffic Areas.
Do you expect all people living in the closed off streets to switch to walking and cycling rather than driving?
No, we understand that this is not practical for many different reasons for many people. We expect many people will continue to use their cars for most journeys initially. But even small changes by people that are able to choose different options makes a big difference to all residents of Onehunga. Any car that isn’t used for short trips is one less car sitting in traffic on those main arterial routes which are designed to handle larger traffic volumes.
What we are interested in is resident’s views on the trade-off between having quieter, safer streets, but less convenient car journeys. As Auckland grows we all need to consider our choices as the roads won’t cope with more cars. It is a choice which will become easier as public transport and cycling Infrastructure improves but it is a conversation that needs to begin before then, with small cost-effective trials to show, test and measure the effects of changes like these and whether people are willing to consider change.
If some people are having to drive further, won’t this just increase vehicle emissions?
We expect that the increase in journey length for some trips in cars will be offset by other people choosing to walk or cycle for short trips. 2/3 of peak hour trips in Auckland are less than 5km and the Low Traffic Area is only 1km across, so a 15 min walk from one side to the other. If more local people choose active modes of transport for short trips then the overall effect will likely be a reduction in emissions.
Isn’t this just moving the problem to other streets, making traffic worse?
We are recording traffic flows on surrounding streets to understand the impact of the street closures. We expect there will be an initial increase in traffic on surrounding roads as people find out about the closures and change their routes. We appreciate the concern of the community that Mt Smart Road, Onehunga Mall, Victoria Street and Church Street have become busier, however this is a trial to assess the effects of these types of changes and any increase in traffic in the short term can be addressed at the end of the trial with further measures, if required.
Over time, some of the traffic that previously used Arthur Street and Grey Street will find alternatives to Mt Smart Road or Church Street and be spread across the network or no longer show up in the system because people will have chosen not to drive and instead use public transport, walk or cycle. This is known as “Traffic Evaporation” and is commonly seen in Low Traffic trials.
With the traffic more evenly spread along main arterial roads that are designed to handle heavy traffic, we expect traffic to flow better, congestion to ease and travelling times to reduce. This is supported by research in other areas where these Low Traffic trials have been introduced. Sometimes when roads are removed from a traffic network, traffic flow can actually improve, this is known as “The Braess Paradox” and hopefully we may see this effect by the end of this trial.