There is a real buzz amongst our team as the momentum has started to build. We are acutely aware that, while all our gears are in motion, Hill Street regularly grinds to a halt.
We've been covered in the media in response to the proposed trial of safety improvements at Elizabeth Street. What the news pieces didn't cover is our concern that all the short term tweaks don't appear to be part of an integrated solution.
We ask, what will happen next after half a dozen bollards and four signs restrict State highway and Hill Street traffic into Elizabeth Street? Are we going to get traffic lights next on the corner of Mill Lane and Neville Street (the RSA corner)? How long will the queues be for all that traffic now turning right into Queen Street from Mill Lane? Will we end up with a left-turning, anti-clockwise one-way system from Neville Street, Queen Street, and Mill Lane?
Currently, there is a steady flow along Elizabeth Street, Queen Street, and Baxter Street. Will the extra Whitaker Street traffic create an antagonistic flow that causes gridlock in the town centre?
Talking about unintended consequences, let's not forget that NZTA have $100m for "Warkworth intersection improvements." Warkworth started with three sets of traffic lights. When right-turning into Hill Street was restricted as a "trial", traffic lights were installed at the State Highway 1 intersection with Hudson Road (Remember this: http://bit.ly/2cT5hnE?) With the rest of the $100m, a further four intersections will be built (either end of the Western Collector at McKinney and the Matakana Lin, at either end of the Matakana Link, and the Tollway). Three intersections increased to eight is not an improvement!
We would especially like to thank all the offers of support, ideas, donations, and the media interest.
One cardiothoracic specialist even suggested that Warkworth was shaped like a heart and all the bypasses in the world won’t fix a blocked aorta. (That’s the big red thing at the top of the heart that branches out and circulates blood the rest of the body.) Not a bad comparison, we reckon.
There’s been a lot of filming at the intersection recently and none of it has involved us… yet. We know of five media companies filming at the intersection over the next month. We will post their footage when it is available.
We’ve spent a lot of time researching the root causes of the lack of action and it is threefold:
1. The snowball effect of an outdated design for a growing population;
2. Fragmented views within Warkworth; and
3. Warkworth being a small fish in a big funding pond.
Warkworth isn’t alone. Our team has seen the problems of getting other intersections fixed. To fix Hill Street now, we need critical mass – an unstoppable and unified juggernaut.
1. THE SNOWBALL EFFECT
When one thing stays constant and others change, a fundamental problem can snowball.
The strange element of the intersection is that, while the surrounding area has changed considerably over time, very little has changed at the intersection during its history. Although most adjoining land remains in Crown hands, the survey plans for the road reserve have changed very little.
Within the road reserve, tar seal has replaced MacAdam unsealed roads, a single roundabout-styled traffic island was replaced by traffic lights in the 1970s, but since then very little has changed. The turning lanes have been lengthened and new technology (called SCATS, which is also used at Auckland motorway onramps) controls the traffic lights.
The fundamental problem, however, remains that there are several intersections in close proximity. Those who want to close Elizabeth Street or restrict access into Hill Street can’t see beyond the shape of the intersections. The shape is so ingrained and outdated that significant change is stymied.
Warkworth has been a history of fragmented views. Misconception and misinformation, it is important that the community understands the myths, dispel the myths, and the pull in the same direction. Funders capitalize on such weaknesses to direct funds towards simpler and unified solutions.
If you look up "sustainability" in the dictionary, it means to "keep up vitality or strength". How the RMA works, however, some would think that it drains the energy of good ideas.
There are terms like “the receiving environment” and “sustainability” that are so often thrown around that their meaning is overlooked. Sustainability is the purpose of the Resource Management Act and its definition, in essence, means creating the optimal benefit to the most people affected without leaving anyone or anything worse off. It’s synonymous with terms like allocative efficiency and a Kaldor–Hicks improvement (Google those terms).
The problem with Hill Street is that all proposed reconfigurations at the intersection and other nearby roading projects fail to meet the purpose of the RMA as they don’t take into account the future needs of the area. The intersection is already 30 years behind where it should be and, by the time the other projects are finished, the traffic at the intersection will be more than double what it is now.
An intersection should be designed to accommodate the maximum number of traffic that uses it. Currently, the Hill Street intersection deals with 37,000 average daily traffic movements but the capacity is around 3,000 traffic movements an hour, which is reached for three hours every day. In ten years’ time, peak hour traffic could reach 10,000 traffic movements an hour.
Currently, the Laissez-faire approach results in a progression of uncoordinated solutions by default. This becomes a dog’s breakfast. Clearly, the problem is so bad that another approach is needed.
Environment Court mediators often use the blank canvas approach. In other words, ignoring the current configuration, what would the ideal situation look like?
To design an intersection now, it has to take into account traffic well after it is finished. To break the ice, we’ve put together several ideas about what could be done at the intersection. We don’t propose to have all the answers but want to encourage discussion.
What we have done is work out where traffic comes from and where it goes, figuring out the shortest journey time to get there for all combinations. We’ve also looked at the terrain of the blank canvas.
Elements that we consider important to any design is, instead of making traffic queue, we encourage traffic to flow in such a way that it spreads out so that the gaps between vehicles allows other vehicles from other directions a chance to flow as well.
Over the next month, we will share our ideas and explain how they work.
We need to start with the ideal and work back towards the practical and “do-able” solution.
The risk of mediation is that often the different interests trade one element for another. The saying that a camel was designed by committee is often thrown around. From our experience, the law of unintended consequences is often the result where good intentions result in the opposite result.
Take, for instance, the Western Collector. Auckland Transport designed it to take traffic around Hill Street. Unfortunately, the NZTA reckon it will take four times as much traffic towards Hill Street.
We are aware that, if we propose a longer-term solution to Hill Street, a shorter-term solution might be the result. To get the best result, we need to raise expectations of locals of what can be done to ensure that something is done.
Central to achieving an outcome is making sure that there aren’t any excuses to do nothing. Our community should not only see what can be done but also expect something to be done and make sure it is done.
HEARTS AND MINDS
We are only a small group of volunteers taking on a big problem that affects a lot of people. We have the expertise and the experience but we need to concentrate our resources where we can achieve the greatest impact. We don’t want to over-extend our reach beyond our lines of support.
We cannot achieve our goal without your support. Central to our campaign is making sure that the community has the best information available. We would appreciate if you can get the message out what we are doing and how it will benefit them.
Similar campaigns have failed due to limited resources being concentrated on less effective pursuits. We have noticed that, regardless of how often our message is in the mainstream or social media, we get the same myths blurted back at us. We would appreciate if our growing supporter base could get involved and help us inform people with the correct information. Get on Facebook and comment, tell people to spend some time on our website, forward this newsletter to your friends, tell them to subscribe, tell them how important fixing Hill Street is. Simply ask them, do you want us to fail?
3. A WIDER PROBLEM
In the Auckland Council structure, Warkworth is one of four subdivisions of Rodney Ward. Rodney has only 1 councillor of the council’s 20. We have seen what has happened with the central Auckland bloc of councillors pushing for the Central Rail Loop whilst pushing the Penlink further down the queue.
Now is a rare opportunity to fix Hill Street. NZTA and Auckland Transport have a budget and are working together. Auckland Council has identified Warkworth as one of its four key growth areas. While the zoning decisions have been made, we need to make sure that the NZTA realises that Hill Street is has national implications and is a National problem.
Look at how Auckland Transport convinced the NZTA to fund the Matakana Link. We need to convince Auckland Transport to make sure that the NZTA prioritise its resources towards Hill Street.
The next fortnight will be busy. Drone filming starts on Friday. Next week, we’ll launch another front to our campaign. Watch this space.
If you would like to donate to our campaign, have ideas, or want to get involved in any other way, please send us a message on our website.