Monday, May 16, 2011

Christchurch Rebuild; Added Parking Bays Could Allow "Queue Jumper Lane" for Bikes and Buses.

Sydenham after the first earthquake in September 2010; local retailers feared bus lanes, ready to go but never implemented, would kill this ailing retail area - could the inset parking bays, easier traffic flow, generous cycle space and bus lanes suggested in this posting be a major aspect of its rebirth?

I believe the devastating earthquakes which have led to the destruction and demolition of rows of shops, in several places, offers an unique opportunity widen city streets at certain points.

The rough diagram below speaks for itself - in this scenario the Council has purchased the added frontage of empty sites, taken the boundary back about 4 metres, to allow the road to be re-created as five lanes (in a few places this could be six lanes, both sides of a street) with a parking lane and three or four lanes of moving traffic. Although the idea is obvious and will no doubt be suggested by many others, it is the traffic management and potential value to public transport that mosts interests NZ in Tranzit.

There is potential in this concept for overhead signs at the start of such a section to say PARKING &; LEFT TURN AHEAD ONLY (for the bus, bike, and slow lane) and THROUGH TRAFFIC ONLY  [possibly also & RIGHT TURN AHEAD]. Double lines between lanes would indicate vehicles are not permitted to switch lanes within that block, eg not move from centre through lane across to parking space or vice versa. Possibly an electronic sign could use "eyes" - as used in Taupo [see below, at bottom of posting]  - under car parks to feed back parking availability to the sign and display the number of car parks or read at that moment NO PARKING -  LEFT TURN AHEAD ONLY .

In the case of the Bus, Bike and Parking Lane the ideal situation is that the (compulsory) left turn only for private cars leads to added parking in the side street, including possibly angle parking. However - my main interest - is that the Bus,Bike and Parking Lane is in effect a queue jumper lane for bikes and buses.

A transponder in the bus itself, or on a pole, reads the approach of a bus and adjusts the signal phase accordingly. Overseas these signal systems can be very sophisticated. For example in many cases normally the signal phasing works "turnabout" (east-west/north-south, or some variation of this, etc) but if a bus is approaching it holds the opposing phase, and stops the main traffic lane [same direction as bus] to allow the bus on the inside lane to move across the intersection and back into the centre lane itself, the bus or buses now ahead of all the other centre lane traffic. Where traffic movement in some other direction has lost a bit of time to the bus movement phase (eg 10-20 seconds if two or three buses came through at same time) in the more sophisticted systems the signal then compensates by granting the banked traffic in that direction a slightly longer phase than normal. Of course if a bus or buses,  and on their inside, bikes are only going straight ahead, this still allows the parking/left turn traffic to exit as well in that phase.

Overall the amount of on street parking with inset bays can not be huge - possibly maximum 10-15 cars per block - and though a car backing in or out of the bus lane will ocasionally delay a bus, overall even on a busy bus route, the higher portion of the time will allow buses a modest but continuous forward flow. I imagine studies already exist overseas on delay vs flow in situations like this. Again with an electronic signage management system this could be adjustable, but unlike the original bus lanes planned for Sydenham [which never got further than the rather ironic looking sign in the rubble from the first big earthquake in September] there is never a time when the actual parking space itself is needed for bus flow. This system could be the "making" of Sydenham as an attractive corridor, rather the final nail in the coffin as peak hour bus lanes swallowing car parking was thought likely to be.

It is not presumed that this structure would necesarily apply for a whole block but in blocks where it does where the current boundary reapplies, there would be no parking kerbside at that section. Nor does this pattern have to apply every block - with traffic in the bus,bike and parking lane required to turn left and only bikes and buses moving straight ahead, there is no reason traffic an not revert to two lanes in each direct, as now one of them a kerbside parking lane.
I can see this working on sections of Colombo Street between north of Kilmore St; between Lichfield and St Asaph St; in several parts of Sydenham and even n Stanmore Road in brief section.  It could also apply in parts of Manchester Street. Most of all it would allow Tuam Street (suitably renamed) to be rebuilt as a substantial boulevard, many sections either five or even six lanes, as above, (possibly with centre trees) between Hospital corner and Fitzgerald Avenue. Along with the retained clockwise only one way system, as previously suggested in NZ in Tranzit, and Moorhouse Avenue further south I see this as the great through road and one to some degree separating the inner city's largely residential and suggested "village" commercial area south of "Tuam" Boulevard and the more conventional cosmopolitan city north of "Tuam" Boulevard. At the same time it frees up Lichfield to become a more user friendly inner city street, hopefully with enough surviving strengthened buildings to retain at least some of its potential elegance. I see Tuam street as very important street for buses - busways feeding into the city from northern and south-west areas included - as well as a primary corridor tofro the eastern suburbs.

Where an existing building remains, the footpath (with suitable aids to sight disabled) flows around it. In the case of designated Heritage buildings this will probably always be so. With modern buildings or high rise buildings, the Council places a Notice of Requirement on the front portion of the site. This would require owners to offer Council first option to buy the required frontage of the site if the building is ever demolished and the site is redeveloped. By this means over a 20-50 year period some streets might be fully widened for several blocks in a row.

In the meantime I believe we are creating a potential win-win-win situation for through traffic, cars seeking car parks, retailers, pedestrians, cyclists (widened area) and buses.

Parking eyes in Taupo emit GPS signals to tell wardens when cars have exceeded the 60 minute free parking time; equaly one imagines they could feed availability of an empty space to an electronic sign,  alerting approaching motorists to parking availability, in a bay or area accessed by left turn lane.

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