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Lake Rd frustration prompts community brainstorm

Flagstaff Team

Seeking ideas… Meeting organiser Sonali Geo (right) and helper Cath Burnett

One wet day, Devonport resident Sonali Geo decided she had had enough of the traffic. It’s a feeling familiar to many on the peninsula, but this determined woman decided she was going to do more than moan about it.

She took to social media to ask if others would join her in coming up with fresh ideas. Within two days, she received more than 400 replies – and two weeks later she gamely chaired a community meeting on the vexed topic.

“I’m looking for lots of ideas and hope to get some that are out of the box, not the usual,” she told about 20 members of the public who turned up at the Community House last Thursday night, along with a bevy of Devonport-Takapuna Local Board members and Auckland councillor Richard Hills.

Geo emphasised she wanted things to stay non-political and positive, and for the most part they did. All but one attendee reckoned the congestion on Lake Rd was getting worse. Several said infill housing would only increase issues.

Most people shared well-intentioned suggestions, from separated cycle lanes to designated bus and T2 lanes. Clearways and overbridges were also suggested, along with more accountable public-transport delivery and a clampdown on vehicles rat-running around side streets.

Why not a Whangaparaoa-style traffic flow of two lanes of vehicles heading in one direction, and one lane the other way, alternating by morning and evening, asked one person. How about better-phased lights and some turns banned at pinch-point local intersections, said another.

Despite the Automobile Association emailing its local members last week to again advocate four-laning much of the road, and having a targeted rate to help double the Auckland Transport (AT) budget for the project to more than $100 million, its plan did not arise at the meeting.

Focusing on safety and trialling ideas rather than pushing for a perfect plan did.

One attendee with experience of transport planning suggested AT was hidebound for fear of raising community ire, when in the case of some changes – such as removing street parking – pushing on might be for the greater good.

Councillor Hills summarised why AT had already dismissed various options: Dynamic lanes, like those in Whangaparaoa, would not work because Lake Rd traffic was not “tidal”. It was often busy in both directions at once, and was fed by more side streets and driveways. Cost and accessibility ruled out overbridges and shifting cycleways to the side streets would not keep all cyclists off the main road – instead they needed safer passage down it.

Hills noted that $2 million had been spent already on community consultation, eliciting widely varying views. “AT will say it heard it in 2017 and in 2020.”

Outgoing board chair Aidan Bennett issued a plaintive call of “listen to the experts”, saying AT deserved the chance to be able to put in place its plan. “My idea is let the plan happen.”

Incoming chair Ruth Jackson said perhaps AT should set up an FAQ page, given how many people could not easily find why various options had been dismissed.

Member Jan O’Connor said the board itself was crying out for an update from AT. The plan for cycleways on Bayswater Rd was incomplete and she was unsure how Lake Rd traffic, using a proposed Esmonde Rd T2 lane, would be managed smoothly onto the motorway, along with buses.

Member Toni van Tonder urged that all who could, should consider “being the change” by shifting away from reliance on private vehicles for local journeys.

By this stage, some attendees were wondering what the point of their input was and if there was even a start date for the project. Geo was determined to keep things upbeat, however, and said Hills would take their ideas forward.

Van Tonder said an early start on Lake Rd depended on the council confirming its budget with rate rises.

Geo intends distilling the group’s views into a list of best short-and long-term options and aims to make a submission on the Regional Land Transport Plan before close-off early next month.

LOCAL VIEWS

“Lake Rd has many issues and it fails for everyone.”

“I spent half my life on Lake Rd, and I retired early because I got sick of it.”

“While Lake Rd has unacceptable traffic, it should be unacceptable to have more development.”

“Traffic is chock-a-block. You can’t get onto Lake Rd from Old Lake Rd or Williamson Ave.”

“Why do we have to have a $50m white elephant instead of experimentation?”


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