Clearway Review

Paremata Residents Association Inc.

SH1 Paremata to Plimmerton – Clearway Review and Safety & Operational Audit

 

BACKGROUND

When NZTA sought approval to replace the original T2 lanes through Mana with a clearway system, conditions were imposed requiring various reviews to be carried out or instigated by NZTA within 18 months of the clearway lanes becoming operational (i.e. by September 2013).

In June 2014, the Association received a report, prepared by MWH consultancy for the NZTA, reviewing compliance with the Clearway Conditions and incorporating a Safety and Operational Audit of the road. On 8 July we had a preliminary meeting with NZTA and PCC officers to discuss the report. At that meeting we outlined our preliminary thoughts on the report but also indicated that we would like to get feedback from the community before confirming those views. A newsletter outlining those preliminary thoughts was subsequently distributed to all households within the Association’s area and seeking feedback on them.

The Association’s views have now been firmed up as a result of that feedback and are summarised in this paper for PCC and NZTA.

SOME RESERVATIONS ABOUT MWH REPORT

At our meeting on 8 July we mentioned a number of limitations that we had identified in the MWH Report and which raised some questions. These included:

  • Only 59% of the days in the March 2012 – October 2013 period were recorded by the TMS near the BP station [Safety and Operational Audit – page 8]. Can we be confident that this is representative of what took place over the entire period?
  • The daily traffic volume graphs cover only the period January 2013 to October 2013.
  • The Mana Esplanade TMS location has the same road layout/configuration as approximately 60% of the entire route [Safety and Operational Audit - page 8]. The data from the TMS cannot be taken as being representative of what took place over the entire route.
  • There were 16 hours of CCTV monitoring of HCV lane use (8 in each direction) between May and December of 2012 [Safety and Operational Audit - page 29]. Half of that monitoring took place when the clearways were operating (i.e. during times when only 16% of HCV travel occurs [Safety and Operational Audit - page 11]. Can we be confident that this is representative of overall lane use by HCVs or that the TMS data on its own accurately reflects use of the buffer lanes outside clearway hours?
  • Can we be confident that the limited duration (9.5 hours) of parking surveys [Safety and Operational Audit – Appendix E] accurately reflects parking behaviour for the period?
  • The crash information is very restricted primarily because it excludes crashes within 200m of both the roundabouts because “the queuing rear-end are unaffected by the clearway”. Also the first diagram purporting to show all the crashes between March 2012 and November 2013 fails to show at least 9 recorded crashes, and the second diagram shows only the HCV crashes north of Acheron Rd.

Our major reservations about the MWH Report, however, relate to the insufficient acknowledgement of - and lack of recommendations to address - the issues that we believe are of prime concern to residents, visitors, truck drivers and motorists. These concerns were explained at our earlier meeting and also summarised in the information sent to residents for feedback. That information also outlined our preliminary thoughts on measures to address those concerns – a copy is attached as Appendix 1 for your convenience and to avoid the need to repeat all the details.

In light of the limited feedback received, our thoughts remain largely unchanged and our recommendations are set out below.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Clearway Hours

We are prepared to endorse the changes proposed in the MWH Report – even though we have concerns that the extended hours will cover the times when children should be walking or cycling home from schools. In addition, however, we recommend that a new clearway be introduced southbound on Saturdays between 10.30am and 1.30pm. The time suggested is the same as that proposed for the northbound clearway but, in light of feedback received, we would also not be opposed to an extended time of 10.00am to 1.30pm in each direction.

It is noted that designation condition 55.4 requires a consultation process (including the NZAA, Road Transport Assn, Plimmerton Residents Assn and Ngati Toa Rangatira) to take place before any changes are made and, if the MWH Report’s “ideal” option for weekdays northbound (2.30 -7.00pm) were chosen, an application to alter the designation under section 181 of the RMA would be required.

Signage/Enforcement

Ideally we would like to see overhead gantries (with the widely recognised green arrows and red crosses) installed along the route and supported by a bylaw enabling enforcement.

If that is not possible, as a minimum we recommend additional and more effective signage – particularly the use of more VMS signs. (In fact, we believe the current signage does not comply with designation condition 55.6 which specifically requires the use of “electronic messaging signs”.)

We would be happy to discuss the various possibilities, but our current thoughts are outlined in Appendix 2.

Heavy Vehicle Restrictions

  • We recommend that northbound trucks and buses be instructed to move back into the kerbside lane from Goat Point onwards, instead of from Grays Road. This would involve installation of a VMS sign near the Paremata Roundabout (similar to the southbound sign near the Plimmerton Roundabout) and appropriate signs at Goat Point, as well as the installation of railings on the edge of the footpath around Goat Point.
  • We recommend that southbound trucks and buses be instructed to move back into the kerbside lane from the end of the southbound clearway (just prior to the Paremata Bridge). This would involve installation of an appropriate sign near the northern end of the bridge and (preferably) installation of railings on the edge of the eastern footpath over the bridge.

The relevant designation conditions relating to heavy motor vehicles (conditions 55.5 and 55.6) currently refer to using the centre lanes “between the Paremata bridges (in the south) and the Steyne Avenue intersection (in the north)”. It may be considered necessary to make this more specific with the proposed changes, but we would not be concerned if the current wording remained.

Extension of Parking/Clearways

  • We recommend that extra kerbside parking spaces be provided on the western side of the Esplanade south of Acheron Road. This would enable the northbound clearway to be extended from south of the BP Station as far as Acheron Road. We suggest initially that the extra parking be provided along the kerbside north of Tommy’s to Acheron Road, but the possibility of parking between the supermarket and Tommy’s should also be considered later.
  • We recommend that the southern beach entrance be closed and the northern entrance expanded, then extra parks could be provided along the kerbside as far as the bus bay just north of the Paremata Bridge.

No changes to the current conditions would seem necessary as condition 55.1a already states that “the NZTA may at any time extend the areas available for kerbside parking and may amend the Plans Ga (November 2010) to Ja (and hence the areas where Clearway Hours will operate) accordingly”.

Exit from Paremata Railway Station

We would be happy to discuss the possibility of providing a new exit from beyond the southern end of the current carpark with yourselves and the GWRC.

Southbound Queues at the Paremata Roundabout

This is becoming an increasing frustration for southbound motorists, particularly in the early evenings. We would be happy to explore possibilities with you. Perhaps the use of a points-man would be worth trialling and could be discussed with the Police.

Intersection Dangers

By far the greatest feedback received from the community has been related to the lack of clarity about what lanes vehicles should be turning into when exiting side streets onto the Esplanade. The different interpretations and resulting confusion can cause real danger, many near misses and considerable anger.

This is seen as a the most urgent issue by many local residents and could probably best be addressed by installing signs in the side streets at the relevant intersections, accompanied by some publicity in local papers. The signs might say something like “Traffic turning left should turn into kerbside lane, then merge”. (We believe there are some similar signs used for traffic turning from Tory St into Wakefield St in Wellington City).

Once again, we would be happy to discuss this issue which we believe should be dealt with urgently.

We hope these recommendations and suggestions are helpful.

24 November 2014

APPENDIX 1

REVIEW OF OPERATION AND SAFETY – SH1 PAREMATA TO PLIMMERTON


Recommendations from MWH Review

 

Essentially the only recommendations for change in the MWH report relate to the clearway times. Based on monitoring of traffic volumes between January and October 2013, the report suggests:

 

Southbound Weekdays

No change, i.e. stay as 6.30 to 9.30 am

 

Northbound Weekdays

Change from 3.30 – 6.30 pm to

either 3.00 – 6.30 pm

or (ideally) 2.30 - 7.00 pm.

 

Southbound Sundays and Public Holidays

Change from 3.30 – 6.30 pm to

3.00 – 6 pm.

 

Northbound Saturday

Change from 11.30 am – 2.30 pm to

10.30 am – 1.30 pm

No additional clearway times have been recommended, although different northbound patterns on days before public holidays were noted and reports of southbound congestion on Saturday afternoons were considered.

There are also no specific recommendations relating to safety, parking or use of the kerbside buffer lanes, other than to suggest that NZTA “consider providing further education for northbound HCV [Heavy Commercial Vehicles] drivers to remain in the centre lane until at least Steyne Avenue due to the proximity of vulnerable road users to the traffic in the kerbside lane around Goat Point.”

Our Concerns and Frustrations

 

Based on our own observations and feedback from other residents, visitors, truck drivers and motorists, the major concerns seem to be:

  • The number of vehicles using the kerbside buffer lanes outside the clearway hours, the inadequacy/ineffectiveness of the current signage and the inability to enforce the measures. Particularly frustrating and dangerous are the numbers of vehicles that weave in and out of the lanes as well as the difficulties for vehicles wanting to turn off the highway (into private properties, service stations, the shopping centre, etc).
  • The number of trucks and buses not observing the request to use the centre lanes, the inability to enforce the measures and the number of crashes involving trucks (particularly when changing lanes).
  • The perceptions of danger and discomfort which dissuade people from parking, cycling, using the footpaths, etc.
  • Queues of traffic over the weekends, particularly southbound on Saturdays.
  • Queues of southbound traffic at the Paremata Roundabout, mostly in the evenings.
  • Difficulties for vehicles exiting Paremata Railway Station.
  • Intersection dangers – red-light running and confusion about rights-of-way.

Our Thoughts on Changes Needed

 

The following are the thoughts which we put forward at the meeting with PCC and NZTA on 8 July. They are what we described as our initial thoughts and we reserved the right to change or withdraw any of the suggestions in light of feedback from the community or other sources.

(a)       Clearway Hours

We are prepared to endorse the changes recommended by MWH, provided our other suggestions below relating to signage and footpath safety are implemented.

In addition, however, we believe that there is a case for a new clearway to be introduced southbound on Saturdays between, say, 10.30am and 1.30pm. Perhaps the most common gripe we hear is from motorists who have been caught in queues of traffic over weekends at times when the clearways are not operating. Queues can build up at any time and are difficult to predict, but the most common delays appear to be in the southbound direction (between Steyne Avenue and Ngatitoa Domain) on Saturday mornings and early afternoons. The delays are not usually very long – from our observations, seldom more than 5 minutes – but because they are usually exacerbated by vehicles using the buffer lanes and then forcing their way into the centre lane when encountering parked vehicles, the level of frustration for those in the queue becomes very high. Introduction of a southbound clearway at such times will mean there is no parking on either side of Mana Esplanade, which will result in difficulties for residents and people attending events at St Barnabas, etc.  On balance, however, we think that this inconvenience would probably be outweighed by the benefits for traffic from Plimmerton and further north.

(b)       Signage/Enforcement

When the Environment Court approved Transit’s proposals back in 2000, it did so in the knowledge that the road would not meet desirable standards for lane widths, pedestrian safety, noise levels, proximity to residences and so on. This resulted in the Court asking for use of the kerbside lanes to be minimised so that they would be used only during limited peak hours and, outside those times, should act as buffer lanes to:

  • Keep traffic further away from pedestrians using the footpaths;
  • Provide for safer parking and cycling;
  • Improve safety for vehicles accessing properties; and
  • Increase the distance between the traffic and residential properties to minimise the impacts of noise, fumes and vibration.

Clearways are usually introduced to restrict parking (and hence create another traffic lane) at peak times, but in this case the buffer lanes are expected to serve many other purposes. In fact this stretch of road is special and almost certainly unique - as far as we are aware, nowhere else in New Zealand is NZTA required to encourage vehicles to use the right hand lane.

We believe that most people have very little understanding of the reasons for the clearways or their use outside clearway hours. The buffer lanes are seen as being relevant only for parking and, because they are not heavily used for parking, many consider that the road should be permanently four laned. This lack of understanding is reflected in much of the feedback received and obviously has some influence on motorists’ willingness to comply.

The MWH report tells us that daily traffic volumes monitored at the count site near the BP Service Station averaged 28,812 light vehicles (cars and vans) and that 3,552 per day used the buffer lanes outside the clearway hours. This equates to 169 vehicles every hour (over 21 hours) or one every 21.3 seconds. It also means that about every eighth vehicle is ignoring (or not understanding) the current VMS signs situated at the start of the clearways and instructing all motorists to use the right lane. For safety and other reasons, residents, pedestrians, cyclists and motorists all need to be able to rely on the buffer lanes being free of traffic when they are meant to be, so this high level of non-compliance is just not acceptable.

The ability to prevent misuse of the buffer lanes has been hindered from the start by the lack of a bylaw enabling enforcement and by ineffective signage. Despite original assurances, NZTA has refused to contemplate a bylaw, citing practical enforcement difficulties and possible legal challenges. NZTA has also in the past baulked at the cost of overhead gantries with the widely recognised arrows and crosses denoting which lanes may be used.

At present, the only signs directing vehicles to use the centre lanes are those at the start of the clearways. As a minimum we want to see more effective signage, particularly extra small VMS signs erected along the route. Just as regular repeater signs are (legally) required to enable enforcement of the parking restrictions during clearway hours, we believe that the placement of repeater signs directing all traffic to use the right lane outside clearway hours is needed if compliance is to be expected. These should logically be placed after each intersection so that vehicles entering onto the highway from sidestreets are informed of the clearway situation.

  1. c) Alteration to Heavy Commercial Vehicle (HCV) Restrictions

The MWH report has compared the reported crashes during the 19 months after the change to clearways (1 March 2012 to 30 September 2013) with the previous 19 months and the previous 5 years. The latter showed an increase in overall crash rate of 23% and an increase in the injury crash rate of 11%. Of particular concern to us is the continuing high number of crashes involving heavy vehicles and especially those involving lane changes. For instance, the data records at least 9 crashes involving trucks changing lanes to the left during the 19 months – and that’s just the recorded crashes.

All trucks are asked by the current signs to use the right lane between Grays Road and the Paremata Bridge at all times. The report indicates, however, that about 9.3% of HCVs are continuing to use the buffer lanes at the BP Station. By the time they reach the southern end of the clearways, 15% of the southbound trucks are back in the buffer lane and about 40% of northbound trucks are back in the kerbside lane before they reach Steyne Avenue. This equates to about 11 every hour (over 24 hours) or one every 6 minutes and means about every third truck is ignoring the signs – despite the large VMS reminder sign at Goat Point!

We have spoken quite extensively to truck drivers and appreciate the reasons for their reluctance to stay in the centre lanes any longer than necessary. We also think it would make it clearer and safer for other drivers if northbound trucks were instructed to move back into the kerbside lane from Goat Point onwards and  if southbound trucks were to move back from the end of the southbound clearways.

Because even more heavy traffic will be travelling right next to the footpath, we also believe it is essential that there be railings installed on the edge of the footpath around Goat Point. This may reduce the width of the footpath slightly and prevent pedestrians from crossing the road in that vicinity, but is necessary for protection of those using the footpath. Similarly, we would also like to see barriers on the eastern footpath over the Paremata Bridge.

(d)       Extension of Parking (and    Clearways)

In conjunction with these changes, we would also like to see extra kerbside parking spaces provided on the western side of the Esplanade south of Acheron Road and the eastern side parking extended as far as the bus bay just north of the Bridge.  At present the northbound clearways extend only to south of the BP Station, encouraging through traffic to move left at that point. Creating additional parks further north will extend the length of the clearways as well as providing much needed additional parking in this area. Extension of the southbound parking should be carried out in conjunction with moving the beach entrance at Dolly Varden further north. This has been requested by NZTA in order to increase the stacking distance available for northbound vehicles wanting to use that entrance.

(e)       Exit from Paremata Railway            Station

The likelihood that vehicles would in the future have difficulties trying to exit the station has always been recognised and the possible need for an additional exit was acknowledged by NZTA at the original hearings. We have drafted a separate proposal on this issue suggesting an extension to the car-parking area and construction of an extra exit from beyond the southern end of the current carpark. We hope to discuss this further with NZTA, GWRC and PCC in the near future.

(f)        Southbound Queues at the    Paremata Roundabout

This congestion is caused by the amount of traffic heading north to SH58 and stopping southbound traffic from entering the roundabout. In the absence of grade separation, perhaps the only way to address the problem might be use of lights or points-men at critical times.

(g)       Intersection Dangers

NZTA has advised that it is looking at means to monitor red-light running more closely. It will also consider how best to clarify what vehicles should be doing when exiting side-roads (perhaps more education and signs on side-roads).

Feedback

 

As mentioned above, these have been presented to NZTA as preliminary thoughts only. We would like to get feedback. This could be done by either: (i) sending a note to PO Box 54 186, Mana 5247, or (ii) sending an email to russellmorrison@xtra.co.nz , or (iii) phoning Russell Morrison on 233-1056

APPENDIX 2

Clearway Review – Indicative Signage Suggestions

Southbound

(1) Just south of the Plimmerton Roundabout (as at present), a large VMS sign saying Heavy Vehicles use right lane / as far as Paremata Bridge at all times.

(2) At Goat Pt (as at present), a static sign saying Clearway 300m Ahead.

(3) Just north of Acheron Rd (as at present), a large VMS sign saying either

            Clearway Operating / Cars may use either lane or

            Clearway Not Operating / All traffic use right lane.

(4) Just south of Acheron Rd (as at present), a static sign saying Clearway Begins.

(5) Just south of the Acheron Rd, Mana View Rd and Pascoe Ave intersections, 3 small VMS signs saying either

Clearway Operating / No Parking or

Clearway Not Operating / Use right lane.

(6) Just north of the bus bay (where new parking ends), a static sign saying Clearway Ends.

(7 Near northern end of Paremata Bridge, a preferably VMS sign saying Heavy Vehicles may now move left with care, thanks.

Northbound

(1) Just north of the Paremata Roundabout (replacing existing sign), a large VMS sign saying Heavy Vehicles use right lane / as far as Goat Point at all times.

(2) Just south of the Paremata Bridge (as at present), a static sign saying Clearway 400m Ahead.

(3) Just north of Paremata Bridge (as at present), a large VMS sign saying either

Clearway Operating / Cars may use either lane or

Clearway Not Operating / All traffic use right lane.

(4) Just north of Marina View (as at present?), a sign saying Clearway Begins.

(5) Just north of the Marina View, Pascoe Ave and Dolly Varden Cres intersections, 3 small VMS signs saying either

Clearway Operating / No Parking or

Clearway Not Operating / Use right lane

(6) Adjacent to Tommys or thereabouts, a static sign saying Heavy vehicles please stay in right lane.

(7) South (or north) of Acheron Rd (where new parking ends), a sign saying Clearway Ends.

(8) North of Acheron Rd, a sign saying Steyne Ave traffic use left lane.

(9) At Goat Point, a smallish static sign saying Goat Point and a preferably VMS sign saying Heavy vehicles may now move left with care, thanks.

If you have any material you want us to circulate around the paremata area, please contact....

 
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