Auckland Transport

Whangaparaoa Road dynamic lane control trial

Auckland Transport (AT) will trial an innovative new way to reduce traffic during peak times along the busy Whangaparaoa Road.

Project overview

A live dynamic lane control trial will run for 18 months along Whangaparaoa Road in the area between Hibiscus Coast Highway and Red Beach Road.

The dynamic lane control system uses LED lights embedded into the road surface to mark traffic lanes instead of painted lines. Changing these LED lights is a quick and safe way to create a temporary lane during heavy congestion and ensure free traffic flow.

Dynamic lane control systems have been trialled in cities around the world to manage peak traffic flows.

Similar peak traffic management systems are currently used in Auckland along the Panmure Bridge and Auckland Harbour Bridge. The system is quick to build and more cost-effective than road widening.

Safety is a key consideration and has been reflected in the design of the dynamic lane trial.

Map of the trial area

View the map of the trial area (PDF 2MB)

Timeline

  • Design for this trial has been completed.
  • Physical works are expected to start in October 2017. The system will be in place in December 2017.
  • The trial itself will be operational in the first quarter of 2018.
  • Trial to run for 18 months.

How the system works

We selected Whangaparaoa Road for this trial because of its current configuration. It has 1 lane in either direction and a wide central median strip.

Morning peak traffic

During morning peak traffic, the LED lights will switch, turning the centre median strip into an additional traffic lane for peak traffic heading towards the Hibiscus Coast Highway.

Artist's impression of dynamic lane controls: Morning peak.

Morning peak lanes

Afternoon peak traffic

During afternoon peak traffic, the LED lights will switch again in the opposite order, turning the centre median strip into an additional traffic lane for peak traffic heading towards the Red Beach Road intersection.

Artist's impression of Dynamic Lane Controls: Afternoon peak.

Afternoon peak lanes

Non-peak traffic

In non-peak traffic times, the median strip down the centre of the road remains unchanged. One lane of traffic will run in both directions as normal.

Artist's impression of Dynamic Lane Controls: non-peak.

Off peak lanes

Traffic control gantries will also display clearly which lanes drivers should use.

Operational hours

We originally proposed to operate the Dynamic Lane Controls from 6.30am to 9am and 4pm to 6pm, Monday to Friday. These are the times when the corridor experiences the highest level of congestion.

To address concerns raised by residents along the affected trial area (making right turns in and out of side streets and attempting to cross the road on foot during peak times) and to allow road users to develop familiarity with the system, we will operate dynamic lanes during the afternoon peak period only (4pm to 6pm) for the first three months of the trial.

The PM peak is when we believe the system will be operating at peak efficiency and road users will see the most improvement and benefit to travel time.

The dynamic lanes on Whangaparaoa Road will be closely monitored for the duration of the trial and adaptive changes, such as to the phasing of signals at either intersection or the times when dynamic lanes are active, can and will be made if warranted.

Should no critical issues emerge in the first three months of the trial, we will look to testing the system during the morning peak (6.30am to 9am) for a one month period.

Although the impact on morning peak travel times is not expected to be as significant as in the afternoon peak, due to there being only one lane turning left towards the city at the Hibiscus Coast Highway intersection, some improvement is expected as the centre lane will provide separate access for traffic heading to neighbouring Silverdale. The benefit of this movement will likely increase as development in Silverdale and Millwater continues to grow. There is also likely to be additional benefit should any change in the left turn arrangement at this intersection be introduced.

If a noticeable improvement is detected we will continue to operate dynamic lanes during the AM peak and vice versa. Nevertheless, we reserve the right to make changes to the operating times of dynamic lanes at all times.

Regardless of the outcome, the data collected at this time will allow us to build a clear and documented profile of what would be necessary to make the dynamic system work during the morning peak which will inform, and may influence, further investigations into a permanent solution for Whangaparaoa Road.

Detailed designs by section

Signage

The system has been designed to be highly visible to all road-users. In addition, the approach to the trial site will be well sign-posted with Variable Message Signs (VMS) showing that the dynamic lane is in operation and overhead gantry signs will inform drivers which lanes to use.

All side roads will also have signage approaching Whangaparaoa Road to remind drivers that dynamic lane controls are in operation.

Getting in and out of side roads

We acknowledge that removal of the flush median may cause some delay for right turners and it is expected that right-turning vehicles will block through lanes at various times. Drivers who are not confident in making right turns during peak periods may need to change their travel routes which may result in increased travel times. However, it should be noted that there are a number of other sections of busy, multi-lane roads across Auckland which operate without flush medians.

We believe that the current phasing of traffic lights will create sufficient gaps to give traffic, pedestrians and cyclists exiting side roads and properties enough time to safely cross or access Whangaparaoa Road. The site will also be actively monitored at our control centre and AT will actively manage the phasing of traffic signals to optimise the movement of traffic. The change in layout which will split the previous single-file queue along Whangaparaoa Road across two lanes, may also create more gaps.

Creating an additional left turn lane at the Whangaparaoa Road intersection

Following feedback about easing traffic flow from the Hibiscus and Bays Local Board as well as the local community, we are investigating the possibility of allowing left turns to occur from the kerb side west bound through lane to Silverdale at the Hibiscus Coast Highway intersection.

The possibility of widening the left turn slip lane at the intersection was investigated during the design phase of this project. Regrettably it was found that an extra lane cannot be provided without significant road widening work which falls outside of the strategic and financial scope of this project. However this will be investigated further based on data gathered by this trial and will be a consideration following the trial, should it be successful.

Safety

While the dynamic lane controls on Whangaparaoa Road have been designed to increase efficiency and to trial a valuable tool for addressing congestion on Whangaparaoa Road and across the region, the safety of road users is also a key element of the design.

To optimise safety, we have undertaken an independent safety audit of the preliminary design and are currently undertaking a second safety audit of the latest design. These safety audits are undertaken by independent parties and are carried out to identify and mitigate safety risks.

Monitoring of safety is also a critical component of the trial. We will be using a series of CCTV cameras along the trial route to facilitate active and accurate monitoring of the trial. The issues highlighted by the audit will be closely considered as part of the monitoring. AT will seek to act quickly where significant issues arise through mitigation measures or ultimately a halt of the trial if it is deemed unsafe.

A user perception survey was undertaken in 2014 to determine driver behaviour responses to a dynamic lane control. A second driver perception survey based on the final design of the system is being undertaken and will be completed before the trial begins.

The speed limit on Whangaparaoa Road will be reduced to 50km/h for at least the initial period of the trial. This will be monitored as the trial progresses and data collected will be used to inform a decision on the final speed limit.

Walking and cycling along the trial location

Pedestrians crossing Whangaparaoa Road between Hibiscus Coast Highway and Red Beach Road currently experience difficulty due to the consistent stream of traffic in peak periods. Consequently AT’s survey data shows very few pedestrians currently cross mid-block away from signals.

As part of the trial AT will encourage pedestrians to make their way to either the Red Beach Road or Hibiscus Coast Highway intersections to cross. While there is not a footpath for the entire section, there is berm which pedestrians can use. AT recognises that this is an inconvenience to pedestrians who are centrally located on this stretch of road.

While the installation of new pedestrian facilities is not a part of this trial, AT will monitor and consider improved pedestrian facilities as a separate project, should the trial prove successful. Part of the monitoring will also include confirming whether the change in layout results in more gaps in traffic for safer pedestrian-crossing opportunities due to the previous single-file queue of traffic along Whangaparaoa Road being split across two lanes.

Survey data also indicates that there are very few cyclists using this section of Whangaparaoa Road. Reduced lane widths and removal of the flush median during peak periods will constrain the available space for motorists to pass cyclists, however providing two lanes of flow in the predominant direction will enable vehicles to change lanes in order to pass cyclists. The reduction in speed limit at the beginning of the trial should contribute to mitigating safety concerns for cyclists.

Throughout the trial, AT will closely monitor travel times, driver behaviour, delay for right turners and the safety of everyone using the road. The impact of the scheme on pedestrians, cyclists and right turners together with any change in travel times will be factored into reporting on the success of the trial. If at any time during the operation of dynamic lanes there are issues that result in a significant safety concern, the configuration of the road will be returned to its existing format.

Disruption to local residents and businesses

AT and its appointed contractor will be committed to working with the local community in the lead up to the trial to minimise any inconvenience during the construction period. Local residents and businesses will be notified of construction details and traffic management plans well in advance of any physical work.

We’ll be doing everything we can to make the trial work for local residents and businesses. We would urge them to work with us, talk to us and above all drive safely when the trial is underway.


Comment on the trial

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