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Central city schools cluster project (Dunedin)

The problem

Traffic safety was a major issue in the streets around several schools clustered together in Central Dunedin. The cluster comprises Otago Boys’ High School, Arthur Street School, Kavanagh College, Otago Girls’ High School and St Joseph’s Cathedral School, with a total of 3000 students across them. High vehicle speeds, poor parking behaviour, and limited sightlines contributed to an unsafe crossing environment and medium-high to high risk ratings on school roads. In addition, there was low parking availability for short-term visitors during the day. The schools wanted road safety improvements as soon as possible, and there was a drive from Dunedin City Council (DCC) to provide quick wins to prove to the schools and stakeholders how possible improvements could work. Permanent changes were estimated to cost $2 million and take eight months to be installed.

How the project responded

DCC surveyed key stakeholders to investigate the existing traffic safety problems and what would be needed to encourage more pupils to use other modes than cars. Several treatments were designed to concept stage and consulted on with key stakeholders and the general public, then trial versions installed over a one-month period at a cost of $50,000. The treatments included:

  • 10 gateways made of red paint, flexible bollards, and ‘central school zone’ signage
  • 4 mid-block crossings made of raised platforms, red and white paint, and plastic bollards
  • 3 intersection improvements, such as replacing uncontrolled intersections with mini roundabouts using paint, armadillos and flexible bollards
  • car parking changes to accommodate the gateways and crossings, including removal of parallel parking spaces and replacements with angle parks.

The trial nature of the treatments meant adjustments could be made based on monitoring and feedback. Adjustments made include moving two gateways slightly and planning additional intersection narrowing at one gateway.

Trial gateway treatments

Trial gateway treatments. Credit: Dunedin City Council.

Trial intersection improvements

Trial intersection improvements. Credit: Dunedin City Council.

What was learned

Key findings of the trial were:

  • before and after surveys show overall speeds decreased by 2-5km/h
  • student and resident feedback indicated the streets were perceived as safer.

Several lessons were noted relating to the consultation format and nature of the changes:

  • there was some public opposition during consultation for the trial, due to the plans and descriptions being hard to understand
  • motorists reported substantial confusion and slowing for the gateways and crossings
  • most users understood the purpose of the treatments and how to use them by six months post-installation
  • users report looking forward to ‘actual’ installation and removal of the ‘ugly’ flexible bollards
  • fast installation of the trial treatments contributed to high levels of support from the schools involved
  • trialling options increased public awareness of the project nature and purpose.

Some of the changes trialled have already been made permanent, with funding available to complete the remainder by early 2020.