I wonder how often your average West Harbour resident walks across the motorway to Westgate? I have to say, considering I live less than a kilometre from the shopping centre, I can count the number of times I’ve walked there on one hand. And with good reason – like many of Auckland’s shopping centres, Westgate is not particularly accessible.
Unless you have a car that is.
Josh Arbury over at Auckland Trains has run a small series of posts highlighting how car-centric many parts of Auckland are – illustrating his point with satellite photographs of Botany Downs in East Auckland, and Smales Farm on the North Shore. Here’s the same view of Westgate:
(This image was taken from Google Maps and is a few months old now – there is now a bridge that replaces the roundabout in the top right hand corner.).
Anyone who walks from West Harbour to Westgate will face four sets of traffic lights (only two sets if you drive). From the end of the motorway, it’s another 150m until there’s an entrance to the shopping centre (illustrated by the red line). I’ve seen several keen walkers jay-walk the lights at motorway on and off ramps – literally risking their lives given the speed at which traffic enters and exits the motorway. The story isn’t much better for residents in the Westgate subdivision (orange line) or Massey West (yellow line), except they don’t have a motorway to contend with.
Public transport obviously wasn’t given too much serious consideration by the developers – while there is kind-of a bus station at Westgate (green shaded box), and buses do have a dedicated right-hand turn at the lights on Hobsonville Road, the prolific use of fiddly little roundabouts within Westgate (one at each end of the bus station) makes driving a bus through Westgate a little hazardous.
I’ve worked out that approximately half the space which Westgate occupies is taken up by parking spaces. This seems to be a huge waste to me. I’m not advocating getting rid of all the car parks (grocery shopping at Countdown without a car wouldn’t be a lot of fun – although I know it’s reality for some), but if Westgate was served by a decent public transport system, I think that some of that space could be put to much more valuable use – more retail space, perhaps medium density living space, or even (gasp!) community space?
The Kiwi Income Property Trust saw the benefits of integrated public transport when they build Silvia Park – investing a significant amount of money in building the mall’s own train station (yes, the developers paid for the Silvia Park train station themselves). Westgate would be a prime beneficiary of a dedicated bus-way on the Northwestern Motorway – this needs to be a priority for the Westgate Town Centre development which is currently on the cards.
As an aside, when Westgate was first being built (while I was still a student at Kaipara College) there was a rumour (more urban legend I suspect) that the original plans were for a Westcity-style shopping mall with parking on the roof. However, some bright spark worked out that if someone jumped up on top of their car in the roof-top car park, they would be able to touch the high-tension wires which pass overhead. The plans for a mall were subsequently scrapped. I don’t know how true that story (probably entirely fiction), but I wonder how different the above image would be if there was a mall at Westgate instead of the open shopping centre that’s there now.