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LCQ17: Projects implemented by Energizing Kowloon East Office to improve pedestrian and traffic networks

Following is a question by the Hon Paul Tse and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Eric Ma, in the Legislative Council today (June 7):

Question:

Traffic congestion in Kwun Tong District is a long-standing problem, which has caused complaints from local residents being heard everywhere in the district and discussions on the subject by the Kwun Tong District Council year after year. Quite a number of District Council members have envisaged that upon the respective completion of the Kwun Tong Town Centre redevelopment project and the Anderson Road public housing development project, the competition between pedestrians and vehicles for road space will be exacerbated. On the other hand, the Government has proposed to make Kowloon East a pilot smart city, and the Energizing Kowloon East Office (EKEO), which is tasked to promote the transformation of Kowloon East into a core business district, has implemented a number of projects to improve the pedestrian and traffic networks in Kowloon East. However, quite a number of members of the public have pointed out that the effectiveness of a number of such projects is not satisfactory. For example, "Back Alley Project @ Kowloon East", for which $700,000 was spent to invite artists to paint graffiti to beautify the exterior walls at 36 back alleys in the district so as to divert pedestrians to such back alleys, has poor outcome. Those back alleys have been ridiculed as "ugly alleys" and the project is queried for wasting public money. In addition, the download figure of MyKE, a smartphone application using information and communications technology to integrate the information in Kowloon East, is on the low side (only 2 200 times as at last month). Also, MyKE comprises "Smart Parking Mobile App" function to provide information on vacant parking spaces in the car parks within the district (including real-time number of vacant parking spaces), but only 20 per cent of the car parks in the district provide such information to MyKE. Furthermore, only one of the traffic lights in the district is a smart traffic light, which can reduce pedestrians' waiting time for crossing the roads. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) as there are views that the 54 minor works projects (including the Back Alley Project @ Kowloon East) taken forward by EKEO in Kowloon East at a cost of $6 million have failed to divert pedestrian flows from the main streets and are not conducive to improving road congestion, whether the authorities have reviewed the effectiveness of such works projects; if so, of the details;

(2) of the development cost and recurring expenses of the MyKE application ;

(3) given that MyKE had a mere download figure of 2 200 as at last month, whether the authorities have conducted a review to find out the causes for that;

(4) as some members of the public have pointed out that since the Smart Parking Mobile App function often takes more than one day to update the number of vacant parking spaces, coupled with the fact that only 20 per cent of the car parks in the district provide parking information to MyKE, the function is not conducive to reducing the drivers' time in looking for vacant parking spaces and relieving traffic congestion, whether the authorities have monitored the operation of the function and examined why the function cannot provide real-time information on vacant parking spaces; whether new measures are in place to encourage more car park operators to provide parking information to MyKE; if so, of the details; of the expected time for the Smart Parking Mobile App function to cover all car parks in the district;

(5) of the total number of traffic lights in Kowloon East at present; the reasons why the authorities have installed only one smart traffic light in the district so far; whether the authorities have plans to replace all traffic lights in the district with smart traffic lights; if so, of the implementation timetable; and

(6) whether the authorities have made reference to (i) the proposed alignment of the Mong Kok footbridge system (i.e. constructing a footbridge at the Argyle Street section, connecting it with the Tong Mi Road footbridge along Argyle Street and extending it to Hak Po Street), and (ii) the footbridge across Queensway to be constructed by the developer concerned at nil land premium to connect Pacific Place and Harcourt Garden, and considered constructing a footbridge system in Kowloon East connecting busy road sections, such as Hoi Yuen Road, Kwun Tong Road and Shing Yip Street, so as to relieve the pedestrian flows on the ground, thereby directly diverting the pedestrian flows from the Kwun Tong MTR Station to Hoi Bun Road and Kwun Tong waterfront averting the need of at-grade roads, so as to share pedestrian flows and ease the competition between pedestrians and vehicles for road space; if so, of the details; if not, whether the authorities will conduct such a study immediately?

Reply:

President,

Government departments concerned are working on various fronts to alleviate the traffic congestion in Kwun Tong to cope with the developments in the district. Apart from implementating traffic and pedestrian environment improvement works in the district, the Police has also stepped up enforcement actions against illegal parking to help ease the traffic flows. My reply to the various parts of the question, after consultation with the Transport Department (TD), is as follows:

(1) Since its establishment, the Energizing Kowloon East Office (EKEO) has completed 54 quick-win minor works, including addition and improvement of pedestrian crossings and widening of footpaths, etc., to cope with the increasing pedestrian flows. In addition, more roadside greening has been provided to improve the pedestrian environment. Among these, the Stage 1 Back Alley Project improved the walking surface of six groups of back alleys and introduced public art into them. After the completion of the works, pedestrian flows along those alleys have increased (with certain alleys surging by 16 per cent), and thus achieved pedestrian diversion. The Kwun Tong District Council and the locals responded positively to the Back Alley Project.

EKEO and relevant departments are currently taking forward another 27 short-term improvement measures proposed under the feasibility studies on improving the pedestrian environment in the Kowloon Bay and Kwun Tong Business Areas. These include footpath widening along Hoi Yuen Road and How Ming Street, improvement to the Tsun Yip Street/How Ming Street junction, and rerouting of How Ming Street, etc. Also, improvements works under the Stage 2 Back Alley Project are scheduled to commence in the third quarter of this year. Besides, EKEO is planning for taking forward the medium and long-term improvement proposals, including extension and face-lifting of the pedestrian subway network connecting to MTR Ngau Tau Kok Station, a new footbridge linking Exit B of MTR Kowloon Bay Station and East Kowloon Cultural Centre, and seizing the opportunity to enhance the Wai Yip Street/Hoi Yuen Road junction when developing the Kwun Tong Action Area.

(2) My Kowloon East (MyKE) mobile application was jointly developed by EKEO and the Lands Department by redeploying internal resources, and no additional expenditure was incurred so far.

(3) EKEO launched the trial version of MyKE mobile application in end December 2016, primarily for carrying out a proof-of-concept trial on smart crowd management during the marathon event held in Kowloon East in early January this year. With the initial launch of the "Smart Parking" function in MyKE at the same time, EKEO intended to provide the opportunity for interested car park operators to understand how opening up their real-time data could help in enhancing the utilisation of their car parks. EKEO plans to include more functions, such as a function suggesting indoor/outdoor routes according to personal preferences and needs, in the mobile application in the third quarter of this year, before conducting formal promotion to allow better understanding by the public on the various functions of the mobile application.

(4) EKEO disseminates real-time information on vacant parking spaces in the district through the mobile application to help drivers locate vacant car parking spaces quickly so as to alleviate traffic congestion. Since the launching of "Smart Parking" scheme, EKEO has proactively contacted and invited the operators of car parks in the district to participate in the scheme. As many operators needed technical assistance, EKEO held a number of technical sharing sessions to offer technical support, with a view to encouraging more car park operators to join the scheme to provide real-time parking vacancy information. As at the end of June this year, 19 car parks (including the major car parks in the district) which account for over 30 per cent of the hourly private car parking spaces in the district share parking information through the MyKE mobile application. The data are also shared with TD for dissemination, and made available in API (application programming interface) format on the data.gov.hk website. The operators of another 20 car parks have indicated that they would provide real-time data shortly. With their participation, about 65 per cent of the hourly private car parking spaces in the district would be covered in total. As for the remaining car parks, most of them are of old design and operation. They may not be able to automatically provide real-time information. There are a few small car parks adopting manual updating of parking information, but the updating situation is not satisfactory for some of them. EKEO is following up with such cases as appropriate.

In addition, since November 2016, the Government has made it a lease requirement in the sale of suitable lots in East Kowloon for releasing real-time information on vacant parking spaces to the Government.

(5) At present, there are 247 signal-controlled junctions in Kowloon East in total.

TD is currently testing a video pedestrian detection device at junctions with different traffic conditions and road environment in Hong Kong. On detecting the presence of pedestrians waiting in the waiting zone, the device will activate the pedestrian green phase in the preset traffic signal controlling sequence for vehicles and pedestrians, and there is no need for the pedestrians to press any button to activate that phase. If the pedestrians move out of the waiting zone before the green phase, the scheduled pedestrian green signal will be cancelled automatically. It is expected that the device will help reduce the waiting time for pedestrians and unnecessary stopping of the vehicles. Apart from the Hoi Bun Road/Lai Yip Street junction in Kwun Tong, similar trials are also conducting at other locations including the intersection of Link Road and Broadwood Road, the transport interchange near Sham Mong Road, the pedestrian crossing at Po Ning Road near Tseung Kwan O Hospital, and the pedestrian crossing in front of Ebenezer School & Home for the Visually Impaired in Pok Fu Lam.

As this project is still in the trial stage, TD will continue to conduct a comprehensive review to assess its efficacy and feasibility of extending its application having regard to the reliability, traffic impact, feasibility of works, cost-effectiveness of the system, and the actual needs of pedestrians. TD currently has no plan to conduct the trial at other locations.

(6) The pedestrian network planned by EKEO for Kowloon East comprises a combination of at-grade pedestrian walkways, footbridges and subways. It is formulated with due consideration given to the actual situation in the district, which features different environment and needs. Taking the pedestrian linkage between MTR Kwun Tong Station and Kwun Tong Promenade as an example, EKEO has commissioned TD and the Highways Department to widen the footpaths along Hoi Yuen Road in order to improve the congestion on the footpaths early. Moreover, the Drainage Services Department is studying the Tsui Ping River project, which would provide riverside boardwalks to connect Kwun Tong Road with Kwun Tong Promenade. EKEO will also explore the feasibility of constructing a footbridge at Hoi Yuen Road in relevant studies for the district.

To enhance walkability and connectivity, a policy measure on waiving the land premium payable for lease modification for the provision of pedestrian links (including footbridges and subways) was announced in the 2016 Policy Address, with Kowloon East as the pilot area. From February 2017 onwards, landowners in the Kowloon Bay Business Area may apply to the District Lands Office/Kowloon East for the necessary lease modification for constructing pedestrian links at their own costs in accordance with the planned pedestrian network. As for the Kwun Tong Business Area, the relevant feasibility study on the pedestrian environment improvement scheme is expected to be completed within this year. Landowners in the Kwun Tong Business Area may submit similar applications once the planned pedestrian network is incorporated into the relevant outline development plan. If approved, the land premium payable for the provision of the planned pedestrian links at their own costs will be waived.

Ends/Wednesday, June 7, 2017
Issued at HKT 15:30

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