No cars on Queen St: the new plan for Auckland central city
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A "completely new" long-term plan for central Auckland will be presented to city councillors next week.
Cars that need to enter the city will find it easier. Cars that don't will be discouraged. Parts of Queen St and some of its side streets will be pedestrianised.
The proposals are at the first stage and councillors will be asked at a meeting on Tuesday to approve a process for dealing with them. That process will take about a year and will include writing the business case, public consultation, detailed work on how services will function, budget planning and setting a schedule for the work.
It's a 20-year plan, although it grows out of some work that is already underway.
At its heart is a concept dubbed by council officials "Access for Everyone".
"We want to make the central city a place to go to not a place to go through," says Ludo Campbell-Reid, general manager of the council's Auckland Design Office (ADO).
Campbell-Reid is the author of the report going to council next week, called City Centre Masterplan 2040. He and the council's chief strategy officer, Jim Quinn, have spoken exclusively to the Herald about the plans.
"Access for Everyone is completely new for the city centre," Campbell-Reid says. "It's not just Queen St, it's the whole valley. We don't know all the details yet about how we're going to do it. That wouldn't be right at this stage. This is a plan that leads us towards that."
Pedestrianising Queen St is not new. It was included in the council's City Centre Masterplan proposals in 2012. At that time, says the report, "it received the strongest public support of all the proposals". But no funding was ever allocated.
Now the idea is back on the table. Campbell-Reid's report says the proposed construction of light rail on Queen St offers the chance to rethink the whole way the central city streets work.
"Private motorised through-traffic would be directed around Auckland city centre before entering," it says.
That means traffic currently using Victoria St and Wellesley St to cross the city will be encouraged to go round, using Mayoral Drive or Customs St, or the motorways.
"Within the city centre," says the report, "the existing street network would be reconfigured to function as a series of zones. Buses, light rail vehicles, pedestrians and people on bikes would be able to pass directly between zones. Private motor traffic would generally be required to enter and leave from the same zone."
If you drive into town from Tamaki Drive, for example, heading for Shortland St, you will find it difficult to then drive across town to another part of the city like Karangahape Rd or Wynyard Quarter. Instead, you will have to leave Shortland St the way you came, and drive around.
"This frees Queen St for pedestrians," says Campbell-Reid. "It also means cross streets like Wyndham St will become cul-de-sacs. So they could be largely pedestrianised too."
"It might be a street like Shortland St loses most of its cars," said Jim Quinn. "That's exactly the sort of thing we could be consulting on."
The report says: "Access within the city would be prioritised for non-discretionary trips."
That includes, it says, "emergency vehicles, servicing, deliveries, rubbish removal, existing access to buildings, people with specific mobility requirements and other critical business trips".
It anticipates for all those vehicles, it will be easier to drive in the city.
It also suggests there will be many other changes in the city, such as couriers using e-bikes for "last-mile" deliveries.
The report also suggests that many people who don't need to drive right into town might drive as far as the "concrete collar", the motorways that define the edges of the central city.
"From there they could take a shuttle," says Campbell-Reid. "Or they might walk, or use an e-bike hire or a scooter."
He says there are now 100,000 people working in the inner city and 57,000 people living there.
"The changes are forcing a rethink anyway."
"Meanwhile," says Quinn, "the CRL is causing one kind of disruption and things like Lime scooters are causing another. We need to get ahead of this. All the construction work, private as well as public, gives us a chance to do that."
The report focuses on three other significant areas. One is "Māori outcomes". A Mana Whenua Kaitiaki Forum is driving that process and there is now a Māori design unit inside the Auckland Design Office.
"We don't know what that will look like yet," says Quinn. "But I can tell you it's not just putting leaf patterns on the sides of walls."
Another new area of focus is the lower Grafton Gully, where several residential and commercial developments are expected. A new tree-lined boulevard will become the heart of that precinct.
Lastly, the new masterplan will be digitised.
"We don't think it should be updated every six years," says Campbell-Reid. "It should become a living document, constantly updated as required."
While council will be debating the new masterplan proposal next week, it has also released details of its designs for the downtown area on Quay St, lower Queen St and the waterfront. They envisage big new pedestrian areas and the reduction of Quay St to just one lane of traffic each way.
Auckland Transport and the Auckland Council are holding public consultation sessions on them, with the details on their website.
Campbell-Reid says they don't know how everything in the central city will work yet.
"This is top line planning. But imagine it. We know the diesel pollution in central Auckland is killing people. This could create the cleanest air of any city in the world. And in 10, 20 years, we could see a city that really looks like a Pacific city. And you know shopping numbers will go up too."
Access for Everyone
•Make the city centre a place to go to not a place to go through.
•If you have to be there, it's easier. That includes service, emergency, mobility requirements, private car parks and others.
•If you need to drive into town, you'll enter the part you need to go to and exit the same way. It won't be easy to drive across town.
•Cross-town traffic routed to Customs St, Mayoral Drive and the motorways.
•Queen St partly/fully pedestrianised, with light rail.
•Cross streets and side streets pedestrianised too.