Darby Street is the first of the excellent “Shared Spaces” in central Auckland to have been completed. I took a wander around there at lunch time yesterday with my camera: I like the fact that the trees that the gutter create something of a boundary to where one would expect cars to be (so there is a place where you feel truly ‘safe’) but at the same time if you want to walk down the middle of the street then you also feel quite comfortable doing that. While the place wasn’t exactly buzzing with pedestrians, there were quite a few milling around and it certainly felt like a friendly and attractive place to be. I think a few more seats would be quite nice though.

Progress on converting nearby Elliott Street into a shared space is also progressing well: And finally, just to jog the memory this is what Darby Street used to look like: What a stunning improvement. I can’t wait to see this rolled out to more and more inner city streets.

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  1. An unbelievable transformation. Looks simple but that’s a good thing. Really like it – let’s see some more conversions.

    And while I know some aren’t that keen on them, I’m a big big fan of the use of nikau palms in the CBD. Gives it that “pacific” touch.

  2. While it undoubtedly looks good I am worried about the amount of time that Elliot and Darby Streets have taken.
    The project seems to be going to take 2 years from start to finish. I would imagine that the cost is very high. I think I would [prefer to see more money spent just repairing the main streets. Parts of Victoria just up from Queens footpaths are really bad and have been like that for at least six years that I have been using. Has anyone any idea what the per metre cost of doing a street like Darby compared to standard street repair cost?

    1. The physical works only started late last year and have been completed for 1-2 months so it didn’t take that long. I believe part of the delay in planning was in sorting out the designs to be long lasting and now that they have sorted that part out future works should be much faster. Also as they get more used to the work they are doing they will speed up and Elliot St is moving along faster than Darby St.

    2. Yeah I think Matt is right – most of the time was spent getting the design “right”, which is actually fairly tricky. They had to placate the public while making sure the cost stayed within the budget that had been set.

  3. it is indeed a great improvement…especially when you look at the before and after. like many of these things, often people struggle to visualise it or imagine what it could be like when it is proposed, but once it is done, you wouldn’t dream of going back.
    wonder if the pedestrian figures before and after can be measured, and the retail spend in each shop can also be measured.
    bizarrely, no traffic need actually go along Darby Street now, as there are no parking spaces and no vehicle accesses…the ones on Elliot Street can be accessed from Elliot st currently whilst it is two way.
    I don’t think it will be long before cafes spot the opportunity to spill out on to the street…assuming that the council allow this and don’t charge a huge amount for them to do so.

    1. Apparently the council has organised a Darby Street business association and they are working together to put more outdoor cafe setting etc along there. I think the real proof of this will be in spring when it gets warm enough for people to enjoy al fresco dining.

  4. Agree it is an amazing improvement. I’m not so sure about the the straight line of trees, this gives a clear space along the north side of the street, so cars are happy to travel faster than they should. Ideally any cars should be crawling along here, but thats not what I observed.
    I know there has to be some allowance for emergency vehicles but maybe the clear area should weave around trees to slow cars down more.

    1. If you look closely, they do actually weave, rather than just line up. The problem if they were to weave any more dramatically away from the shops and into the open space is that there would be not be enough room for a car between the outer-lying trees and the gutter on the other side .

      Personally, I’d be fine with that. But it is a shared space (which includes car access). So there has to be room for the cars.

  5. I like it in general although I thought it would have been good to put one of the trees on the other side of the street to force cars to weave slowly through the area rather than the clearish path they still have. I have often taken a walk up there and have noticed a lot less cars using the road with most driving carefully as intended. When I went past today I noticed there were quite a few cars parked up along with a couple of trade vehicles so as long as AT keep an eye on it then things should be great.

    Fort St is coming along nicely with most of it paved and a few trees in. The big difference is cars have continued to be able to access the street. Fort St also has the advantage of already having food stores alongside it who will be able to make a lot more use of the improvements (The Kebabs on Queen down there has had a special on while the works have been happening of only $5 for any kebab or rice meal 🙂 )

    1. Check out Velvet Burger. They are fantastic.

      This is much better than it was before. The two big problems I have is the through traffic which could be minimised as admin said by reversing the direction and people parking up which could be solved by way of some sort of a crushing device or maybe some cameras to keep an eye on people who stop there.

    2. Fort Street will look fantastic when finished. The northern side is all eateries, so I can imagine outdoor furniture extending out onto the shared space.

  6. Am I the only one in this city who’s not singing the ‘improved’ Darby St’s praises? I find it bland, uninspiring, uninviting, and just generally hideously boring. Sure, it’s a fantastic improvement on the nightmare that WAS Darby St, but are we really so desperate for any kind of non-car-oriented public space in this city that as soon as we whack in some paving and palm trees it’s hailed as wonderful by the masses?

    I walk down here every morning and sigh to myself about what it could have been. What a stupidly missed opportunity to incorporate something MORE than all we normally do. The public spaces in Auckland, bar a few exceptions, are at best almost totally utilitarian – where is the inspiration? Why do we end up with a concreted lane for cars with pedestrian space demarcated by palm trees and guttering? I know the space is supposed to be ‘shared’ but try telling that to the car drivers who still think they own the place. Yes, of course, it’s early days and as people move in and habits are changed then this will probably become a much nicer place, but why does that have to stem from absolute mediocrity? Imagine if the street invited people to interact with each other and the surroundings rather than pass on through – why haven’t we taken the chance to integrate some fantastic public art, some kind of water feature, some grass, a giant chess set a la Wellington’s Civic Square, anything but effing concrete?!

    Sorry for the rant, I just can’t celebrate the mediocrity that gushes from this city – I’ve had enough, I’ve found my breaking point! Deep breaths…

    1. While I think we would all like to see more excitment. I think we need to focus on getting the basics right first. A bland design is cheap and enables us to see what works and what doesn’t before we start splashing the cash on expensive art and fittings. This is noot the end of the journey, this is just the beggining.

    2. “stupid”, “bland”, “boring”, “missed opportunity”, “mediocrity” and the foolish masses who accept it… I think we’ve got “Auckland PT blog comment bingo” right here.

      1. And now I can move on from bingo to another game – figuring out what Doloras means by her comment 😉

        1. What I mean is that Gus’s post is a pure example of a repeating pattern of comment on Auckland PT blogs – moaning, never satisfied with any actual process, accusing planners of mediocrity/stupidity/corruption, rhetorically asking “am I the only one?” (so as to strike a pose of noble thinker against the sheeplike herd)… It’s incredible, I assume different people write all these comments, but you could take Darby St out of the above and put “Newmarket Train Station” and it could be a comment from a year ago, or I assume “Britomart” and eight years ago.

          As I’ve said before, it’s comments like that which spread despondency and a “why bother” attitude, not only among us commenters, but I’d wage PT designers and civic architects as well. It’s polluting the meme pool and lowering the tone of the conversation, just so the commenter can burn off a little negative energy and perhaps get himself (because it’s almost inevitably a “him”) a bit of attention and ego-stroking as well. Spraying boring, lazy negativity across the Internet is a sadly irresponsible use of the freedom of speech.

        2. “sadly irresponsible use of the freedom of speech”

          But that has been the case since old Rome. People like to complain.

          I take a slightly more positive view – good stuff should still get, and will get, and does get praise. I think both Jon’s and Josh’s blogs are relatively positive overall, even in comments, at the end of the day.

          You will notice that projects that DO work also get more praise as time goes on, which again is natural. The designers that get blasted at the start can then look back at their work and feel proud of having done their job right. But they have to have a bit of thick skin to start with, as do the politicians who support the decisions. Again, that’s pretty normal in the world.

        3. Gus’ comment “am I the only one” was clearly in response to all the others here. Asking for something interesting isn’t “a waste of freedom of speech” but a legitimate question. This is Auckland, and nobody expects miracles. Clearly, the majority of commenters here are happy with this and express so, even if some would have liked different.

          A good number of my comments are of this tone, most frequently in response to the appalling tardiness of Auckland’s trains – Japan runs its trains on time; there is nothing inherent in the technology, rather the way it is run in New Zealand. It does not “pollute the meme pool” as you put it, to express dissatisfaction with a job with obvious shortcomings which were easily rectified. Rather, the problem has been far too much accomodation meaning that instead of ambition we have had precious low expectations. Gus’ comment was aspirational and future focused, and constructive – he suggested tentative ideas that might have application the next time a street is considered.

        4. No I think Deloras has a point, many posts on this blog have unnecessarily negative tones. The general bloggig public is all too quick to jump on the critical foot and do a negative little dance about whatever bee is stuck in their bonnet for that day. It’s patently obvious that Darby Street is a hell of a lot better than it was, and that’s something to be happy about.

    3. Gus: “Imagine if the street invited people to interact with each other and the surroundings rather than pass on through”

      But that’s exactly what it is – a pass through. There is no room for water features, grass, etc etc and still have space for cars and pedestrians.

      Now if it wasn’t a shared space, we could – and should – do all of the things you suggest. But its not.

    4. Gus – I agree with your sentiments, but would suggest that the mediocrity you speak of has less to do with the people designing these spaces and more to do with the budgets they are set. I.e. things like public art, lighting etc etc were all nice-to-haves just did not make the cut. So your beef is best directed at your fellow tight ass ratepayers.

      Also, I like to look at it this way – at least we have now “reclaimed” the space from cars. Now we have the chance to see how people use the space, and make decisions about how the space should “evolve” into the future. In some ways I think a more incremental, or organic if you like, approach to the development of shared spaces is a good thing.

      So don’t lament the “missed” opportunity, just keep asking your elected representatives for more at every chance you get. Pat them on the back and say “by jove well done” before following up with “and what we need now is …”

    1. Nikau palms, the only palm native to NZ…. Auckland is officially subtropical, it may seem cold from your flyblown and crocodile infested swamp but really it’s ‘just right’. Well getting warmer actually…. probably be like Brisbane soon [please don’t send crocs].

    2. They grow as far south as Okarito on the South Island’s West Coast, which is 43 South, so Auckland is no problem at all.

  7. Well I’m a fan…. and can’t see any reason why High and Queen aren’t given the same treatment immediately…. But Queen with no cars; shared PT, walking,+ cycling……. There is no reason, the current traffic there is pointless, only there because it can be. Traffic is not like a liquid, but a gas, it will fill every space available to it, and its absence won’t be noticed except in celebration.

    1. Let these fill up first. I think High St and Lorne will be the next to pedestrianise. I also think there’s a great case for pedestrianising Kitchener St between Albert Park, the Suffragette park, and the Gallery.

      And lest it be said that I never say positive things, I was actually impressed with the changes to Symonds by Auckland Uni. Small improvement, but a big increase in usability from 5 years ago.

      1. The thing about Kitchener, which is being redone now, is that because of the motorway offramp on Wellesley and the parking buildings on Kitchener and Victoria it will always have cars, no matter, keeping it a traffic street is part of the bigger prize of getting them out of Queen. Here’s what we do: Customs, Vic, Wellesley, and Mayoral remain open to cars and still cross Queen, Queen is PT, humans, and delivery [restricted hours] and emergency only. The cross streets listed above still meet Queen at controlled intersections but they will cycle so much more efficiently because the pedestrians can cross with the traffic direction, a la NYC, instead of the barn-dance, because almost all of the traffic turning will have been eliminated [some buses?].

        We could do it tomorrow, honestly, and we’ed all wonder what took us so long…. how about it Len?

        1. The area of Kitchener Street outside the library will actually be reduced to a single lane with elevated table – it should help to slow down traffic a lot in this area.

        2. I think you mean Art Gallery, it did begin life as the Library. Lorne St in front of the current Library is also getting a makeover, is that to be a shared space.

  8. I was quite negative about Darby Street to begin with, when first opened with the cheap bench seats and motorway-grade lamp posts. The slinky new seats look a lot better though, and I’ve heard the lamp posts are going to be replaced eventually too.

    I still think it is a shame everything ended up so linear and with nothing on the right, as it does create a drag-strip appearance. On the plus I’ve noticed most people walk right down the middle, and drivers are taking this into account. And looking at the old photo does show just how far we’ve come.

    The biggest problem is people using the space for car parking. There were 5 or 6 parked on the street when I was down there for lunch today. Several trades vans, perhaps trying out alternatives to High Street. There was an Eftpos New Zealand car parked there too, blocking the ‘footpath’ part. They must have had a very heavy terminal to deliver urgently to the shop next door…

    A couple had been ticketed, but I hope Auckland Transport continuously blitzes this as it is a waste of a public space to have it covered in illegally parked cars and vans. In the UK they have parking CCTV cameras so they can issue tickets as soon as a car stops in a no-parking spot; they’re so effective that black cab drivers won’t even stop for you to jump out. Maybe we need some of these in Auckland?

    1. Again – I just can’t see how there is room for things like chess boards and another row of trees.

      The trees are pretty much as close to the shop fronts as possible to allow a pedestrian strip that side.

      Then you have to have a pedestrian strip on the other side. You also have to space for a car to drive through in betwen. There simply isn’t room for anything else.

        1. I think the only reason the went to a shared space was that much like Onehunga it was easier to get it done rather than fight through and keep it fully pedestrianised as planned – in due course I’m sure it will be closed off. Especially once the shops in the street go a bit more upmarket and take advantage of the area for outside chairs etc.

  9. If you take a look again at the Bordeaux post again you’ll see there is little in the way of street furniture there too. What makes the difference between bland and thriving seems to simply be the number of people attracted to the area, and for that you need good food and retail. I believe Elliott/Darby will warm up in time.

    On that note, don’t expect the area to establish itself over winter. No doubt detractors will try to call it a failure because some people are unlikely to check the place out until the summer season. The area will take off over next summer.

    Also, I see the Darby St shared space as an entry point to Elliott St, so it won’t be very lively ahead of Elliott’s completion.

    1. I hope private businnesses will make their part, too. The council got them a nice street with people passing buy, now privates have to do something for that people to stop.
      They could do what Gus proposed, some nice art work. Somentimes you have to push the boundaries, I’d expect privates to be more corageus.

      1. I agree, they need to turn outwards and move into the street a bit now, hopefully it won’t take to long (also there is one building that I think has an aircon vent on the side and seems to be constantly leaking water/condensation over the pavement which I hope is sorted out soon)

  10. I like it. The paving is much better than tarmac but it is also practical and hard wearing. Street furniture and public art ages and dates and needs replacing every 10-15 years. The nikaus are just little now but they’ve got years of growth in them. As they get bigger the whole concept of the shared street (or hopefully the pedestrianised street) will feel more permanent. A bit of outside dining and some street music and it’ll be even better.

  11. Doesn’t someone disagree with my impatience about cars in Queen St above? I never seem to get any push back whenever I post this, is it because it is all so self-evident or because you think it is so nuts or impossible that it is not worth replying to?

    1. I think that there’s growing support for pedestrianising Queen Street – or at least working towards that through a staged process.

      1. If the plans for the revision of bus services (including only one bus on Queen Street, a shuttle going from K’Road to Wynyard Quarter every 5 minutes) go through, I would support moving Queen Street to a bus-only street right now, and then when the inner city shuttle is replaced by a tram extension, going full pedestrian.

  12. I quite like it. Definitely about a billions time better than the old one. On the quality. Obviously this isn’t really a choice for us ritght now (sadly). But I think I’d rather hvae say 100 cheaper pedestrian friendly places in my city, than 10 really expensive high quality ones. So maybe that’s what the council is thinking?

    I think all the shared spaces will absolutely rock in summer when we can sit outside and eat and I also think that the more of them they make the more people will stop driving down Queen Street and the more justification there will be to fully pedestrianize it and make the CBD the warm, inviting place we all know it can be 🙂

  13. @Gus – it is bland, but a good bland.
    @Doloras – there is no such thing as being satisfied in PT. Constant development is needed as this is the way the future is heading. Take Apple for example, they are always improving because there is so much more that can be done

  14. Good things take time. These are just the first small steps as we test the waters. No point rushing in and wasting money. Better to do things slow and steady then to rush in, screw things up and throw the baby out with the bath water.

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