The top of High Street is interrupted, dominated, and devalued by the double-laned exit from the Victoria St car parking building.

High St_4694

The footpath on the east side is frequently blocked by impatient drivers….

High St_4681

…while on the west side it is so narrow that the high numbers of people there are forced onto the oversized carriageway with the jammed traffic.

A classic example of the prioritisation of the driver over the walker. Some traffic engineer has greedily taken way too much of this public resource for only one type of user.

Furthermore the floods of traffic that this sadly over-expanded vehicle store generate lead to gridlock at the intersection as it is really too close to both the Queen St and Kitchener St intersections for the sudden volumes that this exit at times produces [people still tend to head out all at once].

At the very least the cars could be rationed out the exit by taking it down to one lane, but much better would be to move the exit up the hill onto Kitchener St where the entrance is.

Victoria St parking building

No problem adding an exit to this entrance here with a bit of reworking, the left hand space used to be the entrance before it was doubled. And AT would then have to sort out this intersection and its poor pedestrian phasing.

Vic park entrance

And best of all the High St ground floor could be repurposed for a human use: It’s the kind of hip industrial concrete interior that Prada love, but failing that: A pool hall, dingy nightclub, dungeon? ….. PingPong centre!

High St Big Mouth.

Anything would be better than that gapping maw and adjacent pissoir, and on the street that has pretensions to being the country’s preeminent fashion shopping strip. Well I suppose it did have those pretensions until the retailers there threw their coat hangers out of the cot and stopped it becoming a shared space, and now the action has gone elsewhere….

Note how wide those lanes are at the intersection; really they could be car width, and the rubbish truck could just hog one and a half  lanes occasionally. Until of course the car park exit is gone and High St becomes the Shared Space it obviously ought to be.

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  1. Great post Patrick. It could be such an awesome street, indeed corridor, if it was pleasant all the way from Fort Lane to Lorne St and AUT. Remove the cars, provide priority crossings, and the amount of foot traffic would be awesome.

    1. Without parking right outside how will all those plumbers and electricians pop in to pick up their suits from Crane Bros?

      1. Surely the way to rescue the street is to make the footpath narrower and adding landmines and trip-wires at random points – keep those pesky pedestrians away.

  2. Not only is the start of Auckland (the Auckland Star site) dedicated to the storage of cars but also its heart. The title ‘public toilet’ on the High Street side pretty much says it all: a traffic sewer if ever there was one. An unwelcome legacy of the right’s gifting of the city to the traffic engineers in the 1950s and beyond. Time for Auckland to reclaim its streets.

    1. ‘throws arms in air as it’s too hard’

      There are only a couple of pieces of Newmarket I like and Sylvia Park is another inward looking mall. Give me downtown any day.

      1. Exactly – so many of the big shops have gone to Britomart, like MAC and the like. The area just isn’t pleasant, especially being full of cars.

  3. Why not get rid of the carpark altogether. I am sure the owners of properties in all the other Metropolitan centres and town centres would be very pleased if the CBD lost public parking.

    1. And I think the effect on the CBD’s economic performance would be a blip on the radar screen, so yeah – lets get rid of it.

      1. And I am fully aware that you were being sarcastic, mfwic. Shows how much I disagree with your argument, I guess. A city centre that tries to compete with the malls on car parking has already lost.

        1. Well actually I was only being partly sarcastic. I would guess very few people still drive into the CBD to shop. Most drive where there is better parking. The people shopping in the CBD probably don’t arrive by car, they are people who live there or work there (or in the case of Goosoid’s Gucci & Loius Vuitton they are tourists.) So the parking buildings are now visitor parking for offices, for people attending shows but mostly just for commuters. And we really don’t need more commuters to the CBD in cars, it is the one destination and time of travel where public transport actually works well. So why not prune a few spaces?

  4. Good to see this attention on the top end of High St. In truth the whole street makes me despair every time I ride it. It seems that city hall is sitting on its hands while the street bleeds its high- end retailers, and cars (in moving and parked mode) continue to destroy its character.

  5. High St is the quickest and easiest “pilot project” in all of Aucklnad — someone block that damn place off at Shortland St! No need for millions of dollars worth of repaving, just get the cars out of there.

  6. you may find Heart of the City (i.e. the disaffected and out of touch central city retailers club) opposes such an idea, because it would “drive” their customers to shop in Remuera.

    They conveniently ignore that most of their retail activity is caused by people such as myself, who live and work downtown. And don’t own a car (and haven’y for over a decade).

    1. And the +/- 70k others who go downtown every day by bus, train, bike or foot – yes that’s the number of people who enter the central city every day not in cars. But witless retailers [Murray Crane] think their customers need to park outside their shops and howl with outrage at any suggested pedestrianisation of these streets. Ignoring the success of Fort St, Elliot St etc.

      1. Linz, they are all communists who can’t afford suits. To be fair to Heart of the City they do understand that there are plenty of people downtown who don’t drive. Their CEO rides a scooter to work and understands that most of the CBD’s opportunity do not lie with people driving there. Of course there will be times he will be smiling and waving.

    2. Who do the Heart of the City people think they are anyway and why would anyone in their right mind want to drive to Remuera to shop? It’s a complete dive, a deeply unpleasant place to shop with virtually nothing you’d ever want to actually go somewhere to buy. Remuera shopping centre won’t grow but instead will die a slow lingering death choking on its own car exhaust fumes no thanks to the Remuera BA and the OLB who cannot see any other future other than what they grew up with in 1950.. they want to kill the T3 lanes that used to be bus lanes, and fund a new multi-storey carpark in Remuera.. oh, and stop any development over 2 storeys (apart from their own 3-storey mansions that is.. and presumably the new car park) ..well all a bit of a shame really as there are some nice cafés and speciality shops in there somewhere. Well to be fair they want to plant some more trees to make it look nicer. Just forget it, nothing will change until the idiots all die off.

      Seriously, mfwic, closing the car park on High Street is the best thing the High Street could wish for. Downtown is getting better and more so each year.. the planners and engineers and the C&R brigade are so far off the pace it’s surreal.

  7. Isn’t there an electricity substation under the Carpark with the big access hole outside the toilets. I wonder if covenants / ownership by power cos. complicates tenanting any repurposed space.

    1. Sorry Robin, missed your comment when commenting below. Repurposing wouldn’t be a problem provided Vector’s interests were preserved (access and cooling). Obviously there’s a vertical shaft involved too.

  8. Good post Patrick. It is ridiculous that there is any street parking on High St when the street is sitting on the doorstep of an AT carpark building, and most of the street parking is already occupied the entire day by trades vehicles. I avoid the street at the moment but it would be great if it was upgraded. High St would make a nice alternative to the busy Queen St footpaths and it would be good to have some quality stores returning.

  9. For anyone who may be interested (or just wondering), the Gatic Hatch in front of the toilets (photo 5) is for equipment access to Vector’s underground Victoria Zone Substation (sized for lowering a transformer). Cooling is via oil-water heat exchangers in the basement and water-air heat exchangers in the roof (visible in photo 3). Personnel access is via the door to the left or internally from the carpark itself.

    Also interesting is the cable tunnel that runs under the footpath towards Victoria St which is vented through the rubbish bin on the corner.

    A rare example of cooperation between Vector (then AEPB) and the then Auckland City Council.

  10. In my experience I would consider “the country’s preeminent fashion shopping strip” to be Lambton Quay and Willis Street, by a huge margin. I recently spent a few days in Wellington, and despite the area being largely unaltered in recent years, having traffic lanes, and the smaller population, the area was thriving and seemed to me successful on a completely different level to anywhere else I have been. The urban form was fantastic, the spaces busy but inviting and the shops were much better than anywhere in Auckland. Aside from the higher density and significant job share of their CBD, I think that a lot could be learned from the Capital. Have there been studies done that have looked into that area and tried to replicate its success in Auckland?

  11. And yet fran wilde wants to take the capital back to the 50s, its all about making the capitals cbd unpleasant for pedestrians now, more diesel bus fumes and poor pedestrian priority.

  12. The article in Metro about a year back on the effort by certain High St retailers to stop it being a shared space was one of the most depressing articles I had read about Auckland. I recall the article had a suggested makeover of the hideous car park.

    High St is a nightmare to walk -the pavements are so small and the constant cars cruising and seeking a car park adds to the bad experience.

    Why doesn’t the Council show some balls and just do it, to hell with a couple of precious out of touch retailers.

    Thanks to those dinosaurs, the best retail has fled to Britomart.

    The upgrade needs to be a priority Thanks Patrick for the excellent article and photos and please start a campaign..

    1. It looks like the flight of many retailers to the PT drenched and highly walkable, and booming, Britomart means that future changes will be able to be more easily made in High St. A couple of the more obstinate retailers remain however, but we’ve tried it their way, and look at at the result! The bigger issue is that money has already been spent here for the current outcome so it is more likely that that love will go elsewhere.

      There is a transformation of Freyberg Square in the works that will bring a big improvement to that central area if built as currently planned (disclosure; one of my brothers is the artist involved in its design), but the usual kvetching from a few retailers if matched by official spinelessness could still compromise the life out of that. Though I am confident that with the demonstrable success of the other Shared Streets in the area means that this discourse has improved. Officials should now be able to have more confidence in these plans and therefore backbone in consultations with whomever; any small minded shopkeepers, old school traffic engineers, or other miserablists.

      1. I know at least one high profile NZ retailer that initially scoffed at the idea of Britomart, suggesting it would never replace High Street as the major ‘high fashion’ area in the Auckland CBD.

        Their store has since moved from High Street to Britomart.

        1. I know one who’s still there [does have a great site- perhaps the best in fact] and who also has a store on Ponsonby Rd and is causing the same problems there. Net result; the upgrade money is going to go to K Rd where the business association is supportive of improvement, more crossings, bike lanes, better public realm.

          Nose, face, spite, cutting, much?

      2. Oh the heck, Freyberg Square (that proverbial Auckland square – no square can not NOT have a road through it)!

        No offense to your brother’s presumably great design, but that square could be halfway to fixed by four new bollards. Tomorrow. JSK-style.

        1. It has more problems than just that currently, but you’ll be pleased to know that the road barrier along the front of Tibor Donner’s Ellen Melville Hall goes in the next iteration.

  13. I think pedestrians should just take back High Street. Just use it as a shared space and it will eventually happen.

    1. Well join me in being a militant pedestrian; I take a great deal of pleasure in walking down the middle of High St whenever I’m there, and very very slowly giving way to any fool in a car…. anyway the footpaths are usually completely full, so it’s only reasonable. It is already a shared space just with irritating steps at the sides and a lot of people’s tin boxes left lying around….

      1. How dare you Patrick. Roads are for cars, you know this to be true. Imagine the victim you would create of the driver if they ran you over.

  14. I’m beginning to wonder if the time has come to claim back the shared spaces completely and make them pedestrian only.
    Shared spaces have been so successful but is it time to go the next step?

    1. Yes absolutely. Make them open for delivery before 11am and after that pedestrian only.

      Well overdue. They are slowly just becoming rat runs for drivers anyway who ignore the walking pace speed limit.

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