Anyone keeping track will know there’s a heap of projects planned to happen in the CBD in the coming years, projects like the CRL, the Victoria St Linear Park on Victoria St and City Centre Bus improvements to support the new bus network to name a few. As Cameron Brewer would say – where are the vehicles on Quay St going to go?
It’s a valid question and while some might say “who cares”, it is an issue we have to deal with. Wisely Auckland Transport realised the importance of dealing with the east-west streets in the CBD as whole and that’s where the City East West Transport Study (CEWT) comes in. As the name suggests the study looks at the key east-west roads in the CBD. I first heard about the study some time ago and now have the study thanks to a LGOIMA request. The full report is here (44MB)
The overarching purpose of the CEWT Study is to develop a strategy for the effective management and direction of the city centre’s key east-west corridors over the short to long term horizons, in a manner that supports the City Centre Masterplan and other key strategic initiatives.
The way I see it is that while the City Centre Master Plan and other strategies lay out the the vision for the future, the CEWT study looks at how everything in would work in reality. It’s a non-statutory supporting document that sits beneath the Auckland Plan and Integrated Transport Programme and feeds though to the Regional Land Transport Programme and associated investigation, design and implementation work streams. It is also influenced by other strategic plans, such as the City Centre Masterplan and Waterfront Plan.
The core focus of the study was the following east-west corridors:
Most importantly the study has looked at how the corridors are used and that currently they are each required to support all modes of transport. One of the key outcomes is that in the future each route will have a different focus. In effect this means the east-west streets in the CBD will be specialised around different modes.
The preferred direction will see a different emphasis placed on each of the east-west corridors in terms of their key functions and mode requirements. This strategy of having variation in mode emphasis across the corridors is a marked departure from the existing situation, where each of the corridors is providing a generally consistent function and form.
The proposed network strategy will in some instances require changes to the form of these corridors. In terms of kerb-to-kerb width, the greatest changes will be on Quay Street and Victoria Street which will be reformed to facilitate important place-based transformation shifts as previously envisaged by the City Centre Masterplan.
To deliver the preferred overall strategy, a vision and direction have been developed for each of the east-west corridors.
The overall preferred strategy is below (click to enlarge).
There is a constant focus on pedestrians across all streets but other than that each one is different. Quay St has a public space focus, Customs/Fanshawe a movement focus with buses and cars, Victoria a people focus, Wellesley a Bus focus and Mayoral/Cook retaining a car focus.
A key consideration in coming up with the solutions is the need to create a resilient transport network. The authors note that even if streets were wider that it wouldn’t help move more traffic as the constraints are generally at the intersections. Further they say that when something happens that e.g. an accident, that currently all vehicle based transport networks are affected. By providing dedicated bus and cycle lanes it means that the non-car transport networks can continue to function which is important as they are likely to be responsible for moving up to 70% of the mode share.
The reallocation of road space is bound to be a hot button issue for some however the authors have also looked at how each corridor is being used. The graph below looks at a few of the roads and shows how much space within the carriageway (so not including the footpaths) is currently dedicated to general traffic or buses vs how many people are expected to be using each mode. As you can see on all but Fanshawe St 100% of the road space is dedicated to general traffic meaning buses get caught in congestion. Yet by 2021 it’s expected that on Wellesley St 89% of people will be on a bus. As such the plan is to drastically increase the allocation of road space on Wellesley St to buses.
This is great to see and moves towards that great quote from Enrique Peñalosa that “a bus with 80 passengers has 80 times more right to roads space than a car with one”
However while the overall direction has largely been decided the study notes there are still some fairly specific and meaty issues that need to be addressed. These are:
For each corridor the study lays out the strategic direction, corridor space allocation, how it performs against the overarching goals and future work required to achieve the preferred direction. Here’s each of the streets.
The strategic direction for Quay Street is to become a multi-modal harbour edge boulevard with a predominant emphasis on public space and pedestrian movement within the city centre core in the west and balancing pedestrian and cycle provision with a continued emphasis on freight movement for the Ports of Auckland in the east.
Quay Street Central will be transformed as a landmark harbour edge street between Lower Hobson Street and Britomart Place that unites the CBD Engine Room with the waterfront, as envisaged by the City Centre Masterplan and Waterfront Plan.
Quay Street East will also enhance pedestrian and cycle connections but will see an increased multi-modal emphasis, with maintaining appropriate freight access to the Ports of Auckland a key consideration.
The strategic direction for Fanshawe Street is to strengthen its public transport functions by becoming an urban busway corridor, providing for frequent, fast and efficient bus connections between the North Shore Busway and the City Centre, including Wynyard Quarter.
The urban busway will need to be designed appropriately to reflect its city centre context and to provide much improved north-south pedestrian connections across the street, facilitating its role as part of the Harbour Edge Stitch Transformational Move envisaged by the City Centre Masterplan and Waterfront Plan.
In addition to these key public transport and pedestrian functions, it is intended that sufficient general traffic capacity be retained, reflective of its position as a key gateway into the city centre from the Northern Motorway
The strategic direction for Customs Street is to maintain a multi-modal corridor that provides access, both for buses and general traffic, into and across the downtown core of the CBD Engine Room, while also maximising pedestrian capacity and quality.
Improving provision for the north-south pedestrian desire lines across the street is seen as particularly important, to support adjacent land uses and strengthen walking connections between the city centre engine room and the harbour edge.
The strategic direction for Beach Road is to strengthen its role as a multi-modal corridor providing access for buses, general traffic and pedestrians between the city centre and the eastern fringe.
It will also provide a high quality dedicated cycling connection between the Grafton Gully Cycleway and Quay Street Harbour Edge Boulevard, as a key link in the proposed Auckland-wide cycle highway network.
The strategic direction for Victoria Street is to become a broad tree-lined linear park between Albert and Victoria Parks, as envisaged by the City Centre Masterplan.
The linear park will be the city centre’s urban green link and principal east-west walking route across the midtown area. The linear park will provide a significant place-making function, with a series of green public spaces for rest, play and social activity for residents, workers and visitors to the City Centre. It will be integrated with and enhance the main entrance to the future Aotea Station planned for Victoria Street, delivering a landmark public space outside what is planned to be Auckland’s busiest rail station.
As a slow street Victoria Street has the potential to support an east-west cycling function as part of a midtown cycle route linking to regional cycle routes (such as the Grafton Gully Cycleway) to the east and west of the city centre core.
The Victoria Street linear park will become a key asset and attractor for people working, living and visiting the dense midtown core of the city centre, and strengthen the identity and legibility of the city centre as a whole.
The strategic direction for Wellesley Street is to become the primary east-west public transport spine across the midtown area of the city centre, providing a high capacity and quality bus route while enhancing the capacity and quality of footpaths for pedestrians and to support adjacent land uses, especially in the core to either side of Queen Street.
It is expected that dedicated bus lanes will be provided along the full length of Wellesley Street, which will enable separate allocations for bus movement and stopping.
Within the central core full implementation of this vision will require the removal of general traffic between Albert and Kitchener Streets / Mayoral Drive and a reduction in carriageway width to facilitate increased provisions for pedestrians and place making.
Mayoral Dr/Cook St
The strategic direction for Mayoral Drive and Cook Street is to become the principal east-west route for general traffic across the midtown area of the city centre, complementing the public transport role of Wellesley Street and walking, cycling and place-making emphasis along the linear park on Victoria Street.
Overall the City East West Study is fantastic and shows progress is starting to be made on how we structure our and think about streets in our main urban area. It recognises that in the city centre pedestrians are the priority followed by cyclists and buses. There is obviously a long way to go before we see all of this realised but it is a good start and AT should be commended for this. There’s a lot more in the study to go through yet so there will be more posts on this in the future.