It’s a perfect storm really. The CRL works plus other street and building works are combining with the recent sharp increase in pedestrian and bus numbers to pretty much infarct the Central City at any time of the day. The City-sandpit is not going to get better until the CRL is actually running in 2023, which seems a very long time away.

Victoria 5:40pm
Victoria 5:40pm

Sure some important improvements loom large; the Wellesley St bus corridor and better stations and priority on Fanshawe St will clearly help. But it’s also certain that both pedestrian and bus demand will continue to rise because 1) the number of people living, learning, and working in the City Centre is growing rapidly and is likely secular* 2) PT uptake is currently running at about 3 times population growth across the city.

Wellesley 4:40pm

Time and Space

In the medium term AT is keen to add Light Rail in a ‘surface rapid transit’ pattern down the length of Queen St, which certainly would add significant high quality PT capacity on a route that, aside from the CityLink and Airbus, is not used much for PT, nor does it provide substantial private vehicle volume [properly understood, and executed well, LRT on Queen offers new capacity on a route that is currently hiding in plain sight].  This is a good plan, but like CRL, not a quick one. It’s only just begun its battle for believers in Wellington. And anyway, delivering this system would involve even more street works and therefore further disruption, which alone could significantly stand in the way of it happening in the near term. So sorting Centre City street allocation should be front and centre of AT’s senior management group’s attention. Perhaps, in this sense, the CRL works are a test of this group’s attention to detail and creativity?

It seems plain things have to be done now and probably every year until the big PT improvements are finished ready to do their heavy lifting. Bus vehicle supply is clearly a problem which is being addressed, albeit in a Dad’s Army kind of way. But other operational issues must follow too.

AT and AC need to immediately address the allocation of roadspace and signal settings in City Centre. Currently both exhibit legacy private vehicle privilege over other modes, which is completely at odds with the strategic direction of the city centre and the efficient running of all systems. Crossing cycles and crossing opportunities have improved for the dominant mode: pedestrians, but this has been been additional to other priorities rather than substitutive. The throughput of people and goods on these streets is not what it could be; there are simply too many space eating cars preventing higher capacity and value transport modes. Cars are given too many options and too much cycle time at critical intersections, which in turn requires more road width to be used for dedicated turning lanes.

Streets in the city centre are increasingly inaccessible for truck and trade vehicles and, importantly, also for emergency vehicles.

Our pavements and crossing cycles are pumping ever more people through on that brilliantly spatially efficient mode; walking, as can be seen in the shots here. Less visible, of course are the numbers of people in the buses. In the photo above we see 12 or so buses. As it’s the afternoon peak they’re likely almost full so together will be carrying approximately 500 people. The cars maybe a total of 10-15 people. So why is so much space dedicated to cars?

Buses that are not moving are not only belching out carcinogenic diesel fumes for us all to inhale, and C02 to help fry the biosphere, but they are also wasting our money; buses stuck in traffic cost more. On proper bus lanes or busways, buses can do much more work. Average speed on the Northern Busway services, for example, is 40kph, whereas other buses average 20kph. Faster buses not only cost less to operate but they also attract many more (fare paying) passengers because they are more useful.


AT really need to make some clear decisions about private vehicle priority in the city centre. Right now it’s a dog’s breakfast that is neither working well nor reflects policy.

The City East West Transport Study highlighted the importance of east-west traffic movements between the north-south routes of Symonds St in the east and the unlovely couplet of Hobson/Nelson in the west. Queen St is actually not that important for private vehicles, it is cut off at each end by Customs St and K Rd, neither of which supply it with either motorway traffic nor major bus routes. Outside of Hobson/Nelson all motorway traffic from the rest of the city arrive perpendicular to Queen before heading across the valley to parking structures, and the major bus routes likewise all are on either side of it, save some recent additions and the Airport and City Link service. The critical mode on Queen St are the pedestrians, and the cross town vehicle movements that need to traverse the street, albeit briefly. Driving along Queen St needs to be diminished as it is largely pointless [no vehicles entrances on Queen St], and because it disrupts these more valuable movements.

Wellesley 5:32pm
Wellesley 5:32pm

So what can be done ***immediately*** to assist the east-west direction without compromising pedestrian movement on Queen and it’s smaller parallel routes?

The obvious first step would be to remove the near useless right turns at Wellesley and Victoria. Restricting general traffic to straight ahead and left hand turns would greatly simplify the cycles to only three: Ped Barnes’ Dance, east-west traffic, and north-south traffic each running concurrently. Clearing these intersections more efficiently and reducing the addition of pointless traffic onto Queen St a little. Such an arrangement will likely happen post-Wellesley Street bus corridor so why not make it happen now?

CEWT Roads

Two other moves on smaller streets would help too. The right hand turn out of Lorne St looks particularly disruptive for its utility, and using High St to exit the Victoria St parking building is still a terrible thing and really needs fixing, too much space is stolen from pedestrians there and the resultant traffic blocks the mid block of Victoria St East.
High St 4:32pm
High St 4:32pm

Anyway it is policy to get the cars off Queen St one day, so why aren’t we working more deliberately towards that in increments? Do we really have to wait for Light Rail to achieve this? Let’s get the important east-west road priority happening along with complete bus lanes on Queen St as a way to prepare for the glorious future; because for the foreseeable, glamorous or not, buses will have to do most of the heavy lifting in the City Centre.

Light Rail in Queen St 1 - Nilut
A strangely people-free picture of a future lower Queen St.
  • secular = Economics (Of a fluctuation or trend) occurring or persisting over an indefinitely long period: ‘there is evidence that the slump is not cyclical but secular’
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  1. Agree patrick – simplifying vehicle movements at intersections and prioritizing signals for peds and buses would seem to be logical and cheap first attempts to manage the chaos.

    1. I would humbly suggest that any observer of vehicular movement would see that light sequencing etc is NOT in favour of vehicles which is causing a lot of additional and unnecessary congestion. Quit with the anti car tirades and pressure the Council to sequence lights better and all forms if traffic will flow better. Ask tradies about the total lack of synchronisation and get a real view. Please stick to facts.

      1. Let’s stick to facts … like your casual observations?!?

        I think you scored an own goal there Mr Numpty Esq.

      2. It’s an interesting perception issue. People see 20 cars and 10 buses and think that each vehicle should have equal opportunity and there are more cars than buses, so why are the cars being held up?
        The reality is that the 20 cars @ an Auckland average of 1.2 people per car will have 24 people in them, whereas the buses are either fairly full or packed out a lot of the day, so 30-50 per bus or 300-500 people. It’s the reality that we need to keep reminding ourselves about.

        Everyone is pro getting tradesmen to where they need to get to, but a lot of the traffic on our roads are people other than tradies.

    1. Yes. That was the plan for Wellesley St [bus] and Victoria [no bus]. For some reason AT have backed down from that; there are some very confused constituencies out there; businesses that rely on the thousands that arrive each day by bus but that still want those buses elsewhere….

      1. That is a really stupid decision. General traffic must be removed from Wellesley between Mayoral Drive and Albert St as there simply is no other way of solving the bus congestion there. It is especially essential while the works are ongoing. It would not be difficult to accomplish this. Westbound general traffic on Wellesley St is already directed onto Kitchener St so by taking away the right turn onto Wellesley from Lorne and banning non-bus traffic from turning onto Wellesley St from Queen St almost all of the general traffic westbound on Wellesley will be gone. Eastbound, traffic on Wellesley could be routed onto Albert St and banned from turning into Wellesley from Albert and it is all sorted. If AT did remove cars for the duration of the works the results (which would be all positive) would be good evidence that it would a good idea to make it permanent after all. In any case, if I was driving in the central city I’d much rather I was directed away from Wellesley as currently all those poor people in cars get when they (hopefully) unwittingly turn onto Wellesley is a long wait surrounded by large buses driven by annoyed drivers.

        1. +1 absolutely agree. Patrick – what can we do to push AT for that? Raising cases on doesn’t seem to work…

          This week, it seems that they’ve moved all the buses (temporarily?) from Civic up 100m to Federal St stop (single space) without much information at all on the stop itself – just to add confusion. And then there was no footpath by the Griffiths Building (being decomissioned) yesterday, so to get from Civic to the Federal stop, it took good 5 minutes to get there (100m !!!)… cars need to go from Wellesley ASAP if they’re serious about actually moving people.

  2. Except perhaps restricting traffic during the CRL works might make it worse for all modes. Queen St is how people get from an east-west route blocked by CRL construction to a route that isnt. A big long queue of cars will make it harder for buses to get to the bus lanes.

    1. meh; if you’re on Queen in a car you’re not doing it right, and you may as well stay there till you get to Customs or Mayoral.

      Why did we build that alleged vehicle bypass, Mayoral, if we aren’t going to direct drivers to it?

      Anyway drivers need to be frustrated out of there, that is the policy; it seems many are more stubborn than me so the pressure needs turning up. ‘Cos I’m used to it’ is not sufficient in a radially changing city.

      1. I hadn’t driven on Queen St for over 15 years until the last few weeks. It has taken on a new role of letting people get off Victoria to avoid the works. That will only get worse as the Albert St trenching happens. Perhaps the time to get traffic off Queen completely is once Albert St is reinstated. The solution to bottlenecks is not usually to add more bottlenecks. It is about to get way worse for everyone so it is kind of unfortunate that AT has chosen now to put in new Barnesdance phases. They could easily have just waited. To make it even worse most of the works areas seem to be used as somewhere for the contractors to park their trucks rather than as construction areas. Maybe some lane rentals in the contract like the UK would incentivise them to open things up as son as they can.

        1. Didn’t expect you to have anything but the conventional view; ie the right time to restrict SOVs is of course; never, or at least so far away that in practice it doesn’t arrive. But if you concentrate you’ll see that the current situation doesn’t work for any mode; it looks pretty certain the CEWT study was right in its observation that the east-west vehicle travel is the more important one…. it is the come to mama moment in the Centre City; some things can only be improved with other things changing. Time-space is a little unbending here….

          1. Of course the east west is more important – its the one I use 😉 But unless you ban cars everywhere you will probably make the impending situation worse and not just worse for cars but for buses too. Unless you truly think you think you can get a completely separate bus network in place immediately the queues are going to block cars and buses. If I were in charge I would wait until Albert St was reinstated then I would close Queen St to cars and buses. It can never be a nice place while either are there especially noisy smelly buses.

          2. Thats why I think centre bus lanes are so important for the CBD. They can be separated from the cars much more effectively.

          3. Yes, I agree with Patrick. The works mean less road space for everyone so the only effective solution is to reduce the number of the most space-inefficient modes (single occupant cars) that are present and give priority to the more space-efficient modes. It is the only way to minimise the disruption for the greatest number of people. More priority to public transport/walking/cycling will also encourage more people who can utilise those modes to do so and thereby also improve things for those who really have no choice but to drive into the CBD (and there can’t really be that many who really don’t have a choice).

          4. mfwic, it is certainly possible to have a “separate bus system” in the CBD. In fact it would be pretty easy and cheap to accomplish – all you need is paint. Buses only run on a few streets in the CBD so if AT install real bus lanes on those streets (not the half measures they tend to use) then that is what you will get. The evidence you present tells me this really must be done. Not doing it will mean much worse outcomes for everyone. All it would take is some guts from AT to weather the storm of the complaints that will ensue.

          5. VLee it would be easy – if we lived in North Korea. But we don’t. So they kind of have to consult, consider deliveries, consider where parking buildings are and even think about who might be affected. You know businesses and that type of thing.

          6. It is easy, these would be temporary bus lanes to deal with the works so there is no requirement to consult. My whole point is that businesses in the CBD will be much better off if there were fewer cars carrying a single potential customer blocking the buses with 20-40 customers each and the delivery trucks with the goods they are going to sell to those customers.

  3. Great simple ideas that could be implemented by Auckland Transport simply and quickly. Such good wins that just seem to make common sense.
    The right turn removals at the 2 main intersections could be done very quickly. Let’s see what AT can deliver?

    1. I would if I was in charge, and in charge in an absolute kind of way [smiley face], but that would provoke an exaggerated backlash, so it’s almost certainly cleverer to do it incrementally. l fear, however, that AT and AC are relying on the ‘silver bullet’ of LRT to clear it for them. I think I explain clearly above why that not only isn’t best but also now not really possible.

      1. So glad you’re glad that we’re not in positions of influence.

        Except … we are the editors of the blog, so if you keep acting like a dick then we’ll use our positions of influence to delete your comments. Hokay?

  4. A bus lane on the Beach Road – Custom Street stretch would help hugely too. AT showed how quickly they could get the Fanshawe St one going.

    If the North Shore buses going through Customs St didn’t have to do a right turn into Lower Albert, that’d help too.

    1. AT needs to make more use of the New North Road route which turns left after Mostyn Street when heading into the CBD and uses Ian McKinnon Drive and Upper Queen St and stops outside the Town Hall. It avoids Symonds St entirely and delivers commuters who want to get to the CBD much faster. There needs to be a separation of the people who need to go to Symonds St from the people who don’t. The same in reverse for people who are going to Kingsland or further west and who don’t need to grind up Symonds St.

  5. If the plan is to eventually close Queen St to cars and replace buses with light rail up Queen St, as an interim step why can’t we close Queen St to cars and run buses up Queen St?

    1. That seems obvious to me as well. There seems to be a perception that the vehicle type will affect the appropriateness of the decision. Don’t know why.

    2. totally agree. surely AT can argue that there is force majeur, and they must do something now? Alternatively, couldn’t a dedicated bus lane be introduced, that would allow decent MT and restrict the unnecessary single occupant transit?

  6. It be interesting to see the Auckland City planned budget for the next 5 or 10 years.
    If the council is rich then there are more options for more PT.
    But on the other hand I understand the council has a debt of $10 billion.
    A new council may find that the debt is even bigger.
    Don’t ask the government to pay as NZ has $30 or $50 billion overseas debt.
    In these good economic times we should have surpluses.
    PT is never going to make money if it has to run buses to every distant corner of Auckland.
    I think there is a chance that the rail link wont go ahead in the next few years.
    I would be very disappointed as I enjoy riding the trains

    1. Russel Council’s debt is not high, its credit rating is high, it is growing fast. There is no evidence to share your concerns.

      Furthermore, if you read the post you will see I am arguing for the buses to be run less wastefully. The irony is that better PT has a much higher cost recovery than slow inefficient PT.

      This is not about spending more money but delivering higher efficiency.

      Er, you are a little out of the loop; the City Rail Link is being built now, and gov has agreed to co-fund it…..

    2. There’s no shortage of money to spend. The problem is, it’s mostly getting spent on Roads of National’s Extravagance.

  7. Agreed.

    Cars shouldn’t meant to be on queen st.

    With these improvements, the link bus will be faster and more useful.

  8. Great Title! AT always say it is impossible to move the Vic park exits, but I just counted – there are 6 traffic lanes on Victoria street on the south side of the carpark – 6!

  9. Totally agree with the post. Surely AT could “in the name of temporary measures for CRL works etc” do some of these ideas or even ban private cars only on sections of Queen St just to see the effect of it and convince everyone how cool it would be?

  10. Key step here is to make more use of Mayoral Drive, and stop cars short cutting onto Queen Street.
    I seem any cars doing Wakefield – Queen – Wellesley to go east-west through the city. Firstly Wakefield should cul-de-saced for traffic heading towards Queen, and just allow outbound buses in the other direction. This will push a bunch of cars away from the busy stops on Queen, as well as take them out of Wellesley.

  11. Fantastic post. Let’s hope the lights go on at AT and for once they act bold.
    The bus situation in Wellesley has become unworkable. New North Rd buses go down Wellesley after dropping off AUT and University of Auckland students at the top. But then they get stuck at traffic lights and clogged in the space between Queen and the lights near Lorne.
    The other morning it took nearly 20 minutes to get from Lorne to the bus stop at the side of the Civic.
    It was worsened by congestion caused by the pre-CRL works in Wellesley and whatever is going on at the bus stop.
    Why can’t there be a quick win on a bus only green for buses to get through the Q St intersection which quite rightly has regular pedestrian crossing signal movements and too many combinations.
    There is never enough room at that Civic stop anyway to accommodate the number of peak hour buses arriving at once.
    There are so many quick wins possible for AT. How can we make them happen?
    Light rail is years away even if it’s high on AT’s list.
    Queen St can be closed now without a riot and would complement the surrounding shared spaces.
    Please keep up the pressure Patrick. You are a wise man.

  12. Also what is going to be the situation when the 300-odd apartment block being built above the St James cinema complex is finished?
    Consented originally before planners started discouraging car parks in inner city apartment complexes….won’t this mean hundreds of cars pouring out of Lorne St in the morning to add to the Wellesley Q St congestion?

    1. The council hasn’t had minimum parking requirements in the central city for decades, and still don’t appear to do any sort of ‘active’ discouragement of added parking supply in the city based on how many new parking buildings are being built. As such this development was consented with 300+ parking spaces and if the consent had been lodged today likely would have been passed again. If council really wanted to discourage they’d be adding an annual charge as per cities such as Sydney on all existing spaces and any new ones built.

      The additional cars coming out of St James will simply make the shared space slightly less pleasant, hopefully the ASB building next door will be redeveloped and turned from a carpark into a more fitting use which will reduce the number of cars somewhat.

      The can be redirected off Wellesley St however by reversing the one way off Mayoral Drive onto Rutland Street and making use of that oversized Rd.

  13. Further observation: it is remarkable just how strong are the pedestrian movements north-south on Queen and, to a lesser extent, on the parallel smaller streets [High St would carry more past those shops but for the confused retailers determined to crowd out these potential customers with near total vehicle priority there].

    Except of course this really is inevitable because the city’s Transit services are so focussed at its extreme northern edge; obviously the Ferry Terminal and Britomart, but also so many bus services.

    It will be fascinating watch this pattern switch considerably once the CRL and Aotea Station opens; there’s going to be huge new movements east-west on Vic and Wellesley; and need for even more space for these walkers.

    But north-south will remain strong because of the spread of the city along the waterfront; both directions are going to be stronger, so managing the ped mode through Queen will have gain greater attention.

    The city is morphing really fast and into new patterns very powerfully at the moment which is very exciting.

  14. Driving on or across Queen St is already very slow compared with surrounding roads. At every light there is a barnes dance for every time traffic direction is changed. The pedestrian volume makes it necessary. Congestion charging would shift more cars.

    The Queen St – Dom Rd LRT will need a stop at Cross St to best connect with the Mercury Lane entrance to the CRL.

  15. As a bus user everyday twice a day we are just plain fed up of completely ineffective bus services

    operators don’t give a damn and can hide behind AT

    AT hides behind the fact the operators run the service

    bus users are left in the middle with no accurate services between PM peak times.

    Complaints are either lost in the system or not response

    The AT PT department have known about CRL, all other works for a long long time, the constant no shows of service such as the inner link is becoming an embarrassment for Auckland

    there appears no pragmatic approach from AT only offering being the generation zero campaign which I hope AT cannot ignore

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