The City Rail Link is now under construction and will see most of Albert St dug up in the process of building the cut and cover tunnels. That presents Auckland Transport with a great opportunity on what is effectively a blank slate to reinstate it to a much higher standard than exists now. The Auckland City Centre Advisory Board (ACCAB) have endorsed spending $20 million from the City Centre Targeted Rate towards doing just that. A presentation to the ACCAB last week showed their latest design. But there are some major concerns about the design from the council and their comments suggest the CRL team have been operating too much in a silo.

Albert St has a bit of space to work with and as is 27.4m wide from Quay St through to Wellesley St, although that is narrowed by the lanes on the two blocks south of Wyndham St. At the same time there’s a lot to fit in there, especially as once the CRL is finished it will likely see a lot more people walking along it. It has also historically been the main route for buses from the western side of the city and while the CRL will reduce the need for some buses, the slots freed up will be needed for more services, especially from the Northwest as that area continues to develop.

So the first big issue that is raised in the presentation is the need to accommodate buses. There are two basic options discussed, inline bus stops where the bus stop is within the lane and offline bus stops where the stop is beside the lane so that it doesn’t block it, allowing for more buses to use the route. AT say the capacity of an inline bus stop is about 53 buses an hour while offline bus stops are limited by the number of stops that can be added. The trade-off is of course space.


AT say the predictions for bus numbers mean offline bus stops are needed along the corridor. That of course will impact on how wide footpaths will be. I’m not sure what the LRT scenario refers to.


The upgrade of Albert St will happen in two phases. The section north of Wyndham St (C2) will be build following the completion of the current works – which extend that far – while the section south of Wyndham St (C3) will happen after the main works, that include the Aotea Station, are complete.

The design for the C2 works are shown below and are more advanced than the C3 works later in the post.


The Lower Albert St section (north of Customs St) will be bus only.


There aren’t any detailed images for the section between Customs and Wolfe St but it appears the classic traffic engineers have got hold of the plans with dedicated right turn lanes and either bus stops or car parking narrowing down the footpaths.

Between Wolfe and Swanson St things get wider again and includes the addition of a number of trees.


Here’s a visualisation of the street here. The presentation talks about a number of the environmental and design features included.


Between Swanson and Wyndham the footpaths narrow again to accommodate the offline bus stops in each direction.

Next up is the section south of Wyndham, the C3 section which contains the challenges such as the split level lanes on the eastern side.


There are some good things happening here with one of the biggest being the lane that accesses Durham St West. I believe the historic Bluestone wall is actually being moved as part of the CRL project as is needed to create space for the tunnels. That has the benefit of allowing for a wider footpath up at the road level which AT’s plans suggest will be between 2.71m and 2.94m in width, currently it’s only about 1.7m wide. AT’s plans also seem to make it safer to cross to that footpath with raised tables. In addition, the two carpark bridges will be removed so they won’t be spewing cars out onto that footpath. An image of the narrowed lane suggests it could be a shared space too.


The drawing showing just north of Victoria St shows one potential issue though with ventilation for the tracks being built into the footpath, which itself is not all that wide. These could potentially be quite large and unpleasant for pedestrians and is a bigger issue given the constrained nature of this section of road.


On the other side of the Victoria St intersection there is the issue with the planned NDG porte cochere that I raised recently.


In the image above you can also see the space in the middle of the street, this is planned to be for skylights into the station. There will be seven in total referencing Matariki.

The section to Wellesley shows the eastern side next to the Crowne Plaza will be made much better for pedestrians although will still be narrow at the southern end thanks to the service lane exit and the dedicated right hand turn pocket. It’s not clear why this turning pocket is even there given how busy this area is bound to be with people.


Mayoral Dr outside of the main station entrance remains virtually unchanged.

The last part of this presentation to cover is Victoria St and it’s here where things get really concerning. The drawings show fairly narrow footpaths on the southern side for what will be one of the busiest people part of the city and it seems that has happened in the madness to try and accommodate four lanes of traffic. This is very much a case of cars being put before people.


Even worse is it appears AT are completely ignoring the formally adopted City Centre Master Plan which calls for Victoria St to become a linear park linking Albert Park and Victoria Park, the Governments Urban Cycleway Programme which shows Victoria St as a key east-west route and even their own internal studies on space allocation – which is shown below.

CEWT Victoria St

Hell even AT’s formal visualisations of the station entrance show this, as do these plans.

Aotea Station - Victoria Entrance

Given the plans presented to the ACCAB are meant to be the most recent it is very concerning.

Below are the proposed widths of the roads mentioned above.


The presentation notes feedback from the council and an internal AT review was expected to be due back before the ACCAB meeting. As such the Council’s Design Review Panel report is also included in the meeting agenda and it is extremely critical of the designs the CRL team have come up with. The report covers in a fair amount of detail the council’s views on the design and includes some fairly concerning comments, including that the CRL team have been working in a silo over the design.

Albert Street- between Wyndham and Quay Streets- has been through a rigorous design process, informed by a consulted Reference Design (ADO, 2014-15) and Detailed Design (Boffa Miskell, 2015). However, the current design developed since October 2015 has been developed without consultation external to CRL and AT Metro. The current design is a remnant of the former Detailed Design- but lacks design cohesion with long indented bus bays, turn lanes and an imbalanced single block of street trees.


However, of much greater concern for the Panel is the pending approval of the C3 Reference Design in the next month. C3 for Albert Street includes the section between Wyndham and Mayoral which was not investigated in Reference Design and Detailed Design process, nor sufficiently consulted. The structure of the C3 contract is a $1.6bn design-build, limiting Council’s ability to inform the streetscape design.

This is significant as this scope includes the two eastern side slip-lanes, the median skylight features, footpath train station vent structures, Crowne Plaza access and direct interface with two major developers, NDG and Sky City. However, of greatest concern is the interface design with Aotea Station and its resulting effects on the pedestrian space on Victoria Street and Wellesley Street. The plans depicted at the panel review are the first Auckland Council has seen the implications of AT’s preference for Victoria Street as a four-lane street. This is not a view supported in the 2012 City Centre Masterplan which is the council family and politically endorsed plan for the city that should be referenced by CRL. For instance the implications of shifting the Aotea Station closer to NDG requires further study. The 4 southeast “pinch point” at the Wellesley Street intersection is currently the city centre’s most dangerous. The Panel is not comfortable with the resolution depicted in the current design.

As mentioned, there is a lot more detail in the report. Overall they summarise their feedback as:

Despite an initially bold and collaborative design process, the current Albert Street design reviewed by CPDRP is underwhelming and requires effort to get back on track to avoid returning to the austere and utilitarian condition where the street started. Furthermore the design falls short on achieving many of the project objectives as presented in the briefing report.


The minutes of the meeting note:

  • the CRL Project Director noted there will be plenty of opportunity next year (2017), once the Auckland City Centre Advisory Board has reconvened, to address any concerns in the public realm design, under both the C2 and C3 contracts
  • the CRL Project Director invited the board to have 2 representatives to attend the monthly CRL urban realm steering meetings

That doesn’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence that AT will actually make any improvements.

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  1. No. No narrowing of footpaths on Albert Street. It has to be more people friendly, not less. Get the cars out of the city centre. A trend I have noticed lately is for certain groups to want to drive around the city everywhere instead of parking in carparks and walking. Elliot Street is a good example of this.

    Cars need to be directed towards carparks and then people walk. I knew they’d find ways to make the city worse for people post crl.

    1. There is a place for cars in the city centre, but the framing of that discussion has to change – it needs to be more “Where do we want cars to be able to go” rather than “We need to get cars in everywhere, somehow, no matter what the compromises we make for other users end up being”.

  2. Interesting that the C3 contract will be design build. Also interesting AT have published their assumed maximum capacity of an in-line bus stop.

    How about centre bus lanes with shared spaces either side.

  3. Why not close off Albert St between Wellesley and Quay and Victoria St between Hobson and Queen to allow only buses and bicycles?

    1. Wellesley is the bus only street. Well certainly that was the plan. Then buses leaked back onto Victoria, and maybe cars back onto Wellesley? Am not sure, but all that work in the City East West Transport Study [CEWT] got meddled with by various forces, and the clarity of that separation seems to be, currently, lost.

  4. Very good post Matt.

    Well, here is an opportunity for the new Council to assert that AT is actually a ‘Council Controlled Organisation’.

    Why on earth would we spend these billions just to have the city put back in exactly the same unbalanced auto-priority pattern that it currently has? The very thing they are building will mean these streets will be flooded with serious volumes of people, the street pattern will have to really change to accommodate this. But also, because the entire point of high cost, high quality and grade separate transportation investments like unground urban rail is to liberate the surface from being dominated by mechanised movement systems. Transportation should be the servant of land-use; not the other way round.

    And as this poor outcome is a result a co-lab between AT CRL [tunnel] and AT Metro [buses] it seems likely that their dreary vision for Victoria St is a result of AT Metro having to run buses there as well as Wellesley St, which was not, IIRC, their original plan. Which was buses only on Wellesley, general traffic only on Vic; and space for the Linear Park for peds/trees/bikes. And I guess were can see why: Victoria is a terrible east west route for buses; so many short gaps between controlled cross streets, and if sharing the street with other vehicles those buses will barely get through any intersection; result four lanes. So a re-visit of using Vic for buses at all is probably the answer to fixing that problem.


    1. Are they proposing buses on Victoria? I cant read anything on the drawing but it looks like general traffic lanes only?

        1. And there is absolutely no other possible reason they are trying to get four lanes in there….? I mean at least with this we can see their reasoning, if it isn’t for buses then it’s just Traffic Engineer 50 years out of date thinking.

          And at least it does show the option of continuing that one route to Wynyard and returning via Wellesley, liberating Victoria from any bus services [so much better for Bowen ave too and east Victoria St with all its pedestrians and cars from those east side parking buildings]. But we understand that the University doesn’t want buses driving past its new build. Apparently,!?

        2. Hmm, I see. I figured the new network would be completely revisited post CRL given the disruption.

        3. Well it would be better to get all buses out of the at least one of the Aotea Station Albert St intersections as soon as possible, and that would already be valuable if that was the case now on Victoria/Albert, no? See below.

        4. Made more ridiculous by the fact that the university hasn’t even opened up onto Wellesley Street they’ve built onto this aspect with a blank wall and a blank wall of glass – all entrances and public spaces are on Symonds Street. They’ve turned their back on Wellesley and the slip lane that connects up to Symonds Street and as such should have no say on what AT/AC does with it in regards to buses.

        5. Uni originally agreed with bus plans but then the property people got involved and threw a hissy over it, complaining to AT, the Mayor and anyone else in a position of authority. Basically they don’t want buses past the uni as they feel that doesn’t look good for attracting high rankings in those international comparisons. They’ve used BS arguments such as vibration will affect experiments even though they have large trucks delivering stuff in the same location and AT even offered to put an engineering solution in place to address it. AT Metro ended up too scared to challenge them so resorted to suboptimal solutions.

          Note they don’t mind LRT near them as that’s seen as sexy and good for rankings.

        6. Weird. I struggle to see how that could possibly affect international rankings? In any case they have Symonds St with some of the most buses in Auckland, so what did they actually get changed?

        7. There were originally supposed to be buses going via Wellesley onto Symonds Street rather than the convoluted and slow route via Bowen. Because of UoA they got moved back to Bowen Ave and Waterloo. Inbound still go via Wellesley next to AUT.

        8. Well that’s just bizarre. Wellesley St is a major arterial and at the uni there is a dirty great big underpass. Bowen Ave is far less suitable.

          I cannot believe the uni wanted to make transport options less good for its staff and students. These people must have an utterly unreal view of the world.

        9. Ah. of course. This then is the only issue of any moment then. The Inner Link turning out of Queen at Victoria is not at all possible with Light Rail, and right turns by any vehicle are counter productive on Queen. This really needs a better and longer look. The prize of a busless Victoria St is worth the fight and effort to find a solution… Place first, mobility second. Here goes:

          I use the Inner Link a lot, and this western side of almost exclusively. Of course while that route above looks direct, legible, and rational, coming from the west it’s always best to get off before Albert St as the CRL works do slow it down. So although this, on paper, looks much less elegant it has some considerable on street advantages, from the west:
          Victoria-Hobson-Cook-Mayoral-then the whole length of Queen St. [Nelson replacing Hobson in reverse] Alternatively Wellesley could also replace Victorias, but there are a lot of destinations on Western Vic now. This would mean it would not have to change once for CRL works as it never uses an intersection that will be dug up [TBM below mayoral/Cook intersection]. And it delivers access to the whole of Queen St in a legible and straightforward way.

          This would take advantage of the new bus lanes on Hobson, and be the drive to complete them on Queen. The right hand turns at Queen/Vic could all be removed, hugely improving the cycle there for the important bed, north south buses, and east west general traffic. Despite being a wiggly route it would have good street priority and therefore be more reliable.

        10. The obvious question is if they are not putting any buses on Albert north of Victoria then why build bus lanes?

    2. Patrick the super city legislation guaranteed that AT could not be directed by Council. Hide confirmed that when the legislation was before Parliament

  5. Victoria St. east and west of Albert Street needs to be shut to normal traffic. If cars need to go east to west vice versa, there are lots of other options (Quay/Custom in the North and Wellesley out South). Victoria Street should be more people friendly. Aotea Station will be the busiest in Auckland. Moving a car into that area will be nightmare. Just look at Britomart infront of the CPO building. People jaywalked that lower queen street. Also we need to make the street around the Sky-Tower much more walkable friendly, this would help connect the already shared space Federal St.

    The proposed lanes need to come down to only 2-lanes which should be turn into bus-only-lane; helping people easily connect buses when coming out of the station.

    1. Exactly that, connecting parks is nonsense, that’s not the point. The point is to have effectively a chain of mini parks and public spaces right across the middle of town, putting a park into the core bit of our city that has no parks or squares (well, excluding St Patricks). No-one expects many people to use the length of the park, but rather they use bits of it as the cross. See this from the Council website:

      “Linking Victoria and Albert parks, this linear park will be a breakout space for those visiting and working in the Engine Room…The linear park will create a sequence of attractive, safe and engaging open spaces that strongly integrate with the surrounding built form.”

      1. Yes of course. Just the other day I was thinking to myself “What I really need is somewhere in the middle of this cold shady street where I can sit and enjoy the wind and rain. I can’t be at Victoria Park or Albert Park but right here in Victoria Street West where I can’t see any sun because of buildings would be perfect.”

        1. Is it hard being such a grumpy old sod all the time John? Do you ever break character and accidentally enjoy life? 😉

          Victoria St is no darker or more shaded that Darby St, Elliot St, Fort St, O’Connell St, Freyberg Square or Vulcan Lane, in fact some parts of it are very sunny spots. Since being upgraded all of these fill up with people perfectly happy to enjoy themselves there. I’ve just walked up Vulcan Lane, the narrow dark bit, and literally couldn’t walk through because of all the people standing in the way. All this or a grey rainy day.

          I can see no reason why a Victoria St park wouldn’t be supremely popular. Hell at the very least it’s needed just for pedestrian capacity in and out of Aotea station, the fact it might have a row of trees and some nice planting is beside the point.

        2. Victoria Str runs east-west, then kinks more to the west. This means it has one side that is north facing, ie as sun drenched as possible in a southern hemisphere city.

          Oh and look, that’s the side that the linear park is on. So, this is a very well thought out and entirely functional and desirable thing, especially for a city with appalling traffic-engineering-derived low place quality streets.

          Imagine; something good happening at street level on the western side of the city, the traffic sewer dominated realm.

          Additionally the bike network needs an east west route somewhere, and if not Victoria then where?

          This is one upgrade that we must not allow the forces of dreary to grey-out with their practiced miserablism and computer-says-no car counting…

          Great opportunity for the new mayor to put her/his foot down on AT.

        3. The sun comes square down it in the mornings and evenings all spring and autumn too. It’s lush.

        4. The majority is in sun West of Albert Street in you link….

          You also forget that at least 5 months a year in Auckland you want shade.

  6. I think the linear park is a nice idea. But I don’t like my rates money being flushed down the toilet on these designers/consultants when most their aspirational wishes get thrown out once they face the cold hard reality of present operational issues.

    1. Operational realities, you mean AT Metro folding under a light opposition and retaining buses on Victoria St when they shouldn’t have and then likely demanding extra road capacity to make their stuff up work.

  7. The problem isn’t the CRL it is the bus network. 50-100 buses an hour on any street is impossible. CRL never had ambitious and bold plans for Albert Street, but they didn’t want to destroy it. Yes, the Victoria Street linear park will never happen for the same reason. Remember bus traffic on Great North Road and K Road will be higher than Alber Street. The proposed upgrades of these streets will never happen either.
    Auckland is a sprawling city, especially in the west and northwest. The bus network has been designed to maintain the sprawl. Goodbye central Auckland, hello Los Angeles.

    1. ” 50-100 buses an hour on any street is impossible”

      Clearly not, as Symonds St currently accomodates about 130 buses an hour, and Fanshawe St about 120. Thats not to say that Albert St should necessarily do the same, but it could if you wanted to allocate enough space to buses.

      1. My point exactly. If you want to know what the future holds for Albert Street, K Rd, Victoria Street, Wellesley Street and Great North Road, then take a walk on Fanshawe Street.

        1. No the problem is pedestrians have been given no priority, They should have top priority. You want to fix Fanshawe, then close the outer lanes of the bridge to traffic and give them to pedestrians and cyclists. No need to waste money on the sky path.

  8. The link to Aotea is well underway.
    I hope they might be able to open this extension in a year or two rather than in the 8 years to complete the whole CRL.
    Aotea would be one of the busiest in Auckland and would take more cars off the road.
    At least they could use the area to park trains in waiting for the rush hour at Britomart.

    1. The current works will only see the tunnel built to Wyndham St. The Aotea station will be built as part of the main works and is needed to extract the TBM

    2. Time appears to be the one resource that is not considered important in the CRL project. Seems to be an all-or-nothing 8 year wait.
      The earlier completion and opening of Aotea station and the rail link to Britomart would look very feasible according the the CRL construction timetable, perhaps 2020.
      The only blocker to this looks like the technical inability to deal with extracting the TBMs through a fully or partially functioning Aotea station.

      1. I find it astonishing that people trivialise the difficulty of removing a TBM from on operating station. You do realise that the station would have to be constructed, used for a couple of years, bored through by the TBM and then completely rebuilt?

        1. I find it even more astonishing that the possible opening of Aotea is delayed 3 to 4 years waiting on the TBM’s second tunnel completion and extraction of the TBM through the station box. All other options have been ruled out? disassembling the rear sections of the TBM and pulling them back out to the K rd station box? Or destroying it/burying it. Or taking it out in pieces over a 10 day Christmas shutdown?
          Isn’t this no more than a technical issue? Has there never been a TBM working through to an existing sub-surface station anywhere else on the planet?

        2. The construction sequence will be up to the D+C team, but if they used a single TBM and turned it around at Aotea, they would not have to extract at it at AOTEA. They would still need to access the tunnel going back to Mt Eden from Aotea via the constructed tunnel, but depending on space requirements could allow the station to open?

        3. “disassembling the rear sections of the TBM and pulling them back out to the K rd station box?”

          Disassemble a 50 Ton boring machine in a tunnel with a 5m internal diameter and drag the parts 1km at 3.5% without trucks or cranes.

          “Or destroying it/burying it”

          This is the most promising option but where do you leave it, the turning radius on a TBM is massive?

          “taking it out in pieces over a 10 day Christmas shutdown”

          Again, the TBM usually bores into the box so the shiny new station has to be completely rebuilt afterwards, that takes a little longer than 10 days.

          “Isn’t this no more than a technical issue?”

          Building an elevator to the moon is also no more than a technical issue, it just isn’t justified.

          “Has there never been a TBM working through to an existing sub-surface station anywhere else on the planet?”

          Not as a continuation of existing tracks without an extended shutdown period and rebuild.

          The only feasible option is to start two TBMs from Aotea and drive them uphill so you can open the station once they have left. You then have to spend a fortune to drive them uphill instead of down and extract spoi from Aotea instead of Mt Eden.

        4. If the TBM is just 50 tons then breaking it down to smaller pieces looks trivial, removing back up the tunnel also easy peasy since thats how all the excavated spoil was moved. Perhaps by wagons on rail as the TBM system not only excavates but lines the tunnel in reinforced panels.
          So any other reason Aotea station opening has to wait 8 years?

        5. My understanding of the TBMs is they sometimes get buried because it’s easier than extracting – so why not run South first and then turn it around (presumably the space is easiest at the other end of the tunnel) and then when it comes back, have it overshoot along the proposed North Shore connection at Aotea and then leave it there until the Shore line is funded? There’s probably a simple answer, but surely this would free up one interim line of the CRL if the Aotea station can be built to service one platform initially?

    3. It would be interesting if they could open a section of the tunnels as stubs to park trains in between the peaks. Given its about 500m from Britomart to Wyndham St along the tunnel path, you could park six six-car trains in there (or twelve three-car), three in each side.

      If you can bring six trains into Britomart during the peak without having to take them out again, you free up six slots… so net result is three extra trains can come in and out of Britomart. That’s about a 10% capacity boost if i’ve done my figures right.

  9. In my simplistic non-planner view, Albert St should be dedicated to public transport, Nelson and Hobson to cars, and Queen St to pedestrians. That keeps cars on the periphery and makes the centre a pleasant place to walk and cycle.

  10. Why does this keep happening? Is it incompetence or malicious intent from AT?

    Or is the council just making things up with their plans without considering reality?

    1. I suspect it is the result of the organisational structure within the project team. It is likely that this scheme was done by a team of civil/ roading/ SW engineers and led by a civil engineer who have a much different way of thinking. The fact they haven’t even factored in the CCMP indicates that planners/ designers/ LAs etc weren’t even involved in the design process.

  11. Let’s begin with making Swanson St vehicle-free east of Albert. It was closed off for a while when the storm drains were being sorted a couple of months ago. Delivery trucks just used Mills Lane instead with no loss to anyone.

  12. There goes the liveability of the city centre, sticking buses on Albert Street in the the heart of the cbd, one up from Queen Street. Yuk. Keep the buses around the outskirts, or better yet, replace them with light rail. Dirty stinking things.

    1. Get a grip. Buses are at the core of our public transport system. If we want to specify emissions criteria for city centre buses we should, not just relegate them to the outskirts. The fact is the city centre is still dominated by private car movement – direct your ire in that direction.

      1. Buses will all be electric by the time any light rail gets built anyway. After the double decker rollout the next round of fleet purchases will be battery powered.

        1. That’s good to hear, I had recently been to a talk by an AT boss who was very excited about battery buses.

        2. Been thinking so much lately how much nicer our streets (even the most busiest) will be once all or even most vehicles are electric, even if everything else remains the same….less noise and breath easy…..ahhhhhh

  13. Council may need to renegotiate with NDG for a better entrance design.

    Regarding to Durham lane retaining wall, the wall need to be face-lifed. Also the Durham lane west itself would need be upgrade to shared space with new connections to Victoria st though countdown.

  14. Long time lurker first time poster 🙂

    I don’t see what the concern is there with Victoria St South footpath width?
    The table says total width stays same at 27.4m, North path stays same at 4.5m, the road drops from 18.5m to 12.4m & South footpath must be 6.1m wider than current 4.4m.
    That’s taking the current 2 south traffic lanes & adding them to the current footpath, seems pretty good to me 🙂

    The Victoria/Albert East/West pedestrian crossing looks much improved with a narrower road to cross, a big waiting platform & should be a flatter crossing.

    I’m not sure I see what’s so terrible about the Porte Cochere?
    Yes not a nice pedestrian area but where is the main pedestrian traffic going to be? Surely away from Albert St in & out of the Victoria St and Wellesley/Mayoral entrances.

    1. The problem is the extra width is taken up by the station entrance, which means thousands of people pouring out of that entrance will be squeezed through the standard size footpath around the side of it, or more problematically walking the other side in the street.

      1. No, they’ll pour out onto a 10m wide footpath down to Queen St or up to SkyCity.
        Only relatively few will come out one exit & reverse direction to Albert, even then the quoted width is wider than the current width.

        1. How is going down Albert reversing?? There are dozens of office and apartment buildings that will be accessed via that route.

  15. The foot path narrowing in the area of the station outside crowne plaza has to be a safety hazard. The right turn lane needs to go. Traffic can turn right outside the police station where there is more room for multiple lanes.

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