We’ve talked a number of times over the last six months or so about our concerns for the future of the city centre and how many of the council’s plans are seemingly being ignored by Auckland Transport. This is most evident in the discussion surrounding one of the flagship ideas from the Council’s publicly consulted City Centre Master Plan (CCMP), the Victoria St Linear Park.
The Linear Park is intended to link Albert and Victoria Parks through the core of the city centre with an enhanced urban space which will also serve to help distribute the many thousands of people moving to and from the future Aotea Station, which is expected to be the busiest in the city. You can read more about why it’s needed in this post from last October. A key element of the Linear Park was that the space would come for it by reducing the number of lanes from six as exist currently, to two. Victoria St also happens to be one of the key routes identified as part of the Governments Urban Cycleway Programme.
As part of the City Rail Link works, Auckland Transport do plan to widen the footpaths on Victoria St but not to the extent envisioned in the CCMP. They instead want to squeeze four traffic lanes in, although one of those may be a bus lane – even though there shouldn’t be buses on Victoria St – but that’s too much to cover in this post.
But the linear park wasn’t the only CCMP idea that was under threat. So to were plans to remove the Hobson St Flyover, which AT want to retain but with fewer vehicle lanes, and plans to significantly improve change Quay St.
An item on the agenda for the Council’s planning committee on Tuesday discussed this conflict between the council and ATs plans. The whole, ~50 minute video is available below but I’ll point out some of the key parts of it.
The video starts with a presentation for the first 15 minutes covering some of the key metrics in the city and AT’s views on these metrics. Some of the stats, like the rise in both employment and population within the city centre, we’ve covered before but some of the other figures are new, or new takes on them.
First up, amazingly we’ve doubled the number of people walking on Queen St. That’s a massive increase and why it’s not uncommon to see footpaths overloaded with people – of course while this is happening the traffic lanes are often almost completely empty.
One thing that’s helping drive these pedestrian volumes has been the huge increase in employment and population numbers in the city, the latter to the point that now, more people live in the city than enter than drive in each morning across all roads, That’s a massive number who are often simply not counted in traffic studies.
There are then a bunch of questions and statements from the Councillors. Even if you don’t want to watch the whole video, I’d recommend watching the excellent speech from new Councillor Richard Hills which is last ~4 minutes of the video. Councillor Darby’s speech from around the 44 minute mark is also fantastic. Their comments give hope that we’ll see some real progress on important urban issues over the term of this council.
For their part, AT say that their views on the linear park and other aspects are temporary, that the lanes can be reclaimed from traffic at some later, unspecified date in future. Of course one major issue is that temporary changes tend to have a nasty habit of becoming permanent. One of the slides shown was this with some forecast modeshare to the city centre now and in 30 years time. Calculating out the results, it’s suggesting about the same number of vehicles will enter the city in the future as they do now. This seems pretty high, with it feeling like AT have latched on to the suggestion that numbers will arrived by car and treated it as a target not an upper limit.
This is of course at odds with how many cities are developing. Even the Government and their agencies like the Ministry of Transport, the NZTA and Treasury agree we need fewer cars in the city. This is direct from the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP).
- Access to this area is physically constrained, and there is competition for limited street-space between vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and public amenity. This means it is imperative over time to move more people in fewer vehicles. This requires a continued modal shift towards public transport, walking and cycling.
The good news is the council gave AT a reminder that they were in charge, reiterating their support for a people-oriented city-centre.
Excellent work Councillors (and council staff). It will be interesting to see how AT respond.