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).

  1. 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.

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  1. CCO = Council Controlled Organisation. Auckland Transport I think needs to be put on leash until it can behave and obey orders.

  2. Yes this whole Master Plan needs working through AT’s “brain”. Some big overhauls needed it seems to make things work together better, seems Chris Darby & team is the man that will help this happen.

  3. Let’s say that AT are sincere in saying that the 4 lane layout on Victoria is temporary. What then would be the justification for that? Even if it’s bus related, that still only justifies 3 lanes.

    1. Seems ideally they need & New Network vague note shows bus terminating facility in Wynyard Qtr. Then a big pile of buses (35.5 per hour in morning peak according to my calculations) otherwise seem to need to go west along Wellesley, but then come back around Victoria, Bowen, Waterloo Quad & back up Symonds St!

      1. ..actually slightly wrong in that the 701 route will continue to Wynyard in peak (4 buses per hour). It’s also unclear where the North Shore ones will go that head to the “Learning Quarter”/Universities. I didn’t count those. So just counting 22, 24, 70 would be 31.5 bph in morning peak.

      2. My understanding of the CEWT study was that isthmus buses come in along Symonds Street then head left to Wellesley before terminating around Wynyard Quarter. Outbound ones do the opposite (using that neat little ramp next to the university so they can get from Wellesley back up to Symonds St).

        North Shore buses come in on Fanshawe before turning right into Halsey and continuing along Wellesley Street before turning around near the university. It’s a great strategy and I don’t know why AT seem to be back-tracking on this. Victoria St is terrible for buses as they get stuck on Bowen Ave and Waterloo Quadrant where there are no bus lanes and challenges in putting in good ones (as the buses turn right from Waterloo Quadrant into Symonds St).

  4. I watched the committee meeting and I disagree that they have “saved the linear park”. There were some great speeches, and a clear and consistent message about the importance of the “people stuff” in the city centre, but as far as I know there was no resolution passed that would protect the linear park, merely an agreement that AT and Council would look at the options. Isn’t it still all up in the air?

    But if you need two dedicated bus lanes on Victoria, why not just do it by banning other vehicles, instead of creating another two lanes?

    There was also a lot of discussion about pedestrianising Queen St, and all kinds of lame reasons given for it not happening such as “resilience”, “waiting for LRT”. The easy way to meet all of these criteria would be immediately close one lane each way, and make the other ones for buses only. Use temporary barriers that can be easily removed in case of emergency and that solves the resilience issue. Wait for LRT to do the proper design.

    1. Yes need funds & build the LRT on Queen St ASAP. Idealy & with $, I’m wondering if we still need a underground bus facility as well, but where? Enough room in the Civic car park to be converted?

  5. I don’t (really) get the idea of the linear park.

    If the idea is to move more people, then design it to move more people – footpaths.

    If the idea is to build a park, then build a park. All grass. Playground. Football fields. Cricket nets. A proper park.

    If the idea is to facilitate transit, then ban cars but have 6 lanes for buses/cycles/trams, whatever.

    It’s like “shared spaces” – either pedestrianise them, or don’t (I tend towards pedestrianisation). The attempt to create a multi-role space is as doomed as turning the F-111 into a carrier based fighter.

    Personally, I would rather the money devoted to this be used to all-weathering more of our sports parks, because I think the social benefits will be greater.

    1. That’s a very suburban understanding of what a park is.

      A park in the CBD needs to be a place that a lot of people can use. Grass isn’t ideal for that. I would imagine the purpose of the linear park is to provide a lot more space for pedestrian movement to and from the RTN stations in the area for peak hour, that is still pleasant to be. There is a constraint that the street must also allow access for cyclists and some motorists to the Queen St Valley too. Given the constraints, and the end goals, what is proposed seems like a good fit tbh.

      1. Agree with this, it’s not that kind of park. It is one of movement sure, but also a place to stop and sit for a while, eat your lunch or catch some sun.

        Call it a linear plaza with lots of trees if you prefer, or a linear square if that isn’t too much oxymoron.

        1. In great cties like barcelona, paris, and amsterdam this sort of street/place amenity is fairly common. It’s a sign of how warped auckland is that we need to give what are simply decent/normal streets new names like shared spaces and linear parks.

        2. The first time that I heard the term ‘linear park’ I thought it was a ‘keep off the grass’ type of development. Maybe a neologism isn’t needed. If you can pardon my French, I suggest that ‘linear park’ could be replaced with ‘promenade’, ‘concourse’, ‘place/plaza/platz’ etc.

      2. Looks like Google image search is also “suburban”, because if you type “park” in you definitely get this suburban ideal.

        I think some mini football fields would be awesome.

    2. The linear park is a critical piece of transportation infrastructure that will move the 8,000 passengers per hour using aotea station as well as most of the other pedestrians and cyclists on victoria street. If AT want to maximise people flow then they should be building the park as quick as they can.

        1. So would you rather have this, or a proper linear park with grass, pools, maybe some sculpture and fountains?

        2. This, by a factor of 10 with regards to preference. There are large parks with grass, pools, sculpture, and fountains at both ends.

  6. Watching the AT presentation there seemed to be an element of panic. The CRL will be at full capacity the day it opens, City employment and population are way ahead of forecast and growing. They are predicting a massive growth in bus numbers. In the absence of LR where to put them?
    Would like to see a few different scenarios investigated. For instance what would traffic flows look like if the city parking buildings were closed?
    Also at the meeting there was a presentation on submissions to the GPS where it was pointed out that nearly all of the county’s population growth is in Auckland. This would suggest that funding for new transport projects be distributed on a growth basis rather than a simple population basis.
    This is the big fat elephant in the room. The city needs more funds! Without money we are not going to have the city we want. These green spaces are going to overrun with buses.

    1. Transport funding isn’t really allocated by population – at least not from NZTA. In theory it’s allocated on merit, with some screwy effects from GPS activity classes that divide it by mode. Overall we should expect more than 50% of investment in new transport infrastructure to be in Auckland – I wonder how that compares with what happens now?

    2. Niall you are right; it is panicking if you decide your role is to keep everything exactly as it is. And weirdly AT seem to have given themselves this task; why? How is status quo maintenance their job, who gave then that role?

      To improve is to change, and to improve a lot is to really change, to transform. AT’s culture seems to be unable to accept any part of this… It has an anti-change culture yet it is building the CRL and proposing Light Rail; two huge transformations; why can’t they accept that the purpose of these projects is to transform the city?

      Which means everything changes. Particularly driving becomes a minor prt of the mix.

      1. Honestly it’s baffling for AT to be behaving like this. As per Simon Wilson’s article there are heaps of passionate people within that organisation but somehow it remains so incredibly hesitant and anti-change.

        Hopefully this is a catalyst for a big kick up the ass to actually be a bit visionary for once.

        Where’s Lester Levy’s Statement of Fucking Imagination now?

      2. I feel sorry for AT officers. When all you do all day, everyday is deal with angry, irrational car drivers, then you should hardly be surprised by AT’s response. Pain minimisation is normal, rational human behaviour.

  7. Personally I don’t disagree with AT on the Car use. If you continue to encourage and subsidise people to use private vehicles, they will continue to do so. Just don’t agree its the right thing to do.

    1. What I think you’re saying is AT and Auckland Council don’t control national (or National) policy. Okay. But what they can strongly influence is regional/metropolitan policy. Within reason, they can make it impossible to use a car, if they wish, i.e., they can close or restrict the use of the local roads – turn them all into linear parks/shared spaces/urban gardens, can’t they? – is the rte a law that says they have to provide “private vehicular” access to every property, or just “access” (which could mean by foot, bicycle, flying fox, trampoline, slide, or whatever else makes it fun and healthy – yes, that’s a very serious consideration (e.g., how many billions/trillions of dollars of potential has NZ lost due to not taking lead out of petrol for a generation or more after our competitor countries had, thus lowering our collective IQ by 4-5? – untold billions/trillions (we should sue the oil companies for it)))?

      Just saying I think Auckland Council and AT have more power and control over shaping/nudging things than maybe they realise. Maybe I’m wrong (I don’t know).

      1. I think that AT (under duress from the council, if need be) needs to consider such obstructionist tactics ASAP, in order to disincentivise private vehicle use more.

        Having said that, tradies, mobility impaired and ESVs need to have _proper_ access. Also watering down my opening statement, those apartments in the CBD that currently have vehicular access need to retain said access, however there’s no reason that it can’t be via a shared access way. Hmm – Do we still have the stupid minimum parking requirements? If so, man… That needs to go.

        Oh, in response to past comments from some that couriers can go before 08:00 – That simply isn’t realistic, unless we want a carmageddon of courier vehicles clogging the access ways 🙂

        1. Can’t courier companies get those enclosed buggies that the posties now use, particularly in the CBD and town centres and other high/higher density urban areas? That way they can use the footpaths/shared spaces like the posties do.

          Yes, they’ll need transfer depots, but it may be worth the council providing those for the courier companies (e.g., negotiating for them to share with whatever facilities the post office uses for their buggy runs).

        2. We’ve had cycle couriers for thirty years. We already have a solution.

          Now we can just given them an electric cargo bike. Double sorted.

        3. I imagine if Courier companies can operate a viable distribution operation in Dunedin with 100,000 people they will have no trouble running a viable specialised distribution system in the Auckland CBD with a similar number of people.

        4. Tradies need to change their MO as well. Vans are OK in the outer suburbs but not much use anywhere else. Here in Devonport we have a carpenter who tows a toolbox behind his bike. One can readily envision a lift friendly electric trolley to pack tools and supplies for an example.
          Anyway how to other cities handle supplies and services? Delivery trucks and trade vehicles are rare sights elsewhere.

        5. They probably _could_, but could they do so and still be economically viable?

          Incidentally, for some of the products I design and build only a van would suffice. I may not be in the CBD but my potential sales are. No courier buggie would have room for 5-10 items over a metre long (damn over-size charges) destined for the same customer. Especially so when the weight could be over 5KG each…

          Point being, couriers aren’t the headache that they may first appear to be. If the streets were pedestrianised, couriers and tradies would change their behaviour as the peds changed theirs. This situation would probably benefit from adding obstructions to the vehicle path to ensure that the vehicles follow the posted limits…


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