Queen Street, our showcase harbour-to-city spine is a gently-rising parade of shopping and business, and, while in the 1980s and 90s became dull and empty, today it is again teaming with people. Along with its own attractions, its footpaths are the great north-south city movement route. In part, this is because of how terrible the pedestrian space is on the parallel streets of High and Albert. But it also benefits, as does Lambton Quay in Wellington, from a longstanding policy of not allowing vehicle entrances from it the whole way from Britomart to Mayoral Drive. Greatly improving the pedestrian experience.

This clearly makes it much less of a destination for drivers, which, outside of set-down and pick-up, are using our premier city street to get elsewhere. Despite this, the road is four lanes wide and while there are now intermittent bus lanes on the lower sections, they’re often not all that useful due to traffic using them to turn into side streets or into the handful of on-street carparks along the road. So most of its width it is operated as an officially sanctioned rat-run. Is this really the best use of this place and space? A question we have been asking since 2011.

Pedestrians are the primary users of the street and the recent presentation to the council in relation to saving the Victoria St Linear Park highlighted that the number of people walking along Queen St has doubled since 2012. We also know that vehicle volumes have dropped over the last decade or so.

For years, many people have asked why don’t we turn Queen into a fantastic pedestrian mall, and this has been shown as the plan for Queen St tied in with light rail being built. But do we really have to wait, especially since we have been told Light Rail may be 30 years away. I don’t think we should wait that long & there are multiple ways we could go about making Queen St better before then.

As we’ve mentioned before, the population in the city centre is growing rapidly, nearly reaching 47,000 people (More than the City Centre Masterplan Expected by 2032) and these people need to be able to move around the city, of which a primary way of doing so is walking.

Yet with pedestrian volumes rising so quickly, the footpaths that were thought to be generous a decade ago, are starting to feel cramped, for example Heart of the City‘s automatic counters at 210 Queen showing 34,000 pedestrians on Tuesday the 7th of March.

210 Queen Street (Heart of the City)

Lots of development is also happening in and around the Queen St Valley area as can be seen in the RCG Development Tracker.

Many cities are making/made the City Centre Streets more friendly such as Melbourne, Sydney, Madrid, Paris, OsloBerlin, etc. or even considering making them car free to increase capacity for transit/active modes, to enhance the amenity of the area, as well as decrease pollution.

Tactical Urbanism

In many places around the world it is becoming increasingly common to turn over city streets to pedestrians on weekends or at nights. I believe this is something could be easily done for Queen St with an information campaign, some traffic cones & some signs. For example, on a Friday night after the peak, and Saturday/Sunday from 7:00 – 22:00, we could close down one lane each way leaving the centre lanes for buses, the other lanes could be a cycleway, space for pop-up vendors, or extra space for pedestrians. We could go even further diverting buses at these times off Queen St as these are not peak periods however this may be harder.

Newbury St Boston Closed to Cars for a Sunday

Going All In

Another option is we could reduce Queen Street between Britomart & Mayoral Drive to 1 lane each way which would be a bus lane, delivery/trades vehicles would be permitted at certain times while turning the extra lanes into an expanded sidewalk & adding a cycleway. This would increase the amenity, capacity, speed of the users of Queen Street. With little turning traffic and few vehicles, crossing becomes easy, without left turning traffic buses such as the City Link can move freely ferrying people between Uptown, Midtown, Downtown, and Wynyard Quarter. Adding cycling facilities would increase the access to for active modes providing a fantastic N-S cycle link through the CBD connecting to the future Victoria St Linear Park as K’ Road improvements.

There would be questions of course regarding the feasibility due to the CRL Consent Conditions which state:

26.6 The traffic surveys will establish whether the City Rail Link construction works have increased traffic delays as follows:
(a) Either by more than 10 minutes (from the surveys previously undertaken in accordance with this condition)

(b) Or if the surveyed times are more than three minutes or 30% greater than the forecast modelled increases along that route (according to the most recent traffic model test of that scenario, undertaken prior to the start of construction. The
modelled time is to be based on the Auckland City Centre SATURN traffic model or a different traffic model approved by Auckland Transport).

(c) The 30% above shall only apply for an increase predicted to be over four minutes.

26.7 If the surveyed times exceed the above criteria on any one of the specified routes, then additional mitigation shall be implemented by the Requiring Authority in its role as the
Road Controlling Authority (under its statutory obligation). The additional mitigation could include but is not limited to advertising alternative routes, removing on street car parking or implementing operational measures, such as lane reconfigurations or signal phasing, to increase capacity on the surrounding network where reasonably possible at
that time.

Of course, in response to this we know:

  1. Carmageddon has not occurred, even though the CRL works have affected significant parts of the city centre. In fact, many of the routes AT monitor have been flowing better than prior to the CRL works starting.
  2. Queen St is not a primary route used by many cars. As a result, it is possible that closing Queen may not increase congestion.
  3. If Carmageddon did occur, the text above indicates that AT may instead be able to try to reduce congestion overall by using alternative routes and still be within consent.

Perhaps in the short term, AT could try the first option to prove that closing Queen to general traffic would fall within consent, and then move to this option.

These ideas are something that could be done relativity quickly (As far as transport projects go) and would be an excellent project that the Mayor could have finished in his first term. As so many transportation projects usually have long lead times, projects like this that can put some runs on the board are gold for a first term Mayor, something they can point to saying this is where Auckland is going.

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49 comments

  1. There are two steps to improving Queen Street. Narrow it to only one lane each way (including at intersections) to reduce traffic. Secondly get rid of every diesel bus fro Queen Street. It really has become a dreadful place to walk since they let them all in.

    1. Personally I find the diesel trucks and vans to be worse than the buses from a noise/emissions perspective. Modern diesel buses like City Link are pretty innocuous IMO.

  2. Hold on, no! If we got rid of cars on Queen St, where are the out of towners going to drive on Friday night? 😉

  3. Removing traffic from Queen Street is ridiculously overdue. I have been living downtown for four years and I avoid Queen Street like the plague, partly because it sees very little sun, but also because the footpaths are not adequate to manage the pedestrian movement. I remember someone once said that there are no garages along the entirety of the bottom half of Queen Street, so technically absolutely zero justification for vehicular access. Eventually businesses will have to adapt as in the future we will not all be so attached to our private motor vehicles, and it isn’t so hard to do shopping on a bus, especially when the hassle of parking is not a factor. The sooner we draw a ring around the CBD – K Road – Symonds – Anzac – Customs – Hobson (or even Nelson) – Pitt – K, and say inside this circle the private motor vehicle does not enter, the sooner we can create a truly vibrant inner city, comparable with the great cities of the planet. Imagine the boulevards of Europe in our Big Little City…

      1. I would find a owning a car in the city a hassle even as it is. You might have to adapt to not having your private anti-social environment destroyer at your direct beck and call. I will be on the bus if you need any advice on how to overcome this strange attachment that so many of us suffer from 😉

      2. Presumably when these things are done, as is currently happening in several cities worldwide, there’s fair notice and a period of a few years before the complete ban takes over. Plenty of time for you to adjust by either getting rid of your car, or moving if you can’t bear to be without it.

        I wouldn’t think there would be any adverse effect on the value of your property by vehicle access being removed, quite the opposite. It would become an apartment in a far more vibrant, people-friendly location, with a substantial storage area in the basement.

      3. Maybe we can implement permits to drive in the CBD to your parking spots (or the part of it where your parking spot is). One difference with those European cities is that seemingly every other building in Auckland is a car park building.

        And Matthew, that’s true as long as you don’t need to be outside the CBD. I 100% agree that you don’t need a car for day to day life. but it will be a necessity whenever you have to go somewhere beyond walking distance.

        To elaborate on that “social” aspect: once you’re working you basically have 3 choices:
        – own a car;
        – be that guy who always needs someone to pick him up at whatever place where the bus happens to drop him off;
        – face social isolation.

        Pick your poison.

        1. I can understand your point, I am a bit extreme, and of course to escape the city a car can be quite wonderful. For work I survive on a bus but I am privileged to more or less commute between hubs, taking most of the hassle out of a not always so reliable public transport system. Hopefully car sharing will become a thing as we look to make better use of our resources. Not contributing to congestion gives me warm fuzzies and you can read an incredible number of books every month when you are chaffeur driven about the place!

          1. Agree. A lot of cities in Europe have subscription based car sharing, which usually comes out cheaper than owning a car for people who only occasionally drive. And perhaps a bigger issue, you can often get around on a bicycle. (quite ironically storing a car in the CBD easier than storing a bicycle).

            I lived in the CBD as well, and I ended up driving even to places like Mount Albert, Sylvia Park (both on frequent train lines) and Balmoral (on a busy bus route), and Newmarket (not that far away) due to it just being enormously cumbersome to get there on PT. We really have a problem with PT access in the west of the CBD, where a lot of those apartments are.

          2. I have an apartment on Hobson Street. I also have a toddler and a 1-month-old. We walk many places. When it was just the toddler, I would take him by bike further afield. When the newborn is a little older, I will get an electric cargo bike. I work really hard to stay out of Auckland traffic.

            But in spite of this, I do need a car. Because car share programs (I’ve used them in London and California) do not come with child car seats fitted that match your particular combination of children. And it’s not practically possible to carry the car seats to the shared car. Or to take the kids in an Uber or Lyft.

            And I can’t just bail on having a car completely. Because I sometimes have late night runs to the hospital. Or even getting to the suburbs, or to childrens shopping (did you know that you can’t buy kids clothes anywhere in the CBD? All the stores for kids clothing are in the suburban malls. I guess because that’s where most of the parents still live.)

            An increasing number of people are staying in inner city apartments when they have kids. That’s what they can afford financially. And they are deciding that they want to spend an extra two hours a day with their kids instead of with their car and a hundred thousand other motorists on their favourite motorway.

            But we still need cars for the foreseeable future, until there is a profound change in city infrastructure.

            (I should add that I would totally support pedestrianising the whole of the CBD, so long as apartment dwellers could have 15 km/h access lanes to get cars into and out of underground car-parks.)

    1. While I support Queen St being pedestrianised, I don’t think suddenly making that wide area car free would do anything towards making Auckland a more vibrant city. It would more likely make some less pedestrianised areas unsafe, setting back attempts to improve the city.

    2. Ummm, Matthew, re your comment: “I remember someone once said that there are no garages along the entirety of the bottom half of Queen Street, so technically absolutely zero justification for vehicular access.”

      Sorry for pointing out the bleeding obvious, but some vehicles need access:
      Police, Fire, Ambulance.
      Service Vehicles ie Courier vans, delivery trucks, etc
      Buses / Light Rail whatever.

      So, yes, private cars not needed or wanted – but what about taxis? and Ubers? How do those office workers in their Queen St High Rise buildings get to their office when laden down with paperwork? Unless there is a separate vehicular access to the building from another frontage, i.e. from the back road, it’ll not be agreed to by people working on Q St.

      The point is that Queen St will probably never be fully pedestrianised / cannot / will not ever be fully pedestrianised. Even Cuba Mall in Wellington, the nation’s premier pedestrian space, still has to allow room for delivery vans, etc.

      1. You can even drive a truck down Cuba Mall – I know, because I was setting up a festival at 7am. The difference is that we had a permit to be there, at an hour where very few people were using it.

        Melbourne’s Bourke St mall is a shining example of what Queen St should be, and it is closed to private vehicles throughout the day.

      2. “Service Vehicles ie Courier vans, delivery trucks, etc”

        We have these things called trolleys that can be operated to move goods from a vehicle to a building.

        “but what about taxis? and Ubers?”

        People have legs, and mobility devices that allow them to comfortably travel short distances to taxi stands on other roads.

        “How do those office workers in their Queen St High Rise buildings get to their office when laden down with paperwork?”

        The same way that they do now; on foot.

        “The point is that Queen St will probably never be fully pedestrianised / cannot / will not ever be fully pedestrianised.”

        The point is that you value vehicle access too highly to consider making Queen Street a pedestrian mall. Public transport and maybe cyclists are the only vehicles that should be in Queen Street, and only because parallel routes for both are so poor atm.

        1. No, Sailor, you’re wrong. It’s silly to say that a blanket ban should exist – what I was trying to point out is that there are many users of Queen St, and that the people who contribute substantially to the rates etc are the office workers and shop keepers. To get them on board with any scheme, and to keep them on board, you need to have a plan to counter any possible resistance. You can’t say they don’t matter, because they Do Matter.

          Part of that involves thinking clearer – Covent Garden in London for instance, has vehicle deliveries permitted before a certain time in the morning, while Burke St Mall in Melbourne has restrictions too, as George points out. Rundle Mall in Adelaide has time restrictions for deliveries, as well as alternative entrances to large retailers. Las Ramblas in Barcelona has twin small access roads for deliveries. Stroget in Copenhagen is an interesting one – nothing to actually stop you driving there, its just that it is so full of people and cyclists that it is physically hard to drive down. But no actual bollards – and no kerbs either, from memory.

          However, all of the above also have to maintain access for emergency vehicles. Cops occasionally. Ambulances more frequently. And fire engines all of the time.

          So, the thing that needs to be done before issuing a blanket fatwa against all cars, is to figure out a system whereby you don’t piss off every other user in Queen St who might just need to use a vehicle for some legitimate purpose.

          1. Emergency vehicles are the only legitimate purpose that you have described and they can use the bus or lrt lanes we will need. The other groups that you described already have extremely poor access by car and very few actually use the car parks as is.

          2. There are buildings on Queen Street which receive and send deliveries of commercial quantities of large objects from time to time. Not all of these have access to any other road. This requires access for freight vehicles to Queen Street, and will continue to do so.

            It does not require access at all times of day or night, and has no relationship to whether four lanes for cars are useful.

          3. A somewhat different situation, but Beach Street in Queenstown is going to be pedestrianised soon, with the preferred option looking like it will allow service vehicles to use it between 4am and 10am, and emergency vehicles and maintenance vehicles at other times. Interestingly this was based on a 7 month trial which had a lot of sceptics at the start, but 80% support from businesses by the end of the trial.

            https://www.odt.co.nz/regions/queenstown/street-may-be-pedestrian-mall-permanently

          4. Of course a pedestrianised Queen St doesn’t have to meet the needs of every business that is currently located there.

            Many will be unaffected or will benefit, others will need to find ways to adapt, but inevitably there will be some that won’t be able to cope and may choose to relocate or close down. They will be replaced by others that are more suited to the environment.

            That’s change. Overall the city will benefit hugely but at an individual level there will be winners and losers.

          5. Nick That’s so not the case. No business on Queen can be entered except on foot, and there will be more space for more people. Deliveries will have better access without private vehicles as is the case in Bourke St in Melbourne, and on our current shared spaces. NO negative for retail or commercial biz, in fact clear upside. Retail sales have boomed on the back on ped numbers doubling in Queen St.

          6. I actually agree with you. My point was just that the change doesn’t have to be agreed to by every single business. I’m sure with Queen St there might be some that even though they could adapt and seize the opportunity, choose not to for whatever reason. Some may just be so ideologically opposed to the concept from the start that they just don’t want to be part of it. That’s fine, they can move on and others will replace them.

          7. Yes Nick that’s right, the ideologue in chief on High St for instance, Workshop owner, has just left the city centre which is great. As there is no logic in him staying as he insists his is an auto-dependent business. A suburban outfitter, if you like. Has stores in Newmarket and Ponsonby, though listening to him bang on about the vital nature of the car-bourne customer you’d think he should be in Westgate and Botany… haha

  4. The thing AT ought to do tomorrow is remove right hand turn cycles from Wellesley/Queen in particular, except for the Link. This would return more time to the other cycles, in order of importance: pedestrians, buses, east/west general traffic.

    It isn’t clear to me why AT seem to find it so hard to see pedestrians and treat them with the importance they are due, especially here.

    1. “The thing AT ought to do tomorrow is remove [all private vehicles]”

      This is simple, just do it already.

  5. Personal opinion is AT (if reading this) would not have a clue where you are talking about….
    I would have a problem if you made Queen Street PUkekohe a walkway!
    The bottom end of Queen Street Waiuku – go for it.
    Queen Street Papakura – it is not on.

    Queen Street CBD – yes great idea – but haven’t AT decided it is the new airport busway until LR in 30 years time.

    1. ‘Queen Street, our showcase harbour-to-city spine’ and reference to the City Centre masterplan would ensure most people at AT would have a fair idea which Queen St was being referred to.

      I’m also reasonably sure CRL works are not impacting on Queen St, Waiuku.

    2. How do we even know which Auckland they’re referring to? It could be the one in California, or the one in Scotland perhaps.

  6. I was walking down Queen Street on Friday at 11am. There were at least a couple of hundred pedestrians in front of me on my side of the road (I tried to count them)… and only two cars using up double the space!

  7. Step 1: remove on-street parking and related signage on Queen St. from Customs to Victoria. Fill in those gaps to footpath level, thereby extending the footpath to Queen St.
    Step 2: close off Fort St.’s entrance to Queen St. by using the potted pohutukawa trees (as seen on Lorne St.) Retain access to Deloitte underground car park.
    Step 3: close the entrance to Durham St. West from Queen St. Access to CTS House car park and adjacent area from Albert St.
    Step 4: The current left lane on Shortland St. to Queen St. becomes tradie, courier, and taxi car parking to off-set Step 1 above. The current right lane becomes right & left turn.
    Step 5: convert outermost Queen St. lanes into 24/7, protected, fine-enforced bus lanes from Customs to Victoria.
    Step 6: construct a long, uninterrupted bus shelter along the Queen St. side of the Civic Theatre.
    Step 7: remove street clutter when appropriate and consolidate multiple signs onto fewer poles
    Step 8: install more street furniture, bicycle racks, and Parisian newspaper & advertising kiosks
    Step 9: close Queen St. every first Sunday of the month.

      1. I had a little idea for Wyndham. Basically close the street to traffic about 30m back from Queen St, where the last vehicle accesses are each side. The building to the north has a loading dock, to the south a carpark ramp.

        Flatten that a bit for a vehicle turn around and three or four loading bays to make this a node for couriers and deliveries.

        This leaves you a defacto square of abou 15m x 15m where the intersection of Wyndham and Queen used to be, and a steep hill up to the end of the roadway. The idea is you build out the steep bit as a series of benches/steps/ terraced platforms in between the footpaths either side going up to Wyndham St proper. This then gives you a little casual amphitheatre fronting the small square perfect for buskers to do their shows in. It also gets surprisingly sunny in the afteroon once the sun has swung around.

    1. Yes, interesting ideas, I think do this in phases, the devil is in the detail as they say. Do you know/anyone know what the building car park counts are for the Fort St sort of area is, Deloitte one for example? I think the speed limit for shared spaces should be 10km/hr for example (I think they are 30km in the city?). I think centre bus lanes (see my ideas below) right up until Mayoral Dr intersection and then back to basically what is there now.

  8. My thoughts are that you could do it a bit more like what K’rd is proposing (they look about the same width is this correct? a tad under 28m). Given that we are pretty certain we will eventually have LRT running down the middle & possibly at 3-5min frequencies, I think we should retain the City & Inner Link bus, Sky Bus & new network 105 (Westmere) & 106 (Freeman’s Bay loop) access down Queen for now. Work towards these buses being electric before anything else. Why would we get totally used to nothing travelling through, then have to look out for LRT vehicles coming through? With current CRL construction disruptions this is even more a priority. This would give the peds good access to PT options with more reliable running times. So from Wellesley down (haven’t thought about higher up), no access to general traffic. Put in centre running bus, taxi/Uber lanes each way. Goods vehicles can use them from 4am to say 8am only. Build out the paths/ped areas to where on street parking etc currently ends. Remaining space should be groupings of bus stops, taxi/loading zone areas, wider build outs/trees/furniture. How wide generally are the Queen St paths currently (where they are not the extra build out sections)? If room would be nice to have buffered cycle lanes. Alternatively if you really wanted cycleway and no room, a two way cycle way on one side, loading zone/bus/taxi stops on one side & in line bus stops on the other with no loading zones etc, though that sounds a bit crap for access etc for all concerned.

    1. More thinking on this, not sure about the taxi’s really, could be a bit like letting electric cars in transit lanes? Perhaps just from midnight until 6am if PT at that time sucks, or not at all – would you end up with too many pacing up and down & parking in wrong places as they seem to?, more regulation needed perhaps (Uber – don’t know how they fit in with a recognised “taxi”. Considering that once LRT done you wouldn’t want them in I presume so probably best to not at all, unless this is all a phasing out of car sort of process. Is there enough taxi stands close enough on side streets considering more of these are or will likely be ped only or shared spaces or Wellesley buses only & Victoria is linear park?

  9. Can we have a Diwali liked festival every Friday night and weekend on queen street?

    Also set up all sorts of regular markets such as night markets, farmers markets, artisan markets and flea market.

    Also encourage street performers, dancers, and buskers.

    It will be a vibrant place for people to hangout in Friday night and weekends.

  10. I would not do this on Queen Street but I realised the other day a way to reduce the pedestrian issue on High Street resulting from, shared space aside, the ridiculous double-sided vehicle parking: walk on the road, particularly if walking downtown.

    The street is one-way, there can be surprisingly little traffic coming towards you at times to worry about. I would always look out for the authorities, of course.

    I’m sure Greater Auckland in no way condone this sort of illegal activity but it is quite a pleasant walk! Not having to manouvre around everyone else on narrow footpaths. My word it’s a mess that street.

    1. Actually it’s not illegal in any way. There is no such thing as ‘jaywalking’ in this country and you are perfectly entitled to walk in the street as long as you follow the road rules.

      So curiously, it might be illegal to walk the wrong way down the one way street, but it is perfectly legal to walk the right way!

      I do this quite often when the footpaths are overcrowded. Given that traffic would be lucky to break 10km/h there its safe and easy.

      1. Good to know it’s legal, Nick. I expect for many they want to look at the shops but I want to get somewhere. Don’t know why more don’t simply invoke there own change and pretend it’s a shared space.

        I guess it’s our natural predisposition to follow rules.

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