I wasn’t at yesterday’s parade to celebrate Team New Zealand’s winning of the America’s Cup but from what I saw on social media, it highlighted a couple of important and completely unrelated things.
We can close streets in the city centre with little impact.
As the parade made its way down Queen St and then around Customs and Quay Streets the city didn’t grind to a halt in a bout of carmageddon, there was instead just thousands of people celebrating.
Half of Auckland City Centre closed to cars, streets given back to people. The effect on traffic? Negligible other than immediate streets pic.twitter.com/e0Z2yqlV8m
— Mat Collins (@MatCollins76) July 6, 2017
Of course this isn’t a surprise, we’ve already been seeing that even the significant impacts caused by the construction of the City Rail Link have had little impact on the movement of vehicles in the city. In fact, ATs numbers show that for most streets travel times have actually improved.
While I’m sure many of those attending were nearby workers the event showed that we can just close streets and have people enjoy themselves.
One of the trends sweeping through cities is open streets events or cyclovia’s where streets are closed and handed over to the people. We have had some here, such as on Karangahape Rd last year but they’ve always had a large organised event feel rather than closing the streets and letting things develop organically. I suspect that is partially why they’ve happened so infrequently, that and paralysing fear so many at our transport agencies have about anything that inhibits the flow of cars – even when vehicles are outnumbered by other modes, such as on Queen St.
By comparison, ciclovia in Bogotá, Columbia, which have been running for around 30 years, happen every Sunday. They simply close the streets to cars and open them to people.
So why can’t we do something similar, block off Queen St or Quay St every Sunday for a few hours, or perhaps during the middle of the day on weekdays. Hand the city over the the people to enjoy. After all, on a normal weekday Queen St already has more than 6 times the number of people walking along it than drive along it.
It showed how much extra space people will get on Queen St with Light rail
When light rail is built – hopefully in time for the next America’s Cup, it is expected to turn most of Queen St into a transit mall, a space dedicated to people with a transit route through it. Conveniently, the street was set up with a light rail width corridor left for the parade while the outer two traffic lanes were handed over to people who were watching.
— John Mauro (@SustainableAkl) July 6, 2017
Here’s an image of what light rail along Queen St could look like.
That space is already needed. At times there simply isn’t enough space for the 60,000+ people that walk along it daily and so handing over more space to pedestrians would certainly help. We could even start tomorrow by making the street bus only until the funding to build light rail is approved. Of course, deliveries could still be catered for with delivery vehicles allowed to access Queen St during certain hours