The Victoria St Linear Park has been saved from the clutches of Auckland Transport.
You may recall that we’ve been concerned about ATs plans for the future of many of the streets in the city centre for some time. In particular we were concerned that many of ATs emerging plans seemed to completely ignore the Council’s publicly consulted City Centre Master Plan (CCMP), and even their own strategic plans. This included denuding one of the CCMPs flagship projects, the Victoria St Linear park which would become an essential urban space linking the city centre’s two largest green spaces, Albert and Victoria Parks. It would see Victoria St narrowed down from six to just two lanes, with the rest of the space dedicated to people.
The Linear Park, at least in this central section, is actually more of an enhanced urban space or a plaza than a park and among other things, is needed to help distribute the thousands that will stream out of the new Aotea station and likely a future Light Rail station on Queen St. The route was also previously identified as one of the key routes in the government’s Urban Cycleway Programme requiring it to have dedicated bike infrastructure.
We thought our minds had finally been put to rest back in late March when the council reaffirmed their support for the City Centre Master Plan, including specifically calling out the Victoria St Linear Park. We thought this would be enough of a message to make AT think twice about scaling back the Linear Park. However, just days later, AT announced consultation for a plan which had a preferred option that not only killed the Linear Park but would also make it harder to use buses. What’s more, it appeared that part of the reason for this was a closed door deal done between AT and the University who don’t want buses past their premises, or even on the same side of the city as they are.
We later learnt that ATs own business case for the project didn’t support their preferred option. It showed, thanks to some poor redacting, that the preferred option was so bad for buses it had a negative benefit cost ratio while cheaper and more logical options performed well.
We, Generation Zero, Bike Auckland, Spinoff, and others encouraged people to submit to help save the Linear Park.
Late last week we finally learnt the outcome of the consultation with AT stating that they received more than 2,200 submissions, an impressive effort. Most importantly, as a result of the submissions, which they say showed “overwhelming public support for a more green and cycle/pedestrian-friendly city centre“, AT have abandoned their plans for buses on Victoria St and therefore the Linear Park is still alive.
More than 2200 submissions were received on the bus route options and the clear message from Aucklanders was that they wanted bus routes that also balanced the opportunities for a pedestrian and bike friendly city. In particular, this feedback sought that buses were not required to use Victoria Street, thereby enabling greater quality space for pedestrians and cyclists, as well as green space.
Mark Lambert, Chief AT Metro Officer says public transport is working for many Aucklanders. “In March for the first time more people entered the city centre using public transport than came in by car.
“The challenge is to provide more, reliable and faster public transport without compromising the quality of city space. We have re-examined the proposal and come up with the ‘cross over’ which we believe offers the best of both worlds.”
Retaining the Linear Park is a fantastic outcome so thank you to everyone who helped us in pushing for this outcome, although it is a situation that never should have arisen in the first place.
While AT are no longer planning on using Victoria St for buses, it seems they haven’t fallen back on one of the options also consulted on and have instead come up with a completely new option. Unfortunately there’s not a lot of detail on just what this entails but here’s what AT have said.
The new option, which was not part of the initial consultation, removes the need for buses on Victoria Street by swapping some major bus route groups within the city centre and developing a new bus facility in Grafton Gully. This option is still at feasibility stage and AT intends to further investigate, in particular assessing the operational requirements to ensure the proposal can work and will develop up the design of this option – in conjunction with Auckland Council investigating design options for Victoria Street – and bring this for further public consultation next year.
In September, Auckland Transport will present these emerging investigations as part of a cross-Council reporting to the Planning Committee on progress on the City Centre Masterplan.
Based on what they’ve said it’s hard to speculate on just what AT have cooked up now for buses in this area and whether it is once again just another option to get them out from doing the job properly. We’ll certainly be keeping an eye on things and it looks like we won’t have too long to wait to find out.
Once again thank you to everyone who helped us save the Linear Park, it will look fantastic emerging from Te Ara Tomo (the tunnels under Albert Park).