Continuing my recent look at how we might “rethink” a few major transport projects under development in Auckland, another that we should take a further look at is Albert Street.

Albert Street is currently being ripped up as part of the CRL cut and cover tunnelling works. When done the City Centre Targeted Rate will be used to not just restore it but to upgrade Albert Street at the same time into a much more pleasant space. You can read about the original plan here and the current plan here or watch the below video.

With the Government now supporting Northwest Light Rail, Albert Street needs a rethink. Albert Street needed to be a major bus corridor as it would be the route used for the Northwest services. With Northwest Light Rail we would expect it to hook into the planned Dominion Rd route and use the Queen Street corridor. Removing this large number of buses from Albert Street was one of the reasons why we proposed light-rail to the Northwest rather than a busway in the Congestion Free Network. Post CRL, all of the current western services, aside from Route 18 – Great North Road, will all feed into western line. This means instead of at peak 62 buses per hour in 2026 and 78 in 2036 it could potentially be just 18-20 buses per hour that need to use Albert Street (assuming a bump in frequency to capture demand currently catered for by northwest buses).

Bus Reference Case – Central Access Plan

As a result, Albert Street will no longer need to be hugely important bus corridor. This presents us with multiple ways we can do Albert Street differently, with a particular focus on better serving placemaking, pedestrians and cyclists.

Option 1 – Remove the Indented Bus Stops: With bus volumes significantly reduced, there is no need for indented bus bays. NACTO guidelines do not recommend intended bus stops as they slow buses especially if below a large amount of buses per hour. Removing the indented stops will increase the amount of footpath for placemaking and pedestrians while also improving the remaining bus services. Cars would not be adversely affected either as the bus lanes would be in operation anyway when the bus stops inline.

Space Wasted with Indented Bays

Option 2 – Reduce Lanes: With bus volumes significantly less we could consider reducing Albert Street to one lane each way, they could be either general lanes or peak operating bus lanes. Cycle lanes could also be added. Albert Street will eventually sit in the core of the laneway circuit along with Queen Street. De-tuning this street would create a serious pedestrian-friendly core within the City Centre with Queen Street Transit Mall, the Laneway Circuit and Victoria Street Linear Park all in what the City Centre Masterplan referred to as the engine room.

Laneway Circuit

Option 3 – Bus Transit Mall: Now this may be pushing it but why not consider it? We could have two amazing major streets in the engine room based around pedestrians rather than just one.

Advance Bus Solution – Ljubljana Bus Transit Mall

Through the City Rail Link and light-rail serving major bus corridors to the north, northwest and the central isthmus, we have a fantastic opportunity to claim back city street space for people while having a far more efficient transport system that can get huge numbers of people in, out and around the city centre. But we need to to make the most of this opportunity.

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  1. I think option 3 should be considered. I wonder what it will do to traffic flow and existing car parking. But do we really need our central city fill of cars?
    Having less cars makes the city central less noisy and a more attractive place to live in.
    However, I am not that familiar with what is on the street and what car access is required to the buildings along there. I suspect this might be the limiting factor and therefore might make option 3 a no go.

  2. Disagree.

    Regardless of volume, we must ensure that the buses that do use the corridor can do so at maximum efficiency. The purpose of roads is to move vehicles – whether buses, trams, or cars. In this case, buses. And, until we have 24/7 5 minute PT frequency from every single part of Auckland, we still need car access.

    1. Why do we need vehicle access on Albert St if we don’t have 24/7 5 minute PT frequency?

      Incidentally the purpose of roads is not to move vehicles it is to facilitate people’s access to property and movement between locations.

      1. You’re right. And none of the street designs above facilitate access/movement as much as the current model. Even for pedestrians, all those obstructions would reduce maximum speed. A truly pedestrian oriented street would be free of street trees, of even gradient, and surfaced with track coating

      2. I am not disagree with you but if there are residents buildings and people who have paid $80,000 to $100,000 for a carpark I suspect they might object to losing vehicular access. If there is a enough people that will need to be compensated. If you are a young mum with many bags of shopping and a kid or 2 in tow then using a car might be preferable to kids. Same is true if you have limited mobility.. If you live in an apartment there may also be places you want to travel to which using a car would be a better option. I suspect most PT users still use a car for some things.

        1. Agree, which is why I support Sailor Boy’s suggestion below of one-way access for private vehicles. My comment was specifically in response to the absurd idea we need vehicle access on Albert St until the entire city has 24/7 5 min PT frequency.

        2. I think the costs of reducing general traffic on Albert St would be pretty minimal so it wouldn’t be hard for these to be outweighed by the benefits.

        3. Arum, there are probably access issues, and I think they can generally be solved by having limited access hours. I think you’ve expressed a common mindset that is worth exploring, as I think we can move past it. Inner city living may involve having a car for some people where it works and they’re happy to pay for it. It’s not something the council needs to ensure is provided, though; that’s just people trying to have their cake and eat it. People all around the world live in their CBD’s without cars.

          A young mum with many bags of shopping and a kid or 2 in tow? She needs adequate pedestrian amenity with wide footpaths so that she doesn’t have to hold their hands but instead has time to react to random movements. She needs good cycling infrastructure so she feels safe cycling with the added load of a bike trailer or Copenhagen SUV or child seat. She needs bus stops that connect to well-phased pedestrian crossings.

          Plenty of people with limited mobility cannot drive and need good pedestrian amenity. Modern two-wheel scooters and electric scooters for people with limited mobility are ideal and again, good cycling infrastructure is needed.

          People living in an apartment wanting a car for some things can use car share or car hire and, again, it’s about good pedestrian amenity to allow them to walk to where the car is temporarily parked nearby or to the bus that will take them to the car hire place. I’ve lived like this. It’s not hard.

    2. The fundamental purpose of a street is for people to walk and engage in interaction in.

      Anything beyond that is a deviation that needs to be justified on it’s marginal costs and benefits.

      1. I’d love to walk to work. It would take me 2 hours. I take public transport because it’s reasonably fast.
        I’d love to have such a bourgeois life that I could stop and engage in interaction, but working means I don’t have time for such a cafe lifestyle.

        1. I have a working class background. My first paid haircut was at age 7 and I didn’t go to a restaurant until I was 8. I understand that 90% of NZers can’t afford a latte or even afford to shop at New World, whereas everyone here on Transportblog seems to live in their own bubble of privilege.

        2. “I have a working class background” Interesting choice of words so not working class anymore.

          “I understand that 90% of NZers can’t afford a latte or even afford to shop at New World”

          Citation plox

          “Their own bubble of privilege.”

          I’m 22 LGBTI, immigrant, no degree, work in admin, no family in Auckland and am a woman you really want to lecture me on privilege.

        3. I’m pretty sure more than 10 % of New Zealanders can afford to shop at New World. If you are going to make stuff up at least try and make it sound realistic.

        4. JDELH, I have lived my entire life in one of the poorest areas of Auckland and most people who comment on here have no idea about real poverty. It is mainly just middle class white people who really do live in a bubble of white privilege. Most of what is discussed on this blog is actually of little relevance or benefit to the lives of poor brown people.

        5. To be fair, Ari, you aren’t very credible when you frequently claim that people can afford to drive everywhere, but can’t afford a bike. That ignores the maths of poverty, even if it recognizes the existence of poverty.

        6. Ari, what can we do to engage the people in the suburb you live? I’m quite aware that people in well-off areas campaign more and speak up more to demand better planning and transport. This year in my area, we’ve been torn between insisting on better planning in order to set a precedent for the city, and just putting up with substandard design because the funds should be going towards areas where the people aren’t speaking up. But it would really help to read comments and posts by people who are not in the bubble of privilege that I know I am in; it would help shape our actions in a responsible way.

        7. By engage in interaction I mean work and shop primarily. At it’s fundament an economy is a series of transactions. In cities those happen in or via streets.

    3. I suspect none of the other cities that are going car-free in their city centres, e.g. Oslo, Madrid have 24/7 5 minute PT frequencies from every part of the city. So how come they can go car free and we can’t? What’s the inherent difference in Auckland or Aucklanders that makes it impossible for us to do these things?

      1. In going car-free without the requisite PT access, cui bono?

        Well…. it’s not the people who need to commute to the centre, because their travel times are likely extended.
        It’s the people who live in the CBD

        And, statistically, the people who live in the centre are of a HIGHER SOCIO ECONOMIC status.

        So a car-free centre is yet another example of regressive policy where the rich get richer and the poor exurb/suburb dwellers are penalised

        1. It’s easy to nitpick data when you go into the weeds. It’s like finding the smoker who lived to 100.

          Let’s zoom out to Local Board level. Waitemata local board median household income 79.9k (2013)
          30% above Mangere and Otara

          Let’s not even get into comparators like NYC or London

        2. The board includes Parnell, Newmarket and the Inner Western suburbs it really isn’t representative of your point regarding the City Centre.

        3. @JDELH – but you said CBD? the whole Waitemata local board include much more than the CBD. Who is nitpicking data?

        4. Erm the people who commute into the centre make up 2/3rds of the people in the centre. People focussed spaces in the CBD are for everyone in the CBD, there won’t be a system of internal passports to prevent commuters from using them (although I’m sure stalinbro would love that).

  3. Great stuff, Harriet. Definitely prefer option 3. But even without that, options 1 and 2 would have a big impact on improving the street.

  4. Whilst I love the look of option 3, I think that a staged approach would be best. Albert St still services a lot of carpark buildings and several accommodation providers. Wyndham and Victoria Sts are feeders to these, ok Vic St _should_ be a non-issue soon but that will place even more pressure on Wyndham st.

    Taxis/Uber/Whatever still need to be able to access Albert and there will _always_ be those who won’t/can’t forgo a car park close to work. Whilst the numbers of SOVs will decrease in time, it’s not something that can be pushed through. It has to be gradually encouraged.

  5. As mentioned in an earlier post,, there is great potential from Victoria to Customs Street underneath Albert Street, to provide an all weather path for pedestrians and cyclists, bike parking, and many other imaginations. Is there no chance of light rail up Albert? Why not parallel Queen and Albert trams? Sure they are only a block apart, but that is a uphill block in most places. And there must be some economy of scale in overrunning the city centre with trams? Cars need to be pushed further and further away from the city centre, and as the thinkers are saying, the private motor vehicle is a dieing idea, cars spend most of their lives sitting around doing nothing, occupying space, an activity that a human would be berated for, yet we let these machines laze about. Trams are hardworking, efficient movement devices, perfect for purpose. Let’s put a circle around the CBD and set a date for removal of car traffic. Allow deliveries and some limited activities, but no parking or that sort of silliness. The first ring up Hobson, Pitt, along K, down Symonds, Anzac, along Customs. A circle that will expand with time. How is 2020 for car free CBD? I am sure we can find some fantastic uses for ex carparks, a multi level night club, theme park (theme: horrible town planning mistakes of the last century) etc. Connected with the reclaimed (from Ports of Auckland) waterfront district, downtown will become the marvel it deserves to be, to give Auckland a heart that doesn’t dodge taxes, a true destination. Dare we dream?

    1. The Light Rail on Queen Street will have spare capacity which we can tap into.

      Building a second corridor would be expensive and unnecessary making the business case harder to justify.

      Eventually we will need a second corridor likely around 2050 at that point we could either do a second Light Rail corridor on Albert or build a Light Rail Tunnel.

    2. +1 Matthew. Seems silly to waste this newly created space by expensively back filling it. Keep it empty and use it for any number of purposes (cycling, walking etc. Is it deep enough to contain LR? If so Reserve it for that and allow it to be used in the meantime).

  6. Presumably a typo “”do not recommend intended bus stops as they slow buses”” but reminds me of the bus to Glenfield yesterday; the lady in front pressed the stop button but the driver forgot and was sailing past her stop so she shouted out, he stopped the bus and all progressed pleasantly. Very rare for a Birkenhead bus driver to make any mistake.

    Good post – certainly worth thinking about Albert St.

    1. ‘Very rare for a Birkenhead bus driver to make any mistake’.

      They seem to be pretty good at running red lights at the corner of Beach Rd and Anzac Ave or is it not a mistake if they do it deliberately?

      1. The city drives us country folk crazy. Just overwhelms our senses. Even the best crumble.

        Still a trip on a Birkenhead bus is usually pleasant whereas other bus companies are like purgatory.

        1. I must try one of these Birkenhead buses at some stage, I heard the have recently switched from coal powered to diesel powered buses, which must have been quite an event.

        2. The best crumble? My hubby makes the best crumble. Rhubarb and apples grown here in the city, too. Perhaps it could overwhelm your senses. But my local buses aren’t like purgatory, or not like the purgatory I experienced last time I was there. Come out to Pt Chev, Bob, on an Outer Link bus. Great bus drivers, they cope with all sorts of fun shenanigans. Here’s something to tempt you: We’re holding the “How to deal with waterlogged gardens from a permaculture perspective” workshop that I mentioned – you’d love it!

        3. I did once venture from verdant Birkdale to the zoo with two kids aged 5 and 9. Not sure of the bus on the city to zoo route but it was professional and unexceptional. Certainly not the heritage event of an old livery Birkenhead Bus. Other contributors make jokes about their age but they are cared for by attentive Birkenhead Bus staff so they last longer than your average bus.

          Didn’t lose my virginity but a few years ago my wife was a little shocked by some passenger behaviour on the opposite seat on the Albany route. But I was born on a Birkenhead Bus at the stop just beyond that architectural masterpiece the Birkenhead Bus depot (well worth a viewing). It was March or April 2003 about 10:30am and the bus stopped and swapped drivers and the new driver said “good morning everybody” with a sincere voice and friendly smile and my brain snapped and I said to myself “I must get residency and stay in this wonderful country where even in a big city you find rural good manners.” I was lucky and settled and moved from permanent residency to citizen. Never regretted and a fantastic privilege.

  7. Meh. Just ban general vehicles within the Albert/Customs/Queen/Wellesley block and turn it into a one way loop, remove half the lanes because you wont need them, and give all that space to pedestrians.

    1. They’re already planning to have no traffic lanes on Queen Street and the middle part of Wellesley Street, your plan to reintroduce them as one way speedways would be a backward step.

    2. What part of ban general vehicles do you not understand? Buses, trams, service vehicles will still need access under and plan.

      You also incorrectly assume one-ways are speed ways. It depends on how you manage the traffic signals. If they are always on red, no one will be moving very fast.

  8. I think there is probably too much property access to do option 3, but we could turn Albert into a one way for general traffic (Probably southbound to balance Federal Street). Or we could make it one way but flip the direction in the middle.

    1. That’s a good idea, especially flipping in the middle. It maintains property access, while at the same time making it useless as a private vehicle thoroughfare.

    2. Hey your back Sailor Boy, notice not comments since about the election or something…strangely quiet.

      Anyway I agree option 3 is too far & surely there is sale reps and other such workers who do really need a car and access to inner city public or private car parks.

      1. Been away from internet access for a couple of weeks, so just reading when get the chance too :).

        I disagree that any workers need direct traffic access, but property access should probably be maintained for the driveways that exist.

  9. “Post CRL, all of the current western services, aside from Route 18 – Great North Road, will all feed into western line. ” Do you mean post NW light rail as well surely? How would current motorway buses not overwhelm and be awkward to access the Western HR line?

  10. Looking at the previous albert st design video, the road design is not pedestrian friendly and hostile near wellesley and victoria intersection.

    We could change Albert st into bus transit mall.

    We could have wider pedestrian space, better landscaping and placemaking. As well as allowing area for outdoor dining and street furnitures.

    That will support retail and hospitality to make albert st another vibrant street.

  11. Yes, the video is kind of disturbing. Wide, wide roads flanked by paving; yuk. Not pedestrian friendly. Most certainly not cyclist friendly. I don’t mind colour palettes needing to be simplified, for example, but there is a reason this space is shown as 10 shades of grey and one type of green – it’s barren.

  12. Why are the city centre targeted rates being wasted on what appears to be AT simply reinstating the status quo? How did it happen that this was removed from the budget of what has necessitated it, the city rail link. I’m all for this street to be upgraded but it seems like at the moment the project is being designed in a silo utilising money which is collected to enable improvements around the city which this at present is not. If this is the best that AT can do then the city centre targeted rates should be withdrawn and spent on projects that actually have input from designers and placemakers.

  13. Greater Auckland is at its best when it anticipates need for fresh ideas, and targets their release carefully in timing and in process. ATAP response was one. Ports of Auckland another. Also East-West before and during hearings. Also election policies of Greens and Labour. No mean feats for any lobby group.

    This musing about Albert Street isn’t one of those. It shows GA isn’t tracking the Council-AT-Urban Design Panel debates closely. Certainly not enough to deploy its considerable influence. But it needs to, if it wants to do more than coulda-woulda-shoulda discussion boards.

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