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).
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.
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.
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.
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.