In just three years Auckland’s waterfront is going to look dramatically different. The completion of a $268 million suite of projects on and around Quay St will transform the area, creating a people friendly space from Silo Park through to Britomart and beyond. A report on the programme and on the changes to Quay St goes to the City Centre Advisory Board today and was reported on by the Herald on Monday. The report notes:
- Auckland Council and Auckland Transport have a long-term strategic goal to progressively reduce traffic volumes on Quay Street in the Downtown area, with an aim to enable a more pedestrian-focused waterfront. This is outlined in the City Centre Masterplan, Waterfront Plan and Downtown Framework.
- This focus allows for an increased quantity and quality of public space in the city centre, as well as safer and more pleasant spaces for the increasing number of people expected to visit Auckland’s waterfront in the coming years. In particular, there will be a pedestrian focused core between Lower Albert Street and Commerce Street where the highest volumes of pedestrians are expected.
- A critical component of traffic planning is the delivery of high quality bus facilities on Lower Albert Street and Quay Street East to allow major bus services to bring people to the Downtown area, improving connectivity with other public transport services (including trains and ferries) without entering the pedestrian focused core.
- This bus arrangement has the added benefit of increasing resilience during major events using Lower Queen Street or central Quay Street. The two bus facilities will also allow for the removal of buses and bus infrastructure from Customs Street and the numerous narrow roads in the Britomart precinct.
- As primary east-west connections, both Quay Street and Customs Street have historically catered for approximately 24,000 vehicles per day. Over time it is envisaged that only traffic that is accessing inner city centre locations will use these routes.
- Through-traffic would be encouraged to bypass the city centre using the motorway network. An indicative diagram for East Auckland traffic affected by the Downtown programme is shown [below]
When it comes time for the actual communications, I hope AT and council don’t just use a prettier version of this. It would be particularly silly to suggest the Wellesley St route, the core of which is intended to become a four-lane busway in the future and it would be silly to do so and then have to battle in a few years to get people using different routes again. Further, during the coming years both Wellesley St and Victoria St are going to see significant disruption thanks to the construction of the City Rail Link and the Aotea Station.
And a couple of other interesting comments.
- With the removal of bus services, it is expected that Customs Street will be able to better support traffic flows, and changes are planned around Tangihua Street to better direct Quay Street traffic to Customs Street. Similarly, Auckland Transport is working with the New Zealand Transport Agency and Ports of Auckland on opportunities to improve the operation of The Strand and Grafton Gully, to encourage this as a route for through-traffic.
- Overall it is expected that no more than 14,000 vehicles per day would use the two-lane sections of Quay Street, with additional traffic on either Customs Street, Grafton Gully or another alternative route. It is expected that the remaining Quay Street traffic will be travelling slower, which is appropriate for the busy pedestrian-focused location.
Removing bus services to improve traffic flows sounds like something out of the 1950’s. As for the traffic volumes on Quay, local access and servicing of buildings and shops along Quay St is going to be needed but I can’t help but feeling that 14,000 vehicles per day is still too high for what should be such a prime pedestrian space. The aim should probably be half of that.
The downtown projects include the seismic strengthening of the seawall, for which contractors are currently working on to locate the various underground services, all while keeping the cycleway open. But it’s the stuff above ground that people will see and there are four streams of work for this:
Quay Street West (Hobson to Commerce Street)
Quay St will be narrowed to two lanes with an extra lane for buses in a handful of areas, like Lower Hobson St to Lower Albert St.
Britomart East Bus Interchange (Commerce Street to Britomart Place)
We’ve seen the bus roundabout design before and I still believe that Quay St is the wrong place for it. The key issues with it being
- It puts bus passengers at the northern edge of the city rather than being surrounded on all sides by development and shops.
- It spreads the various PT interchanges out across the area which makes transferring less ideal. It’s particularly bad for those who are mobility impaired.
The new Downtown Public Space in the ferry basin
One of the more interesting aspects to designs shown is a large new public space in the ferry basin. It is being partially paid for by the money that came from selling QE2 Square as part.
Given this appears to need piles into the Harbour, it will be interesting to see how that hard or easy the consenting is.
Galway Street (Gore Street to Commerce Street section)
Britomart’s small lanes are slowly being converted to have a greater pedestrian focus and Galway St is up next. The streetscape works will tie in with the planned new hotel on the corner of Commerce St and Galway.
On top of these projects, a further $112 million is expected to be spent in the waterfront area over the remaining seven years of the decade.
Overall there are some exciting plans although we’ll have to wait till August to see what the official plans are.