In late November, the council voted to proceed with investigating a plan that would reshape the city centre to focus on pedestrians rather than cars. One especially exciting development was the addition of the following motions, at the behest of councilors:

c)          endorse the use of trials and “tactical urbanism” initiatives in order to test and consult on the initiatives in clause b) ii) and iii) above

d)         request staff to trial an “open streets” initiative in the City Centre and work with interested Local Boards to trial it in other centres

We have many ideas about how where these trials could take place and it is great to see a trial of High Street proceeding yesterday, as part of the “Late Night Christmas” street festival, thanks to Heart of the City. However, one particularly important and urgent trial is the closure of Queen Street for New Years Eve celebrations.

Traditionally Auckland has been quiet around the New Years period, with many people leaving for baches and camping holidays around the rest of the country. This may be true for some people, however it is far from true for everyone. Many people that stay in Auckland, as well as tourists that are staying here, flock to the City Centre to party and to see the fireworks that are set off from the Skytower.

Their experience is far from world class, in fact it is down right dangerous and embarrassing. While I have not been down there myself at New Years, I have heard a number of stories from those that have, and they are not good.

These are a few pictures that have been sent to me by a reader of the blog, Matt D from the beginning of this year. Matt says:

This picture was taken at about 11:15 pm New Years Eve 2017, I was trying to leave the city by bus because there were too many people crammed onto the footpath, and the police had formed a human barricade along the perimeter of the footpaths so that the cars could continue driving without pedestrian interference. When the pedestrian crossing phase begin all hell broke loose with people exploding from the footpaths. The result was pure chaotic pandemonium. A lot of near misses and many police putting their lives on the line, while cars continued their absurd right of way.

Matt:

This picture was taken just before midnight. Finally people had won the battle over the police and over the cars, as the sheer numbers had forced cars off.

These stories and pictures make it clear to me that Auckland Council, Auckland Transport and ATEED need to do a much better job to ensure people visiting our City Centre have a safe and pleasant experience on New Years Eve.

The solution really is quite simple. At a minimum Queen Street and Victoria Street must be closed to traffic, and open to people on New Years Eve. 

We suggest these streets should ideally be closed all day, and until the early hours of the morning on January 1. This gives us the opportunity for a great street party on Queen Street. We know time is short, but given the really awful nature of things, Auckland Council, Auckland Transport and the Police need to arrange for Queen Street to be closed, at least on the evening of New Years Eve. 

In a related matter, Auckland Transport must also ensure there is sufficient public transport services to transport people to and from the city on New Years Eve. We’ve also heard some terrible stories about the hopeless lack of capacity available on late night services on New Years Eve, particular on the rail buses that are inevitably running on several lines. New Years Eve isn’t a normal night in the city, so AT needs to put on extra capacity to ensure people can get home. With the exception of the NX1 services, there appear to only be a handful of extra services being put on. And like with later today, some free public transport wouldn’t go astray either – although with a lack of capacity, that could be dangerous.

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42 comments

  1. Sorry, too late. AT has gone on holiday and won’t be back for a few weeks. All you get is answering machines. Please try again later.

    1. Such an obvious and sensible move, why have they missed this perfect opportunity to trial tactical urbanism on our nation’s greatest street?

        1. But they’re pretty practised at closing roads off with only a few minutes notice. Road cones, a plastic ribbon saying Road Closed, and a squad car across the intersection.
          Job done. Anything is possible if you want to do it. Just takes will-power.

      1. I was thinking the same thing. For safety reasons, the police could and should avoid a repeat of last year by closing the road off in advance. This would probably require less resource than having to manage another over-crowding situation.

        1. Police definitely can do this. During the recent demonstrations at the Defence Forum in Palmy, police overrode the council’s traffic management plan and closed a street. Also I was in Courtenay Place when NZ won the RWC in 2011, people took over the street and it didn’t take long for police to just make it official.

      2. If you get AT and the council involved in a good street party the would be no fun as the whole thing will have so much Red Tape involved the only thing that would be allowed is sitting in the gutter watching the mouths knock themselves out on the Street lights , and sort of what fun is that ?

  2. Why is it that we seem to allow loud minority groups like Heart of Takapuna or Occupy Garnet Road etc etc to have their voices heard loud and clear, yet Transport advocates like the many readers and contributors to this blog essentially leave it till a week before and write a blog post about what should be done. How can we start making a louder difference when it comes to Tactical Urbanism? People are a lot quicker to jump onto e-petitions these days, would be good to see petitions circling around things like closing Queen Street for New Year, that way AT would see that there is both huge support and a mandate to close it.

    Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the work that is carried out on this blog and its easy for me to type from a desk without actively getting involved.

    Great post as always!

    1. Well said Joe. my only complaint about GA is that they don’t do more and get their voices heard more. I find it hard to say a single bad thing about the content posted, almost all of which is consistently excellent. How can we invest more energy into getting this voice out there louder?

    2. Joe, Yes I agree with your thoughts about the need for more activism. One of the things that really annoys me at the moment is that the current bus lane on Esmonde Road is marked by AT to change to a T3 lane. Our local councilor, possibly because of where he lives, thinks that it is a great idea for it to become a T2 lane. I look across the motorway and see what a shambles the Onewa Road bus lane is and think, Cr Derby, is this good for Takapuna/Milford, or does AT just need a heap of revenue.
      So in the New Year time for a petition. Luckily I have two marketing qualified daughters who will help with a social media campaign.
      So yes, more petitions. And if seems like a good idea to move some cones, or whatever around I am in too. The slumbering giant that AT is needs to be prodded into action. The surveying has been done, a majority want better public transport, so now its their turn to deliver!

  3. A block of Federal St was closed off last weekend. We had to wait 40 minutes for a table at one of the restaurants on this street, so at least the sky didn’t fall in for them with their business collapsing.

    Why are our elected officials so reticent to embrace change and do things differently?

    1. Federal St has been closed off all week from lunchtime onwards with a street market (albeit a fairly token one) and restaurants extending their outdoor seating into the roadway. It can’t have been an easy call to make – it inconveniences a hotel and at least two fairly major carpark entrances – but what has been particularly amusing has been watching the security guards manning the barricades at the entrance. Car after car pulls up, argues their case as to why they should be allowed in and then around 80% get turned away.

  4. I’ve stopped going into the city to see the fireworks. Last time, I didn’t get out of the Downtown Car Park until about 2:30am. It’s completely absurd – you want to see in the New Year but you end up being frustrated at some cars.

      1. What are people meant to do if they have no PT options at 2:30am? Just not go, or be snarkily referred to as ‘part of the problem’?

        1. I’m merely pointing out a fact that complaining that you’re stuck in traffic….(and I am more guilty than anyone at doing this) is complaining at yourself.

          Of course there should be night buses and trains, this is simple logic to most larger sized Cities.

          Haha @Hipster. at least you got one part of your post right…I certainly wasn’t yelling and I certainly wasn’t wrong in what I was saying.

          1. It is not wrong, but it is also not useful or constructive.

            For sure you can understand the problem if your PT service is already finished by the time you go home. Ideally this doesn’t happen, but it always just happens when a lot of people would be inclined to “try” the bus or train. You want to go home on the Sunday of the lantern festival after the firework? Oops.

          2. Nah stick to your guns Roeland, joe is flat out wrong. This post is about pedestrian crowd safety, not banning all cars from the CBD

          3. @bjfoeh – Read my post, please read it. Where does it say ban all cars from the City? If you can’t read, don’t bother writing.

            My point was that moaning about traffic when you are the traffic is nonsensical, it was a nonsensical post as it contained no other information.

            If the post had even mentioned the lack of Public Transport options I wouldn’t have said a thing but it simply saying I don’t go to NYE in the City because I was stuck behind cars, in my car is a pointless and nonconstructive (like my post) thing to say…so the ONLY thing you were right about Bjoeh is that this blog post is about Pedestrian access, ironically of which, Car access in Downtown Carpark which Consantine started talking about, which you are defending has absolutely nothing to do with.

            I don’t mind veiled personal attacks on the internet by people who have no idea who I am, calling me hipster etc…but just being wrong about things when the data is clearly in front of you really annoys me! :p

            Anyway, park on the fringes, have a nice stroll back to your car and stop complaining about having to queue to get out of a highly subsidized Car Park 🙂

        1. Realism says there won’t be 10 minute frequencies on all routes. There aren’t even 10 minute frequencies during the day, but you would probably know that if you took public transport.

  5. I haven’t been into Auckland city on new years eve since 1999/2000 and it was a similar type scenario to those pictures. We ended up walking in amongst stationary cars along with swarms of other people. Nothing new obviously and 100% agree that Queen St (especially from Aotea Sq to Quay St) could and should be shut at least for 24 hours.

  6. New Zealand lacked experience dealing with massive crowds.
    People frustrated when they cannot move in and move out. It setup for risk such as people stepping on each other.

    We need to use the iron barrier to make a non-stopping directional corridor where people can move in and out.

  7. I can’t think of another major city elsewhere which would close the center of its CBD to cars for NYE and then re-open it straight after the clock strikes twelve.

    Clueless.

  8. I think GA could organise leaflets, advertising or other ways to promote our many favourite issues.
    Many people are often not aware of the reasons to support a 3rd line, light rail, bikeways, electrification to Pukekohe etc. Same as with the Brexit vote to leave.
    With government elections coming up in 2 years National will be wanting to reverse many PT decisions in support of their highways and even shut down some PT work in progress.

  9. Here we go, a few extra night services put on by AT:
    https://at.govt.nz/bus-train-ferry/events/new-years-eve-2018/

    … and the police will close: “Federal Street (Between Wellesley Street and Victoria Street) will be closed from 4am on the 31st December until 4am on the 1st January. Victoria Street (between Hobson Street and Kitchener Street) and Queen Street (between Wellesley Street and Wyndham Street) will be closed by Police for public safety as required between 11pm and 1am.”

  10. I think this is excellent progress. So is this financing model the way that rail services to other parts of nz will be financed? Is it the council area that passengers originate from that is responsible for applying to nzta to join the existing passenger rail network?
    If a Tauranga to Hamilton (and beyond) service starts then Tauranga and their regional councils will have to provide some capex and opex and apply to nzta for makeup funding.
    Is it because of this financing model that we get a Hamilton to Auckland and return commuter trains only. There is no talk so far of an Auckland to Hamilton and return commuter or any off peak trains. Is this because it would not be fair for Hamilton ratepayers to be subsidising Aucklanders to travel to Hamilton? Should this be ATs responsibility?
    Is this split funding model just too complicated? Should rail passenger services not be solely and completely financed by govt via Kiwirail of some other rail entity?

    1. Wrong area Mike, but as you have posted I shall respond.
      I agree that the method of funding is a problem. What if the Government was to be bold and say: local air travel causes carbon emissions, as does rental car hire, hire of taxis, ubers and City hop; so we will collect a carbon tax from all of these activities to fund electric rail and other more emission friendly solutions? It is true that there may still be competition for the share of the pie.
      I note that rail options are much more attractive in many countries because if you choose to drive you are confronted by road tolls.

      1. In Perth, Australia the electric train system works very well. It is subsidised by the state govt and runs at a loss.
        People will use a transport system that serves them well and it keeps down the number of cars on the roads.

  11. The rail buses are just epic fail, the eastern line which is running will have trains up-to 2am yet the other lines which have rail buses end at:

    West: 00:05 (the midnight crowd probably wont make this one) and 00:35
    South: 00:13
    Onehunga: 00:23

    Last time these were all crowded with thousands left behind… why aren’t these rail replacements running till 2am also, with extra frequency or bankers due to reduced capacity…

    Just another mess when are they ever going to learn???!!! Feels like they just don’t care…

    1. What AT should have done was bring the SA/SD’s up from were they are stored and run them from the Strand as there are works at the Strand and use them for the southern and western lines

    2. Peter N
      Yes with many things it seems that AT don’t care (unless it means impacting negatively on car drivers). Write to your local councilor and complain. At least he/she will know the appropriate person to complain to at AT. I have complained three times about the same issue to Shane Ellison and have yet to receive a reply. To be fair, the first complaint was only in June, so it is early days yet!

      1. Not sure about that impacting negatively on car drivers bit. I think AT is frustrating everyone. Take for example, the pedestrian crossings at Queen Street outside 246-McDonalds and the ones at each end of Elliott Street. It’s usual for peds to wait 2 minutes for their green light with not a car in sight. Then, just as cars approach, the peds get to cross and the cars have to stop.

        Whoever set up this phasing system was an idiot. What should happen is that peds should get the green light at all times and cars should trigger a change if they approach. I’m wondering whether it’s an el cheapo situation with no loop detectors at all for vehicles and cars simply get time slots derived from the phasing of nearby intersections even if no cars actually make the turns.

        The Elliott-Victoria ped crossing is particularly busy because of the supermarket on Victoria. It’s not unusual for 50 peds to be waiting there for 2 minutes with not a car in sight, so peds take the risky option of crossing against the red. AT is playing with peoples’ lives here.

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