One of the few benefits of COVID-19 is that it brought forward the plans to change Queen St and make it more pedestrian friendly. Not long prior to the country locking down, the council approved the updated City Centre Masterplan (CCMP) which “seeks to bring new life into the heart of the city with a revitalised, pedestrian-priority Queen Street.  The laneway network would be expanded as the centrepiece of a new zero emissions zone, which is free of through-traffic“. The CCMP also included the Access for Everyone (A4E) concept which would prioritise pedestrians and reduce vehicle movements through the entire city centre. Both the CCMP as a whole and A4E were widely supported in public consultation, with 76% support for the CCMP as a whole and 82% support for A4E.

The council had initially intended to start piloting changes to Queen St later this year but COVID-19 threw a massive opportunity in the council’s lap. With the need to provide more space to enable physical distancing, the council quickly rolled out some temporary measures including bus stops built out into traffic lanes and the flexi sticks to provide that wider footpath space. But in addition to providing that temporary space for people, it showed that change was possible, it highlighted some of the ‘hidden’ public space in the city and it also helped in making Queen St easier to cross as there were fewer lanes to navigate.

Not everyone was happy with the implementation, with some wanting it removed. Particularly lately there has also been the issue of some drivers ignoring the space and using it for free parking. Ripping out all of the Covid works only to put it or something similar back in a few months time would have been rightfully ridiculed by the public and media, especially with the Council under so much pressure with its budget.

So we were pleased last month when sanity prevailed and the Council said they’d start piloting changes from this month.

The highly anticipated ‘Access for Everyone’ pilot for the Waihorotiu/Queen Street Valley will begin next month, signalling the start of pedestrian priority for the heart of Auckland.

Auckland Transport and Auckland Council will use a co-design process with Queen Street users and stakeholders to test low-cost ways to lay out the street that can be quickly adjusted, adapted, improved or removed through the process. This approach has successfully been used in High Street, where it won an award from Living Streets Aotearoa.

The first of those changes are now starting to take place with the council upgrading the current installation.

The temporary COVID-19 works installed in the northern end of Queen Street will undergo some refinement over the next week. These improvements are based on feedback received from businesses and residents to make the purpose of the new spaces clearer for users and improve the overall appearance of Queen Street.

A portion of the plastic sticks on the northern end of Queen Street between Shortland Street and Customs Street will be removed and replaced with concrete safety separators (pre-cast traffic islands).

The plastic sticks around loading zones in this section of roadway will remain so that the space can continue to be used by those servicing Queen Street businesses and residencies.

The northern end of Queen Street is being prioritised for these enhancements because it has the highest volumes of pedestrians.

Early next week the expanded pedestrian area created during the COVID-19 works will be painted to make it clearer to pedestrians that the area is theirs to use.

There will also be minor changes in other areas of Queen Street to improve signage, enhance the loading zones and increase the visibility of bus platform edges.

A diagram of the changes is shown below and the concrete barriers would certainly be welcome. I do wonder though why the tree planter is indicated to sit in Queen St and not further back on Fort St to help in blocking traffic from getting that far – or do both.

One aspect that does concern me though is the subtle change in language from the council. Here’s what they said in the June announcement, with some added emphasis.

Access for Everyone will work towards the removal of non-essential car traffic from Queen Street. This prioritises pedestrians and frees up road space for public transport, deliveries, emergency services and for people with limited mobility.

Yet in this weeks announcement they say

Later this month, the ‘Access for Everyone’ pilot for the Waihorotiu Queen Street Valley will begin, which will test new ways to lay out Queen Street prioritising space for pedestrians. Access for buses, emergency and service vehicles will be retained, while non-essential traffic will be discouraged.

To me, simply discouraging non-essential traffic will likely mean drivers will continue to use Queen St simply because they can whereas removal of that traffic means they actually have to take steps to stop people driving.

One of the reasons this is important is that since things started to ‘return to normal’ after lockdown, the buses that use Queen St have become increasingly delayed by other vehicles due to the now lack of bus lanes. As an example, during the evening peak last week, buses were taking on average 6-8 minutes to travel the section between Customs and Wellesley St – on some previous weeks that average topped out at 10 minutes. At the same time last year those same buses were taking on average 4-6 minutes and during lockdown that was just 3 minutes. Those few extra minutes might not seem like much but adds up and results in a poorer user experience.

You can see this on the graph below.

Even just stopping vehicles from using the Customs to Shortland St section it would likely make a big difference as it helps stop Queen St from being a rat run in an attempt to get home a few minutes faster.

As I understand it, getting the cars out will become even more important next year when the City Rail Link works will see Victoria St closed to traffic so they can build the station under the intersection. That will necessitate even more buses on Queen St and if we don’t do something, what ridership we do still have will likely start to dry up because buses will be too slow.

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72 comments

  1. There’s your task AT: no bus to spend more than 3 minutes in Queen, say by March 2021.

    Will save operating costs, vastly improve air quality from current dangerous levels, lift ridership, improve street experience for people and therefore improve business.

    1. Good call. Does Council need to be super clear like that?

      I actually thought Council asked AT to get the cars out a couple of years ago. Not sure why it’s taking so long.

      1. Council does need to be super clear like that. They need to set numeric targets that are comprehensible to engineers, and are measurable for compliance. But also not give in to AT’s doubtless claims that meeting them will be impossible, Illegal, or unaffordable, or other excuses . This will be their first response (see bush lawyer below).

        Demand they show they are a creative and proactive agency with talent and flexibility. Able to deliver change. Deserving of stewardship of millions of ratepayers’ money every year.

    2. hahahahhahahahaahhahaahahahaa
      That’s impossible with several intersections all running the combined pedestrian phases. Those are like 40s each and in a bus you are guaranteed to hit each one of those.

      1. Err did you not see the chart at the end?, not only is it possible, they’ve done it. The only problem is the rat runners that AT allow n to the street clogging it up. Remove the through traffic, opti ise for pedestrians and buses. Fixed.

      2. Um, without bus lanes, at peak times, you can’t. The graphs clearly show that, but they only give you half the distance. That’s only from the Queen St after you travel through customs and then to Queen St before you reach Wellesley. That’s not counting the time getting onto Queens from Customs and travel south of Wellesly to K Rd. That is easily another minute. So you may as well double what the graphs are saying.

        1. Bus lanes required, you say? If the intersections are presenting such an issue, it sounds like we need general traffic out of a few of the other streets, too.

          Luckily bus travel has priority over general traffic in Council’s and AT’s plans, for health, sustainability and access reasons. Just need to implement it…

  2. Waitematā Local Board has just passed a resolution requesting private vehicles be banned.

    “WLB request Auckland Transport urgently to investigate and take appropriate action
    on:
    i) options to maintain the current configuration of Queen Street as one lane in each direction
    ii) restricting access for private vehicles from Queen Street between Customs Street and Mayoral Drive, including the closure of the intersections of Shortland Street and Wyndham Street
    iii) changing the existing local business bays on Queen Street to loading bays
    iv) restricting access for commercial traffic using loading bays between 11am and 6pm
    v) ensuring the provision of adequate disabled parking on the side streets off Queen Street”

  3. I used to live on Beach Rd and work by Victoria Park.
    In bad weather I would take the Inner Link as it was almost door to door, but it was almost always slower than walking along the dreadful Fanshawe St as the bus was so slow along Customs St and Queen St. If it’s even slower along Queen St now, that must be infuriating to any bus user. We need more bus priority, not less!

  4. Queen Street is an easier place to walk as there are no Trump voters waddling as slowly as humanly possible.

  5. And exactly how is AT supposed to override the common law rights of Frontagers to access and leave their properties and the right to pass and repass on Queen St. The legislation doesn’t give them many options for getting non-essential vehicles off a street but still allowing buses and vehicles servicing properties with frontage on it. It’s amazing that their notoriously risk adverse internal lawyers have let them do as much as they have already. What you are talking about could only be done by a fairly complicated pedestrian mall (of the transit mall type) or some sort of even more complicated special vehicle lane that you could never get the traffic control markings to work for. The only other option would be some completely new transport act passed by the Government who seem to have no interest in fixing all the problems with the current transport legislation so aren’t going to drop everything to pass something new here.
    It is all very well to dream up things that would be nice to have but how much point is there in thinking about it if the law doesn’t allow for it.

    1. Sorry what law, common or otherwise, makes unrestricted vehicle access from public roads an unalienable right to property owners or their tenants?

      1. It’s not my area but I understand the leading case on Frontager Rights in NZ is Fuller v MacLeod [1981] 1 NZLR 390 (CA) . There is a common law right for the owner of land fronting a road, to have access to the road along the whole of the frontage. The right encompasses access by pedestrians to footpaths and vehicles to the carriageway.

        1. Your understanding is wrong. Several streets have been made bus only across New Zealand.

        2. Common Law relies on precedents, right? So, change the precedents: give them some better precedents to follow…

    2. There are no frontages to Queen St, it’s had a ban on loading and vehicle access from the front side for the last 120 years. The right to access and leave their properties is maintained, but there is no right to drive a vehicle into a property on Queen Street. It is already illegal to build a driveway or loading dock off the central parts of Queen Street (by all means put in a consent application to see how far you get with that idea) so I’m not sure what you think the common law issue is.

      For the most part ‘frontages’ are at the roads and lanes to the rear of the properties, most have their loading docks on Little High St, Durham, Mills Lane, etc. A handful don’t have one and load from Queen Street or a side street. This will be maintained. The only thing in contention is whether private through traffic should continue to use Queen Street as short cut across town.

      Amazing how excluding private vehicles other than authorized service vehicles from Queen Street is supposedly insurmountable… when looking down in front of Commercial Bay, AT is currently doing exactly that on a road called, *checks notes*, Queen Street.

      1. John D any idea where this ban is set out in law for the past 120 years. I’d love to read it. As for the lower queen street in front of commercial bay I think you will find the road is in a temporary road closure under schedule 10 of the Local Government Act 1974 for the purpose of construction work and when that is finished the road will have to reopen to buses and vehicles going in and out of Tyler and Galway unless the pedestrian mall amendments that AT is currently consulting on get approved and not appealed to the environment court by anyone down there – for example any of the people with frontager rights who might want to continue to exercise them

        1. While the common law courts developed detailed rules about the rights of people on foot, riding animals or driving animal-drawn vehicles to use roads, they never had to deal with motor vehicles. In a 1981 case (Brader v Ministry of Transport [1981] 1 NZLR 73 at 78, 84), the New Zealand Court of Appeal rejected a claim that the law gave individuals an absolute right to use motor vehicles, stating that the ‘liberty to drive’ is not a natural right and that even the provisions in the legislation imposed restrictions and obligations, rather than granting rights. The court commented further in 1994 (R v Jefferies [1994] 1 NZLR 290, at 296) that there is no traditional approach of the common law to motor vehicles.

      2. Hey arbitrary guy: do you imagine that cars have personhood under common law? Or that the word ‘access’ automatically and exclusively means ‘in a motor vehicle’?

        I think you are right, this isn’t your field, you do seem to think like a traffic engineer though: motor vehicles have greater rights than humans.

        1. Why the hate? I just asked the question what law is AT supposed to rely on to get other vehicles off the street? Did I ever say that I wanted the street clogged up with vehicles? I pointed out that the law is not set up to help AT do this because the law is set up to support the use of vehicles on roads. Look at sections 334 of the Local Government Act 1974 which sets out a lot of the powers for things that can be done with a road but then says “provided that no such construction, erection, laying out, or planting shall be carried out, unless in the opinion of the council the construction, erection, laying out, or planting will not unduly impede vehicular traffic entering or using the road (not being a road or part of a road that has been declared a pedestrian mall”.

          As for the Bader Case wasn’t that a challenge to carless days and that had its own legislation putting it in place and the courts found that legislation wasn’t over ridden by a right to drive. It probably also supports the fact that you don’t have a right to drive that overrides the need to have a licence. They aren’t as relevant to my question. What law is AT supposed to use to get some vehicles off this road but not all vehicles.
          I say only a pedestrian mall would work – so they would need to go through the very complicated and inflexible process to put it in place. It couldn’t work for a co-design process or to be trialled and tweaked What are you saying they should do?
          And why the hate for traffic engineers. I’m not one but I wouldn’t be ashamed to be one and many of my friends are.

        2. I think it is the Land Transport Act that provides the basis for restricting vehicles but i cant remember off the top of my head, S157 rings a bell. We have put in plenty of truck restrictions in the past. I did one a number of years ago where the advice I got from the Ministry of Transport’s lawyers was that it was best to ban vehicles using classes already defined elsewhere. In that case we wanted to ban by length but we used weight instead.

          Many of the common law ‘property rights’ people think they have have long since been extinguished by statutes such as the Town and Country Planning Act, the Water and Soil Act and their replacement the RMA. Common law just fills any gaps, as Parliaments law always beats Judges law as it should.

        3. Ok I’m happy to back away from the words “frontager rights” on Queen St – planning documents might well override this.
          But my point was more that I thought it was being accepted that since not all the businesses along there have rear or side access with a service lane it was being accepted that some loading zone and loading activity would have to happen on Queen St. That suggests you can’t just make this bus only lanes – well unless you did that as a time restricted thing. Bus lane during peak times and some sort of special vehicle lane for buses and goods vehicles at other times. But again that would still need the invention and approval of new traffic control devices to support such a lane – which is outside AT’s control.
          As for the other laws I’m afraid section 157 of Land Transport Act doesn’t help. That gives the power to make a land transport rule that would cover this concept but the Minister has just never made that rule. Road Controlling Authorities are stuck with the limited and ancient powers contained jointly and somewhat conflictingly in the Local Government Act 174 and the bylaw making powers in section 22AB of the Land Transport Act 1998

        4. I can’t say I have really looked of late, but aren’t there some remaining parking bays scattered along the length of Queen St for 5min stays, as well as taxis? These are off the main street as not to impede the traffic.

          Delivery vehicles could use these, perhaps only during certain times – offpeak. Some deliveries will be closer if they park in the side streets. Little impact on buses or buslanes. Or put the buslanes down the center.

          Nothing insurmountable.

        5. “But again that would still need the invention and approval of new traffic control devices to support such a lane – which is outside AT’s control.”

          I am sure you are overthinking this. If we can make some roads bus-only then we can also allow other vehicles access at certain times. And we would have the same mechanisms to penalize those who abuse the rule.

        6. No hate here, just bafflement; your immediate response to what is obviously A Good Thing, is to reach for the most obscure and arcane excuses for avoiding doing it. You must work in a public institution, if you don’t already, present your credentials now: So much creativity into justifying inaction, you’re perfect.

          As for access requiring vehicles to the front door; 1. shops and offices can only be entered on foot, 2. there are already extant technologies such as the handcart that clearly facilitate such needs the world over.

        7. I think Arbitratus is needlessly concerned about the law being an issue. Cities do this all around the world. AT has had since v1 of the CCMP to sort out the legal side. That should be plenty of time – If they thought there was an issue they would’ve found a way to ensure Council’s plan could be followed, even if they had to find a way for the courts to settle it. But we’ve not had eight years of discussion between AC and AT about it so AT obviously don’t see a legal problem and Arbitratus is needlessly worried.

          Either that or AT have been hugely negligent. In which case I wonder what Council’s options are. What are the equivalent actions of suing a ‘firm’ for negligence when it’s between organizations like this?

        8. ” But again that would still need the invention and approval of new traffic control devices to support such a lane – which is outside AT’s control.”

          No it doesn’t. We have time of day entry restrictions all over New Zealand.

    3. You can’t remove their right to access their property but nobody is suggesting their doors get sealed up. AT can restrict the use of their roads to a particular class of vehicle and ban any parking if they choose to do so. Their rules take the status of regulation which trumps common law (provided they are resolved correctly).
      Vehicle access to properties on most of Queen Street has been stopped by planning instruments for years, which again have the status of regulation.
      The property rights of owners doesn’t extend to deciding what vehicles can use a street or whether those vehicles can park.

      1. I would like to see some radical shit happen on Queen Street, across a whole range of areas.
        The government could buy out some cafe and retail premises on Lower Queen Street and rent them out on peppercorn rentals. Have a competitive tendering process for businesses to take up the spaces, with considerations such as ethics, sustainability and living wages being front and centre.

  6. Yes the cruisers are gone. I also think Kiwis might be sick of the traffic on Queen. I am. And the utes parked all over the expensively fitted out back streets and knocking over the furniture makes me think Council is trying to rub salt in the austerity budget wound.

  7. I’ll be sitting watching how this pans out.

    I’ve long thought that Lambton Quay In Wellington would be wonderful if pedestrianised. And I was very disappointed when Manners Mall was de-pedestrianised about a decade ago. It would’ve also tied-in nicely if they’d ever got a tramway running down them.

  8. There is an opportunity to convert the first block of Fort St near Queen St into a small plaza for people to hang out.

    I noticed once Fort St is blocked. That space near Queen St is empty.
    The space can be converted into a little pizza with tables and chairs for people to sit down and have lunch. Similar to the way they do it on Britomart EY/Westpac plaza.

    To further enhance, they can put some fake lawn, allow food trucks/take away coffee to operate, and enable a small stage for buskers. This will be a great area for people to hang out.

    1. Agree, however now that area has become a drop off zone for large trucks and taxis who just sit there waiting. I also see many people drive down here (probably assuming their gps sent them that way on to Queen) and then have to do dangerous turns with people walking, cycling in shared zone. The whole fort st, jean batten area is a joke as it is a constant flow of cars coming from shortland st to avoid queen.

      The entire block should really be pedestrianised and cars blocked entirely, except for emergency vehicles, too many office blocks with parking in CBD is the main cause and parking offered as a “salary benefit”. Use retractable bollards.

      1. Agreed they need to block off cars who don’t to access the building carparks. For cars that needs to, maybe give it just minimal driveway space instead of the full width of the road. To prevent cars from making mistakes and taking u turns, the planter block and signage needs to happen earlier.

  9. “Both the CCMP as a whole and A4E were widely supported in public consultation, with 76% support for the CCMP as a whole and 82% support for A4E.”
    Matt. I wish you would include a disclaimer with all references to AT or AC consultations including the number of respondents. Or at least include links to the reports.
    If you are willing to rely on these to gauge public opinion then I assume by this logic you also now support a reduction in rates rather than the rise your were pushing for, as the same flawed consultation process yielded most support for a reduction.

      1. Not really the point of my comment. Did you know that there were only 542 pieces of public feedback received on the CCMP consultation including A4E? Is that really sufficient to warrant any claims that the general public support it and the significant changes to the city? Or just a small group of motivated respondents. I doubt 1% of Aucklanders have even heard of it. I am not saying the plan is all bad, just saying that a site that claims to be “fact based” should provide all the facts. Here is the summary:
        https://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/have-your-say/topics-you-can-have-your-say-on/city-centre-masterplan-refresh/Documents/city-centre-masterplan-consultation-summary.pdf

        1. “Not really the point of my comment”. Obviously not, because it was flat out wrong.

          And the site’s comments were “fact based”. They literally quoted the results.

      2. On the poll that Auckland Council put out there were no options for a rates freeze or reduction. The only options, from memory, were 2.5% increase, 3.5% increase, or “don’t know”.
        So a very loaded poll

        1. Replying to KLK.
          Although the article does refer to the 2.5%/3.5%/Don’t know as the second “parallel” poll that is a little ingenius. That poll was commissioned by Council and had far more exposure than the quasi-private poll supplied by the Auckland Ratepayers Alliance. It stands to reason that ratepayers are more likely to see, and hence respond to an official Council poll than one from ARA that they may not even be aware was available. To call the official Council poll the second parallel poll is stretching credibility to the extreme.

        2. “To call the official Council poll the second parallel poll is stretching credibility to the extreme.”

          It was a term used by the article to reflect a poll run at the same time as the larger one. Hardly an “extreme” use of language.

  10. “As an example, during the evening peak last week, buses were taking on average 6-8 minutes to travel the section between Customs and Wellesley St – on some previous weeks that average topped out at 10 minutes. At the same time last year those same buses were taking on average 4-6 minutes and during lockdown that was just 3 minutes”

    Meanwhile, everyone went nutso about the ‘disaster’ for cars having to take a maximum (only achievable if you are traveling at the posted speed limit continuously without any slowing for traffic or signals) of an extra 20 sec to traverse Nelson St at 30km/h instead of 40km/h.

  11. I have just been in Queen Street. Two simple improvements would be to revert to the two Barnesdance phases every cycle and get rid of the slippery white dashes they put on the footpath.

    1. From what I remember they used to run 2 barnes dance phases every 180s now they run 1 barnes dance every 90s. Because a 10s wait feels like 5 minutes, I think people thought having 2 barnes dance phases every cycle was somehow better.

      1. Maybe it was just the cold but it felt a lot longer than 90 second cycles yesterday. And the crowd waiting to cross was huge. Doubling running the barnesdance would reduce the crowd of people waiting together and restrict traffic flow- two good outcomes.

        1. Well that is your opinion. You could argue for 0 delay for pedestrians and infinite delay for people on buses, who are often the same people. There has to be a balance.

          The problem is that there are so many people stuck on buses at the same time getting stuck in general traffic. Need to remove cars in order to reduce delays.

          I don’t know the actual cycle times, but if the cycle time is 90s, the average delay for pedestrians is closer to 45s because of semi random arrival rate. That’s pretty good in terms of pedestrian delay. The rest of the Auckland is pretty rubbish though.

        2. Not just my opinion, as we’ve discussed before. This is a research-based safety requirement. And yes, getting the cars out is key. Then the public transport and pedestrian needs can be balanced safely.

  12. the reclaimed road way needs some cheap and chearful treatment to let people know they can walk on it. I find it very useful to hoon up queen st to get my bus as there is nobody else walking there to get in my way

  13. Matt L ; where did they get those stats for the trip on the bus down Queen st , as I took one from the stop outside the Strand Arcade yesterday [9/7/20] and it 20mins to get to the bottom just before Custom St ? .

    1. “where did they get those stats for the trip on the bus down Queen St”

      From the GPS tracking and reporting system that is used by Auckland Transport, to track every bus movement in real time.

      1. Bus Driver ;- That day I tagged on at 237 Queen st at 12.38pm and tagged off at 45 Queen st at 12.52pm . And those are the times I got from HOP card off the AT webpage . So tell me whose wrong ? .

        1. You are wrong. AT are using average times using a sample size of about 20 buses an hour over 5 days. You are using a sample size of one. That’s the whole point of an average, some values are higher, some are lower.

    2. David, the graph only shows the time it takes to travel through a few sets of lights, not all of them. I think it is missing out a few because of where the stops are. So it looks shorter than it really is. Every who uses the queen st buses knows it takes forever. Half the time is is quicker to walk.

      I would like to look at the underlying data though.

      1. Ari ;- What I should have done was filmed it as the hardest part was the Victoria/Queen St lights as they were only letting 1/2 vehicles through at a time and all those new lights they have installed don’t help on the journey down the valley . I just think they were put in by AT and the council to stop the boy racers .

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