The Council’s updated City Centre Masterplan (CCMP) creates a fantastic vision for how the city centre will develop over the coming 20 years.
One of the key transformational moves is about making Waihorotiu / Queen St Valley more people friendly, saying:
CCMP 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.
Plans to pilot improvements to Queen St have been on the cards but the need for change was brought forward by the response to COVID-19. That has seen a number of temporary changes made to the street along with iterative improvements to them. The current state includes features such as the bus buildouts and concrete cubes to provide space for physical distancing.
There have been some attempts to change it, there are still far too many cars in Queen St though, many of which are uber/taxi’s cruising waiting for a job.
There had been some opposition to the temporary changes with some calls to return Queen St to four lanes mistakenly thinking that will encourage people to drive to the city to shop. When combined with the lack of progress on light rail there had even been some attempting to relitigate the entire CCMP. Thankfully neither of those things happened, both because we’ve obviously since had a second lockdown but also because it would’ve been absurd to rip everything out only to potentially put it or something similar back again a few months later as part of the pilot,
The good news is the council are now moving to the formal pilot stage and they’ve also release this good video about it.
One thing that I was very pleased to see in the video is that the council are clearly defining the high-level vision as well as the short term non-negotiables. For example, that “over time it becomes and expansive pedestrian and public transport zone” and that in the short term it will need to accommodate the buses diverted as a result of the City Rail Link works. Making these things clear upfront will be important in helping to keep the co-design discussions on track.
As well as the formal co-design process, anyone is able to provide feedback that will be used to “inform the design trials on the street” via their social pinpoint tool.
As the video highlights, the CCMP is about catering for 130,000 jobs and over 35,000 residents. This is notable as just yesterday Stats NZ released their most recent population estimates for the country and they show the city with almost 122k jobs and nearly 38k residents.
I’ve also been keeping an eye on the pedestrian numbers on Queen St in response to COVID. Like what we’ve seen with PT numbers, they’re looking very similar to the first lockdown which means that once we move back to level 1, fairly quickly we should get back to at least 80% of last year, if not higher. I don’t have it in the graph yet as Friday’s always drage the weekly average up, but even just for Monday and Tuesday the numbers are looking up on last week which is notable given the Harbour Bridge disruption we’ve seen.
I’m quite excited to see what comes from the co-design process. It was also used on High St and delivered us the fantastic widened footpaths that have made the street so much more pleasant. Further, when combined with all of the downtown works we’re starting to a much more interesting city emerge. That’s something that will do far more to attract people to visit and shop than retaining a few extra lanes and carparks on Queen St ever will.