With the first of the America’s Cup related events less than a month a way, we’re finally getting an indication of what the plans will be for the city centre, including a lot of streets that will be open to pedestrians – though incredibly the Herald have put a negative spin on it.

Shoppers on the hectic final weekend before Christmas will have to navigate a series of major road closures in downtown Auckland to clear the way for a projected 200,000 America’s Cup spectators.

And while some business owners are looking forward to an influx of foot traffic, others say the closures will lead to delivery disruptions, and the Automobile Association is warning of “a lot of disruption”.

The closures may put further pressure on small businesses who are already closing because of what they say are the impacts of “tone deaf” road works from Auckland Transport compounding Covid-19 revenue drops.

The Herald on Sunday has obtained the traffic management plan for the five days around the America’s Cup Christmas regatta held from December 15 to 20, revealing major road closures.

The weekend is being treated as a trial run for 200,000 spectators in the city projected by Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed).

The closures span a series of streets around Britomart and the Viaduct including Quay St, some of Customs St West, Lower Albert, Lower Hobson, Market Place, Viaduct Harbour Ave, and most of Wynyard Quarter.

All private vehicles will be banned from 1pm to 8pm.

A business stakeholder in Auckland’s Viaduct told the Herald Ateed was using the weekend as a test to gauge how the network copes with huge crowd numbers that will match that of the America’s Cup final in March 2021.

Auckland Transport haven’t put out anything official yet but based on what’s listed above it seems it will be something like the areas below in yellow that will become temporary pedestrian havens.

Of course, any time there are road closures there is fretting about traffic impacts but many of these roads, particularly those around Britomart, have been closed or have faced severe disruption with all of the downtown works taking place in the lead up to the cup.

What I’m more concerned about is the potential impact this will have on bus services. There are obviously bus lanes in places but they tend to have gaps in priority and so there’s a risk traffic will fill up the spots where those lanes don’t exist and block buses. Perhaps AT should be looking at some pop-up bus lanes to ensure buses are able to run smoothly. I also hope they’re planning to push heavily to get people to use buses – and keeping them flowing will certainly help.

Given the year retailers in the city have had, having thousands more people in the city will be fantastic, and it seems they agree.

However, business owners the Herald on Sunday spoke to were largely pleased with the prospect of so much foot traffic in the CBD after a dire year for business.

Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck said they were looking at the Christmas regatta weekend as a “big opportunity” for businesses after an extremely challenging year.

“Closures do happen for major events and from our perspective the main thing is they’re well communicated with businesses and essential things, like deliveries, can still happen,” Beck said.

“For us it’s a big opportunity to get people into the city. Not all of the cones will be gone but a lot of them are coming away progressively over the next period and I think people are going to love seeing changes, what’s been going on behind the cones. The excitement is starting to build now.”

Hopefully businesses and Heart of the City have some plans to encourage people also visit other parts of the city while they’re there.

Furthermore, as Viv points out, we’re about to start seeing the disruption start to ease.

Good progress is being made on Te Komititanga – the plaza that is replacing lower Queen St, is due to open around 18-December

Lower Albert St is also due to be completed in December.

The improvements to Quay St are also making progress, though they and Te Wananga – the new public space out over the harbour won’t be finished till sometime after the Cup.

Having more people in the city and with the various city centre improvements starting to open up, this should be cause for celebration and I for one am looking forward to it. The question really should be how we keep these streets open to people only.

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  1. Whoop whoop! I hope they get their comms in order tho. Go big and explicit; don’t drive.

    Have serious concerns about likely uber/taxi jams, and probs with entitled drivers joining them, I hope not, but it real good to getting a live test to find out.

    1. Do you reckon the ubers and taxis are allowed in because the decision-makers still think people use taxis as a once-in-a-while treat / stop gap, and don’t realise uber has become the car-light hipster’s modern version of car dependency?

        1. AKLDUDE, clearly I’ve shown one thing that’s acceptable to me is people using taxis as a once-in-a-while treat / stop gap.

          In criticising my question, you are effectively arguing that taxis and ubers SHOULD be used more than this. I’m not sure why you would do so. Who benefits from the increased emissions, congestion and DSI that Uber have now been shown to have caused?

      1. So the people that are using it as a one off are supposed to do what? They’ve already given up their cars as you want them to do…

  2. Can’t wait. Hopefully there will be some event day bicycle parking. It’d be a great chance for the city to show people the light.

  3. I am 100% in favour of removing general traffic from Wynyard Quarter, the Tank Farm and Viaduct if just because it would make it possible to build a street circuit, and I think we should aim for that – even if not to actually make it happen, but to just reduce through-traffic and parking to the extent that it could. Having less cars in the city doesn’t have to mean being totally anti-car, after all.

    1. Wellington was special, but in reality most street circuits really suck, besides Auckland has two pretty decent permanent race tracks at Puke and Hampton Downs.

      1. Hampton Downs isn’t technically in Auckland, so there’s that. And yes, most street circuits are rubbish – the irony being the thing that made Wellington such a great track was the stupidly wide roads.

        The thing that makes most street races boring is a) a level flat track and b) the turns end up mostly being 90 degree corners. If we wanted to, we could create a circuit with plenty of elevation and sweeping corners (remember the triathlon bike leg?). The odds of it ever happening in central Auckland are somewhere between zip and zilch, but it would be nice to get to the point where people’s objections would be less to do with the clusterfuck closing roads would create and more do to do with it being a not-so-great use of public funds.

  4. That Tom Dillane guy at the Herald is a mini-me Bernard Orsman or John Roughan. Disappointing to see the same level of ignorance in someone of the younger generation – his tweet about cycleways “that noone uses” is a giveaway.

  5. Lower Albert Street is going to be another mess, allowing vehicles turning left from Customs st who either want to go into the commercial bay carpark or just short cut through to Quay street and the congestion on quay st also blocking a quick bus journey back out toward Fanshawe. When is there going to be a full bus lane from Fanshawe through to this point so no cars are blocking? the journey takes so long in the morning to travel about 300 m.

  6. I thought the road closures were dynamic. They would only close them if there were people there. For most of the events there will be hardly anyone. I mean why would you hang around the CBD when the nearest race is 4km away and some will be 15kms away? The 2000 event only drew a huge crowd when the presented the cup after the last race. The 2003 event didn’t even do that.

  7. “What I’m more concerned about is the potential impact this will have on bus services. There are obviously bus lanes in places but they tend to have gaps in priority and so there’s a risk traffic will fill up the spots where those lanes don’t exist and block buses. Perhaps AT should be looking at some pop-up bus lanes to ensure buses are able to run smoothly. ”

    Yes good idea Matt. I am a little more realistic and just hope that they won’t let the existing bus lanes become parking lots as happened with the last New Years Eve celebration we went to.

  8. Looking at the map, most of the proposed closures make sense….
    Besides, the last time I walked around that area, it didn’t look like a place I’d go Christmas shopping. Restaurants and cafes, apartments and office space? Yes. Christmas shopping? Yeah right…

  9. Remember all the things that were meant to be ready before the cup! Surely quay street was meant to be? Light rail to the airport?

  10. They’ll need to be open for at least some hours each day for trucks and delivery vehicles to access waterfront businesses, hotels & restaurants.
    Covid hotel will need quarantine bus access too.

    1. I would presume any work vehicles will be allowed in, maybe with restricted hours for some. Even in the car free areas of Amsterdam for example, people are allowed to be in vehicles, you just have to have a damm good excuse. The council makes some poor decisions sometimes, but they aren’t crazy. They should really dispel some myths about car free areas.

  11. Looks a good move.

    An interesting experiment to do, though wouldn’t seriously suggest doing it, is to do absolutely nothing. No adverting to push for using PT or active modes, don’t have any road, parking or bus stop closures. No changes to any light phasing or free parking etc. Sit back and see what happens.

  12. And what happens to any businesses that operate in the yellow zone? Does this mean that all deliveries and customer access is on foot? The maritime sector in Beaumont St. will be overjoyed (not) let alone the ASB and even AT whose carpark access is via a yellow road.

    1. Deliveries can drive, customer not. Can still drive private properties, just keeping out throngs of idiots who think the can drive to the waterfront and park on the street right where they want to be.

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