Getting the cars out of Queen St and making it a more pedestrian friendly space is one of the most supported projects around. In 2018 the mayor and councillors unanimously called for it to happen as soon as possible. During the consultation for the City Centre Master Plan (CCMP), the plans for the Queen St Valley received 84% support.

As a quick reminder about what the CCMP says about Queen St, it calls for it to become:

A vibrant pedestrian priority shopping street at the heart of Waihorotiu / Queen Street Valley – Queen Street will support centre-running transit (starting with buses) and become the centrepiece of a greatly expanded pedestrian priority and low emissions zone

And on putting pedestrians first it says:

Queen Street will continue to evolve over the life of the masterplan, becoming a vibrant pedestrian-priority walking and shopping street and quality transit corridor at the heart of Waihorotiu / Queen Street Valley.

The full potential of these elements will be unlocked through the creation of the central zone of the Access for Everyone (A4E) concept, which will deliver a pedestrian-friendly, high-amenity, safe and vibrant core to the city within a zero-emissions zone.

How this would happen

Increasing pedestrian priority

Creation of a transit mall condition along Queen Street over time, with eventual removal of all general traffic, to be implemented through a series of pilots and incremental network changes to be implemented in parallel with major city centre construction works and traffic management plans.

Further streetscape enhancements to Queen Street to increase pedestrian priority, with a highly accessible, level surface design accommodating increasing pedestrian volumes and ability to cross the street freely supporting a vibrant, two-sided retail street.

Now, on the cusp of these changes starting to be made, the herald and a few others are complaining about it.

Auckland Transport is drawing up plans to remove through-traffic from Queen St within six months – banishing cars from stretches of the city’s once busiest street.

Changes to the city centre’s only remaining north/south route, which once got 12,000 cars a day, will result in “two bus-only sections, which will remove end-to-end through-traffic”.

The plans have been heavily criticised by local retail traders, property owners and the Automobile Association which says confidence with Queen St’s “dishevelled state” is at a “low ebb” with “significant unanswered questions and disgruntled stakeholders”.

Despite this, consultation on Auckland Transport’s (AT) plans will begin in March and the implementation of the no-car zones is expected in the middle of this year.

The move by AT and Auckland Council builds on the controversial Queen St Access for Everyone pilot which in June, 2020, fast-tracked a pedestrianisation trial by taking advantage of Covid-19 social distancing barriers.

Since April 2020, Queen St has been reduced to a single lane each way, with plastic pylons and 300kg white blocks sectioning off the curbside lanes for pedestrians.

“The measures proposed in the [2021] network plan will discourage private vehicles travelling the entire length of the street at certain times of the day. The times of operation will be part of the consultation,” an AT statement said.

“More importantly the two sections of bus lane ensure reliable bus travel for the thousands of daily users.”

It is not yet clear what stretches of Queen St will be car-free, which will be determined in the consultation process.

Firstly, the author of the article seems to have quite a personal bias against Queen St. In social media posts he calls itthe pro-pedestrian agenda at Auckland Council“, which is interesting given a day later the climate commision came out saying we need to get a lot more people walking. In other posts he also saysthere’s barely any shops left in business on Queen St to go to” which he puts down to the “ugly” changes made in the wake of COVID to give people more space.

Putting aside the subjective views of the changes, the biggest issue with them from my perspective is that they’ve reduced bus reliability because buses are getting held up by all the cars that don’t need to be there.

Getting rid of vehicles who are just using Queen St because they can, leaving it to the buses and deliveries and service vehicles will go a long way towards improving reliability and reducing emissions. AT even seem to have come up with a good first step to do this by creating two short sections of bus only lanes at each end of Queen St which will discourage through traffic.

The stated goal of the 2021 through-traffic ban on Queen St is to quicken bus movements which were moved into the same lane as cars with the initial pedestrian trial in April last year.

“More importantly, the two sections of bus lane ensure reliable bus travel for the thousands of daily users. Each day 47,000 people start or end their bus journey on Queen St,” an AT spokesperson said.

There will also be other improvements to the design of Queen St.

Other confirmed changes to the street include a pocket park in at the intersection of Fort and Queen Sts and greenery and trees along the eastern side of Queen St between Victoria and Wellesley Sts.

An artist’s design impression of the Fort St pocket park by commissioned landscape firm LandLAB shows substantial changes to the streetscape with trees and central benches completely baring car access through the currently shared pedestrian/vehicle space.

The pocket park essentially formalises the temporary one that was put in place as part of the COVID works
Some of the proposed changes on Queen St itself

However the article also focuses on the negative response from a few stakeholder groups, namely Heart of the City (HoTC) and the AA.

I’m frankly surprised to still see HoTC still using words like “dishevelled” to describe the street. Sure, the COVID works aren’t as nice as those in the image above but they’re not terrible and cities all around the world are seeing similar kinds of installations. Even more of an issue is that by talking like this about the street this way, along with their previous complaints about road works etc, I’ve heard anecdotal comments about it actively putting some people visiting who otherwise would have. In other words, it seems HoTC are actually contributing towards making the situation worse for their members. Surely a better strategy would have been embrace the changes but then push for AT and council to have moved towards images like above quicker.

Meanwhile the AA use classic concern trolling, essentially saying we support the project, but not just yet. They also question why do it at the same time as we’re experiencing disruption from the CRL construction – when that’s actually one of the reasons it needs to happen now – as more buses need to be diverted to use Queen St when Victoria St closes.

Finally a few numbers.

While lower than before COVID, pedestrians still dominate Queen St. For example, last week, on average over 30,000 people were recorded walking just south of Customs St and this is about 66% of what it was the same time last year – it varies from 60% to 80% depending on the week. We don’t have any recent traffic counts but the last ones prior to COVID counted fewer than 9,500 vehicles per weekday.

These numbers will be lower as a result of changes in working patterns in the city, but also because of the lack of tourists.

On that, HoTC also put out some interesting information on spending in the city centre (up to June-2020). One of those is where spending is coming from based on where the card used is registered. Prior to COVID, as much as 40% of spending was coming from people outside of Auckland, either from other places in NZ or from overseas.

Note, this is an annual figure and only captures one full quarter of the COVID impact

By comparison, other ‘competitor’ areas see just 10-15% of spending from cardholders outside Auckland so it’s no surprise that the city is feeling the brunt of the changes more.

I’m looking forward to AT and the council getting on and delivering changes to Queen St.

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59 comments

  1. Can somebody check whether Tom Dillane was adopted and raised by Roughan & Orsman? It’s just depressing the Herald keeps up their pre-historic coverage of city matters with reporters phoning it in from the stone age, even if this guy looks in his 30s

    1. Dillane is doing the dirty work of promoting the needs of their major advertisers – the automotive industry. It’s what you need to do to get anywhere at The Herald. Later on in his career he’ll probably do a mea culpa and try to present a more responsible voice in the media, but hopefully the public will shun him for the damage he’s done. Not someone to admire. The Herald needs a complete makeover, or die.

  2. Although I’m a supporter of Queen St it just feels like there is a prioritisation of councillor vanity project. I hope the budget is moderate but effective. Franklin road is beautiful but that $20million could have achieved a lot in Otara

    1. Franklin Rd project cost included significant repairs and upgrade to infrastructure which was long overdue and unseen. Way more than just bike lanes and pretty streetscape.

      1. I sure there was. Auckland transport contribution was $17million of the $20m referenced. Utilities upgrades would have largely been covered by vector, chorus & watercare. $17m for 900m of road is expensive by any standard.

        Don’t get me wrong the road is beautiful but it is highly inequitable to funnel a disproprotionate amount of council rates from poorer suburbs into these central projects that provide them with minimal benefit. I know Franklin road benefits a wider group but the costs of the project would be approximately $140,000 per house on that street! That does not feel like a fair use of rate payer money.

        1. Do they have to release the exact amount spent on every part of the project / the itemised bills they received for the project? I feel that would be a good thing. Either to get them to stop tossing money on a fire, or to vindicate their seemingly high bills.

  3. AT just need to get on with making as much of Queen St as possible bus only. Two sections is the bare minimum for a start. They also need fixed camera enforcement in the same way they’re policing some other central city bus lanes.

    This also influences plans for light rail. Cars would need to be removed from Queen St in order for tracks to be laid anyway. If the cars are already gone prior to the project being consulted on and consented then that’s one point of friction to deal with.

    1. Fixed enforcement cameras are needed in lots of areas, but especially Queen st.

      I can imaging the council/AT being reluctant to do that though – Imagine the wailing from the media and AA about the “poor motorists being ambushed by revenue gathering cameras”. They’ll also claim that there’s nowhere else for the cars to go and that they need to use Queen St.

      I saw somebody say that cars were an addiction. Cars on Queen st are definitely an addiction that needs some rehab.

        1. No, definitely not.

          Just another symptom of the reactionist and divisionist bent that media has been adopting for the last few decades. No doubt, in the pursuit of advertising dollars.

  4. HOTC’s comments are very disappointing and completely without foundation. I would be astounded if even 1% of those driving down Queen St are shoppers.

    However they are there to represent their members and I’m guessing there is a vocal (minority?) who are against this. Just like High St. Ignore the evidence and go with your prejudices. If these nay sayers are the only feedback HOTC are getting it explains, but not excuses, their position.

    They should take a leadership position and educate their membership on what the proposed changes really mean and then – even if unpopular – do the right thing and publicly support the changes.

    1. HoTC are the most un-metropolitan centric organisation. A group of ‘I reckon’ idiots that don’t care for evidence based decision making. They are behind initiatives like $2 per hour weekend parking in AT’s buildings. Absolute numpties trying to compete with sylvia PArk etc. The thing they dont realise is Queen Streets point of difference would be ‘car free’ = more people = nicer place to be= more wallets = more $$ for businesses. The cars driving down Queen St dont spend a cent and make it diffuclt for their customers to get around. So backward. Absolute idiots!

  5. Why hold another consultation when it was already part of the CCMP and A4E? Oh right, because that’ll all that AT seem to be doing, consultations. They already have the mandate to implement these changes, they’re just too scared to do it and doing yet another consultation will make it seem like they listen to the public. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for consultations in general to let stakeholders and the public have their say, but there just doesn’t seem to be much action following them. I wouldn’t be surprised if the timeline on this project was changed again due to “the amount of responses received” or some other excuse.

    How about some tactical urbanism: implement the changes as a trial on a temporary basis, measure if it makes the retailers suffer (it won’t) and if traffic gets worse elsewhere (it won’t after drivers had about a week to adjust), how it impacts air quality and if it increases the number of pedestrians.

    1. The retailers will be suffering from the absence of overseas tourists. But maybe they are also suffering from lack of effort on their part to attract local shoppers? The malls I visited around Christmas last year all had seasonal decorations which were noticeably absent around Queen Street.

      One of the features of a shopping mall, of course, is the ability to wander from one side to the other at will, unhindered by motor vehicles. Another is the provision of pleasant places to meet, sit and eat (not to mention good public toilets). Perhaps a Queen St with fewer vehicles would have room for these other attractants?

      1. The toilets is a big one! When our kids were smaller we always went to malls because of the great parents rooms.

        Auckland council should do a big upgrade of the toilet facilities in the city.

  6. Why is there still an Audi in the bottom photo? Probably HoTc’s car just cruising along to block buses. When I catch a bus home i walk to Fanshawe st to catch it rather than try deal with sitting on one for 15 mins while it is stuck behind cars in Lower Queen/Customs/Quay areas.
    What does HoTc even achieve? why don’t they spend their efforts actually organising and encouraing people and events rather than promoting cheap parking. Seriously why didn’t they block this all off over Christmas when no one is around? All cities overseas seem to be able to have these nice pedestrian areas in their main CBDs, all Auckland wants to do is drive from their home garage to 10 m outside their shop and then on to the next.
    Mayoral drive to Customs do it this long weekend.

    1. I do think they are correct that Queen Street is not a good place for tactical urbanism. Spend the money and do it right. No need to experiment, we all know there is no need for cars on Queen. But lets wait to see what is happening with LR first!

  7. We live relatively close to Queen St but we only drive the length of it to show out-of-towners the Big Smoke. We will do this via a more interesting train trip and a walk in the future. Good riddance to the cars

  8. Why spend a cent on Queen Street when Michael Wood is going to announce a light rail project there this year? Or do AT already know something we don’t? Has light rail been canned? Or is it going to be underground? Or are they just using this as a way to force more info from Wood?

    1. I can think of a few reasons:
      – Queen St needs to be made car free regardless of whether light rail is laid down it or not.
      – Queen St can be made car free much sooner than a light rail project can get physical works underway.
      – Queen St being car free will make light rail easier in a number of ways (consenting, construction and operations).

      1. If they mean car free in that they put up some bus only signs and spend $1000 bucks then yeah agree. But if they intend to do anything else it just feels like a waste of money to me. Surely it will all get dug up with the CRL regardless. And surely they want as much road space as possible so they could potentially run buses while digging up the middle.

        1. CRL? I think you meant light rail.

          The width needed in order to run busses while the light rail is being installed is a good point. However I think there will be enough mitigation that it wont be too much of an issue.
          a) depending on how slow LR is, the CRL may be done by the time they’re laying track on queen street. so that will take some load off the busses and provide a good way to get down queen street to britomart.
          b) doing a block at a time and making busses go around that block might be possible for some areas.
          c) doing one lane, seperate from the other lane so that busses can go one direction (the peak direction) down queen still
          d) they will probably maintain 3 lanes width for the road in the final design. 2 LR / bus lanes, and bi-directional cycle lane. Maybe the cycle lane will be used as one of the bus lanes while they build the LR track.

    2. This is the first stage of light rail. Two bus lanes in the centre get replaced with two light rail lanes. Everything else is the same, wide footpaths, passenger platforms, no cars, limited service access.

      1. Where will the buses go while they build the middle lanes? I would have thought the outer lanes may have worked but not if they are turned into footpaths. And what about all the digging up that is going to happen when moving services etc?

        1. I think they’d close all four lanes to install LR anyway, Jimbo. If they do the original plan of surface level LR going into a portal at the highest steep bit, I’d imagine that would be the limiting time factor, too.

          As we know, anything could happen to the LR plans. The Councillors gave the go ahead a long time ago; AT have to stop finding new excuses, and just do it.

          It’s not safe, it’s not pleasant, and air quality is affected by the fumes from the cars and from the buses being held up by the cars. Ridership will grow once the delay from the traffic is removed.

          There’s simply no reason to wait. If you want to save money, Jimbo, there’s a whole RLTP to pull apart soon.

        2. The buses will go through a series of awkward diversions, rerouting or temporary closures to avoid Queen Street, much like we are seeing with Albert Street buses going everywhere but Albert Street around the CRL build. The next stage of that is to divert a whole shit ton of buses to Queen Street while Wellesley and Victoria are closed while they dig out Aotea station… like hundreds of buses at peak times and thousands of extra pedestrian trips from people getting on and off… which is exactly why they need to immediately sort out Queen Street. It ain’t going to work in its current or previous form with literally ten times the number of buses and bus passengers on it.

          The carriageway of Queen Street is only 13m wide at the moment, there is no way they can run buses or vehicles while building the light rail tracks. To truck in supplies and equipment they will need much more width than the footprint of the tracks themselves, which will be a big long hole in the ground. They’ll erect hoardings around the worksite leaving only fairly narrow footpath either side. The likelihood is they would hoard off the middle 20m or so of whole blocks at a time.

          This current plan has some permanent changes like the pocket park around the closed intersection of Fort St and similar things that would be unaffected with or without light rail, so they’ll spend the money for the final outcome there. The rest is low cost temporary interventions in the roadway, things like bus platform build outs, planters, filling in parking bays with planking, and marking out the scoot-bike space properly, to run the extra buses without a complete clusterfuck. Once the core of the Aotea works are done most of the buses can shift back to their permanent homes on Albert street and Wellesley street. This leaves on the link buses and a handful of others on Queen St in the long term. These a the ones that would need to shift to build lightrail.

          I get the feeling you are aggressively advocating for exactly what is proposed!

  9. Yes, though I strongly support the changes made (and proposed) for Queen St, they have undeniably slowed buses significantly. I live near K Rd and it was usually quicker to walk into the city; the bus would overtake you somewhere around Victoria Street. The other day I left Customs St just before the City Link did and had almost reached Pitt Street by the time the bus passed me. The “new” pedestrian lights are also a significant impediment to buses. Surely they could be synchronised in some way, and/or buses given some kind of signal pre-emption to make them competitive with walking!

    1. We had to be on Karangahape Road last weekend. In theory that is not a large distance (about 11km). However the part between Britomart and K road took forever. Overall PT was so slow it was barely possible to go there and return within an afternoon.

      This is something we probably won’t try again.

  10. Cars should be removed ASAP. But you can’t just leave a big wide space for pedestrians to walk up unless you want to kill off the shops. The shops need people on the footpaths walking past their windows. Light rail is a great long term goal as it would introduce a proper distributor system and keep the footpaths vibrant. So the best short term goal is leave in buses and service vehicles and use planters to replace the parking.

        1. If the cycleway is large enough, smooth and free of pedestrians, the vast majority of scooters will use the lane anyway. The best enforcement is good design.

      1. And change cycling behaviour. I have nearly been run down by cyclists 2-3 times this year as I cross roads on pedestrian signals in Auckland’s cbd. Walking should come first above cars, bikes and scooters.

        1. I also find a lot of the cycleways very confusing as a pedestrian, especially as I am slightly vision impaired. I usually look twice both ways before I cross one.

        2. We should have the Idaho rule for cyclists, the reason they do this is because it’s dangerous waiting for the lights to go green. Cars behind revving up, you can hear the frustration as they want to overtake.
          But cyclists do need to ensure they give way to pedestrians crossing. I find most on Queen st will cross as the pedestrians are finishing up and it makes a much safer ride. obviously if we have proper lanes and enforcement then cyclists would feel safer riding.

  11. I raised a query with AT about lower Queen, st as I was confused about signage which indicates ‘authorized vehicles only’. After poking around the AT website, it really isn’t clear what that means, but clearly a lot of Uber drivers and private vehicles are still using lower Queen st.

    We wanted to pick up and drop off stuff for an apartment we own in The Guardian, so wanted to be clear about what loading zone we should be using given we would be using a private vehicle. We used to always use Mills lane – a service lane at the back of the building, but that had been largely painted with no parking lines despite now being one way (Mills lane has changed a bunch over the Albert st CRL work).

    Ended up getting a call from somebody assigned to the case from AT. Unusual conversation as they had visited the area, but encouraged us to use the loading zone in Queen st as it is apparently Goods Service Vehicles in the morning from about 7am to 11am “but you can park your car for 15m” at other times. They said that they understood we wanted to retain loading / short term parking in Queen st and they would raise this.

    I pointed out that was *not* what I wanted; I thought lower Queen st should have less traffic and less private vehicles. I just wanted more loading zones in Mills lane as usage of service lanes behind Queen st should be encouraged.
    Before they added no parking lines in Mills lane, it used to be ‘free parking’ which got abused, so also needs enforcement. Most people just need to drop off/pick up bulky items like beds, then can park in buildings further away and walk.

    Person from AT promised to raise the point re service lanes at next meeting to discuss lower Queen st, but I wasn’t impressed. Businesses and people living in the area do need access in the morning or for service vehicles, but if AT are still encouraging people to use Queen st, then seems at odds with the intent to make it largely pedestrian.

    Oh, standing outside of The Guardian enjoying the sun, watched as Uber drivers sat in the 15m parks on a Sunday afternoon. Sitting in vehicles until they got a ride or parking people took note and they they moved on around the block and back again. Also saw a car pull out and knock over a scooter rider coming down Queen st at speed in the road. So yeah, cars need to go.

    1. I walked down Mills Ln in the weekend and behind the Guardian building there are 2 large P5 Loading Zones 8am-10pm. It has been this way for long enough that it shows up on Google Streetview from 2018. How much more loading zone do you need?

      1. If someone living there says there’s a problem, you can usually assume he is right.

        You don’t need merely a loading zone, you need a loading zone which doesn’t have cars parked on it the entire day. I saw the same on Hobson Street. In theory there are loading zones, in practice they are just used as parking.

        1. This.

          There are two loading zones outside the Stanford; which are heavily used by the Standford, but were not enforced that I can see. This weekend was the first time I ever got a park in one of those zones – maybe as the Stanford is now being used for MIQ

          Not sure about before 10am when it should be G&S vehicles only, but I was a bit paranoid so moved our car within 30 minutes, but car in front of us was still there when we walked by some hours later.

          Not sure how many loading zones is enough, but looking at street view, you can see 4 cars parked where now there is no parking.
          https://goo.gl/maps/6RjXgnJvZ7bWNiYp7

          My point is that Mills lane used to have a couple of loading zones, as well as other parking and loading zones on Queen st.
          I do want Queen st to become pedestrian only (rather than the current ‘authorized vehicles only’ mix) and remove those LZs at least for private vehicles, but would like to turn Mills lane into more of a service lane with more of the street turned into LZs.

        2. Good on you, Grant. The problem is, as elsewhere, AT’s nonchalance about enforcement. Enforcement is their role, it is good and equitable, a thing that enables policy and practices to work, and our city to function.

          AT treat it instead as a blight on freedom. In the process they are ruining environment, making things inconvenient for people, screwing with children’s independence and putting people at risk. There are so many examples of this.

          Their excuses range from false legal arguments they can’t back up, to claims of being cash strapped. Yet on the first, they don’t take the legal and legislative avenues open to them. On the second, they choose to do things in a way that has the least value for money.

        3. Cash strapped is probably the most stupid excuse ever.

          Here is a handy flow chart:

          Does parking enforcement pay for itself:
          → YES: keep doing it
          → NO: mission accomplished

  12. Does anyone really care what the Herald writes? They ran an article yesterday about how the Climate Commission report could spell the end to sausage sizzles…that’s where they are at.

    They are going ahead with closing Queen Street to cars and once it’s closed the people complaining about it whilst never actually driving down it will move onto something else.

  13. With that park outside what looks like Smith & Gaughey are they going to have the LR weeve around those trees or is it going to be another “90” day wonder and another million to be spent to change the place again , like everything else they do in the city centre .
    And you have this and other Councils that are forever talking about wastage then they should look at their own departments that blow money at the drop of the hat .
    Lower Queen st is an example millions of dollars and then 12-15 years laters more milllions spent , For something that just loofs like a Desert with 4 have dead trees dumped there .

    1. This money argument for lower queen street is kind of silly and moot. They had to turn the place into a 5 story hole in the ground and after they filled it in they had to put something on top. I agree they should have vastly more trees etc. But if anything what is there now is pretty much the cheapest option they could have possibly picked. Short of chip seal instead of the pavers.

    2. That’s Fort Street david. It’s already closed and the trees were already there when it had a roadway in the middle anyway.

  14. Why should anyone care about what the NZ Herald thinks? Are they impartial journalists or promoting vested interests? Recent events in US politics illustrate the dangers when news media changes from reporting the news to actively barracking for particular outcomes. Democracy itself is damaged.

    In this case if 84% of respondents are in favour of the changes, all groups including those opposed have had a chance to comment, and nobodies rights are being infringed, then in a democracy the preference of the 84% should be carried out. Democracy does not mean doing nothing until every possible objector is appeased.

  15. Fundamentally I agree with the Queen Street plan.
    However Council and AT haven’t helped themselves at all with some of their shit Queen Street interventions, and the poorly thought through QE2 square.

    1. There should have been eateries on the ground floor of Commercial Bay facing the square to create more of a lively 24hr vibe. Once the shops close the square is dead. It is crying out for colour and some large artwork.

      1. “There should have been eateries on the ground floor of Commercial Bay”

        The rent there is too expensive for “eateries”

        If you work in the area, the simple solution is to pack your own lunch.

        1. *New Zealand’s malls don’t usually have outward-facing shops*. We could force them too as a condition of consent.

  16. If Queen St is to be closed to motor vehicles, please also stop bicycles, e-scooters & e-bikes ( wheeled vehicles ) to ensure it becomes a true safe space to enjoy.

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