Queen St has been the subject of plenty of discussion over the last few years. There’s been the discussion of light rail, the council unanimously voting to trial making it more pedestrian friendly and then being completely ignored and undermined by council and Auckland Transport officials and then there’s the covid emergency works that were put in place to allow more social distancing.
Wide boardwalks, seating and native plants in planter boxes will soon replace the plastic sticks and temporary footpaths on Queen Street between Customs Street and Shortland Street.
New plans released by Auckland Council on Friday detail the removal of the emergency COVID-19 works in the area and the creation of a pocket park on the corner of Queen Street and Fort Street to add greenery and provide a pleasant space for people to linger.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says Queen Street is due for an upgrade.
“We want the street to be more people-friendly and attractive, and to become a place to visit, rather than just pass through,” he says.
“Last year, temporary measures were put in place by Auckland Transport to allow physical distancing during the pandemic. It’s now time for the yellow markers, stone blocks and painted asphalt to be replaced.
“Extended decking pavements, similar to those on High Street, trees and shrubs in proper planter boxes and decent street furniture will help change the look and feel of the area. These measures will be trialled before permanent changes are made once we receive feedback from businesses, shoppers, visitors and residents.
“The new CityLink electric buses will be cleaner and quieter and improve the ambience of the street.
I suspect some of these changes now to be introduced were what was thought about when the COVID works went in but the improvements were put on hold after all the complaining from about the covid measures.
Along with the public realm improvements AT are also proposing making changes to the street to help support buses and get the cars out. Though somewhat frustratingly I think the message that we need to get the cars out of Queen St is being said way too softly and there is still far too much car access provided (there should be none).
AT are proposing making changes in two phases. The first taking place in late May and the second in June after the Victoria and Albert St intersection closes for CRL construction..
This will see two sections of bus lane added:
- A Northbound 24/7 bus lane between Mayoral Dr and Wakefield St which will be accompanied by traffic restrictions to prevent northbound private vehicle traffic at this point.
- A peak time only (7am to 10am and 4pm to 7pm) northbound bus lane between Symonds St and Customs St.
Once the Victoria St intersection closes AT say it will require the re-routing of 35 bus routes. As part of this they will add bus lanes in each direction between Wakefield St and Wellesley St which will further restrict the ability to drive north on Queen St. They also say that one electric buses are introduced on the CityLink services over the coming months, over half of all bus trips on Queen St will have zero emissions.
Overall these plans are useful, though I can’t help but wonder why it’s taken so long and they don’t do a full bus lane in each direction, like the Wakefield to Westfield section, to prevent cars from heading south. They should also be putting in eastbound bus only lanes on Wellesley St to create the long planned bus only section on that corridor.
Not everyone is happy with the changes though with Heart of the City saying they’re not good enough, but in a surprise twist calling for more bus lanes and dedicated bike lanes.
Proposed changes for lower Queen Street released on Friday are an improvement on what is currently there but there are fundamental flaws in the way the wider street’s going to work under this proposal. Buses and bikes will be mixing with each other, and deliveries won’t be efficient. There will be many people who rely on getting to places in taxis that will be impacted.
Beck says that “It’s appalling that after a year, this is what has come out. There are no dedicated bus lanes in some parts meaning unreliable journeys for commuters. There won’t be safe cycling as bikes will be forced to travel down Queen Street in bus lanes, and there will be a whole lot more buses on Queen Street to contend with over the next few years.”
Unless you think e-scooters are going to suddenly disappear and that more and more people won’t ride their bikes, micro-mobility will be in Queen St and at the very least, surely it’s better to have them moving in dedicated lanes that mixing amongst large numbers of buses and then leaving scooters all over the place.
Auckland Transport have feedback open till Friday 7 May for the street changes.