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.

But change is finally about to happen with an upgrade on the way and street changes out for consultation.

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..

Phase 1

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.

They also say that the exit from Lorne St to Wellesley St will close but it doesn’t show up in the graphics still Phase 2.

Phase 2

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.

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54 comments

  1. Why don’t they just ban ALL cars?! It’s staggering, even if people demand a taxi, you can get down every side street basically. Won’t the bus congestion end up being worse with half of Queen St only down to one lane?

  2. Few typos there team, and a Freudian: “Wakefield to Westfield”. The agenda does seem to be that for anything you can’t put in your purse, you take a trip to the mall, because you won’t be grabbing from a shop, in Queen St or K’Rd, once cars and Ubers are absent. Who’s got shares in Westfield? We need to acknowledge that this is a consequence of turning Queen St into a mid- or down-market piazza, and it’s about enjoyment, not commerce. I have no issue with that by the way – but for every Pitt St (Sydney) you need a George St nearby, and in the gully formed by te awa o Waihorotiu, we don’t have many of those. There needs to be better thought given to drop zones on those east-west routes we’re so enthusiastically dedicating to bus corridors.

    1. What are you talking about? There’s so little reason to drive on Queen St already, and all major car parks are accessed via Hobson/Nelson or Mayoral Drive, none of which are changing.

      Driving in the central city is still absurdly easy.

      1. Haha exactly, just another case of people moaning about access to something they literally never access..otherwise they’d know that you don’t park on Queen Street to do your shopping.

      2. On the occasions i drive in to work, I always take Queen St because it’s the fastest route. Is that really what we want for Queen St, to be filled with commuting motorists?

    2. JB Hi-Fi and Noel Leeming both have premises on Queen St selling large screen TVs and other appliances. Yet even before Covid-19 customers had virtually zero chance of getting a park anywhere near them. So maybe reconsider your assumptions about whether vehicle access is necessary.

      1. Both JB and NL offer delivery for your large appliance purchases, I’ve never seen anyone picking up a large appliance from one of those stores

        1. Living just off Queen St I’ve seen many people walking around town with a TV box they can only just manage to hold. Done it myself even. When the walk is only a few blocks it doesn’t seem that bad – comparable to walking the length of Sylvia Park really.

      2. JB Hi Fi (and I’m sure Noel Lemmings too) have a cargo entrance on High Street with a loading zone. This is where I picked up my last iMac.

  3. I can see a lot more rat-running happening on Fort Lane by drivers who are used to using all of lower Queen Street.

    1. exactly this – it already seems to happen. It will be interesting to see how many extra vehicles are diverted via Jean Batten, Fort St, Fort Lane to avoid the general vehicle closure. Im also regularly seeing vehicles drive the wrong way up Jean Batten. Might be worth putting the bollards at the Jean Batten/ Shortland Street entrance

  4. Not sure why they keep spending money on it with light rail works hopefully going to start soon. Unless they know something we don’t. Surely it can wait for the 6 months until the light rail consultation is done, then we will have a good idea of what is going to happen. There are so many town centres that have barely had a lick of paint in 40 years, why spend money on Queen Street only to rip it up in a year or two. This is a council that supposedly can’t even afford essential footpath maintenance.
    Instead, forget about widening the footpaths for now (yes they should be wider but it can wait). Rip out all the crap they put in and paint the left lanes for bikes and scooters and the middle lanes for buses and service vehicles only. Don’t paint it purple. Job done. Or even go back to 4 vehicle lanes to appease the businesses, they will be gone when light rail work starts anyway (I mean the cars but supposedly the businesses will too).

    1. This is still just planter boxes and plastic decking to trial improvements. I would hope the cost is minimal.

      Light rail has just gone back to the drawing board. It’s light years away from even starting. We shouldn’t do nothing waiting for some unicorn project that is going to solve it all.

      Dom Rd resurfacing was put on hold well before amalgamation because it was about to get 24 hour buslane upgrades. When was that like 2008? 2021 and i am still swerving around the holes and bumps on my cycle into work hoping that a speeding motorcyclist isn’t about to try and pass me.

      1. Dominion road is an absolute mess waiting for light rail, Queen Street is spectacular in comparison. Yet the money is being spent on Queen Street – because they complained the loudest?

        1. I don’t believe there is an equivalent targeted rate for Dominion Rd businesses as there is in the CBD. The money isn’t being spent well but at least it is being paid specifically by CBD businesses.

        2. The money is being spent on Queen Street because 200,000 Aucklanders set foot there each day. There is literally no place in the country that has more people use it.

  5. This is so uninspiring, still far too much vehicle access. They’re proposing two way access the whole way from Customs Street to Wellesley Street. If they were honestly doing it for access only they would be only allowing traffic one way and the direction would change frequently.

  6. It’s a mediocre start… but honestly with the amount of opposition the naive ‘Save Queen Street’ people have been putting up (so many ads on facebook omg) I’m almost impressed AT is doing anything at all. We really need Queen Street to do a better job of serving the 40,000 of us who actually live in the city centre – those are Queen Street’s customers, and predominantly we are young and more likely to be on foot, scooter, bike or bus – it’s only logical then that those modes are prioritised. Definitely disappointing there are no dedicated bike lanes.

    I just wish AT had more courage.

  7. Wow, who actually has a full time job coming up with this crap. What an absolute waste of time. Lower Queen will still be full of cars, ubers doing U turns, blocking buses and cyclists, Fort lane and Jean batten place continue as rat runs. Just ban cars the entire length. It’s not hard and creates no ambiguity, which as we’ve seen anywhere you allow cars some ambiguity they will abuse and take whatever they can. Share spaces around Britomart being the worst examples.

    1. The people who “come up with this crap” (who are not me, but I know them well) know that proposing banning cars will get them crucified by (some) locals, and more importantly, by some politicians, and (most) of their senior management and those who hired them (where they are consultants).

      Its been that experience over and over again with the walk and cycle teams and the Council’s urban design team. Rock the boat in Auckland, and you get pushed out. So if you want something more inspiring, don’t blame the designers. Blame the people actually making the big calls. Fishes stink from the head.

    2. Forward your complaint to Beck at Heart of the City. They are the concern trolls in chief working tirelessly to compromise all the plans for the city while complaining publicly about how shit the city is.

  8. Moving in the right direction, but my main suggestion would be to agree wit the suggestions to improve it for bikes / scooters … here’s what I’ll put in my submission:

    For any sections where an historic traffic lane has been removed, approx. 50% of this lane width should be used to create a cycle / scooter lane, and approx. 50% used to make the footpath wider (rather than 100% for making the footpath wider as in the current state / plans). The cycle/scooter lanes won’t be continuous, and the start / end points will have to allow careful merging into other lanes, but even in the non-continuous form they would be of huge value to users of these transport form moving safely past traffic in the other lanes, and avoid conflict with pedestrians. Also this would improve the value extracted of this medium-term trial, by allowing the value / usage of such lanes to be tested. Ways to make the cycle / scooter lanes more continuous can be considered as part of long term design, should they prove to be valuable in this trial period. My view is that these cycle / scooter lanes should be at the same vertical height as the general traffic lanes, separated from them by the planter boxes / concrete dividers, i.e. below the footpath level, to discourage pedestrians accidentally wandering in to them, and to allow a better quality riding experience for riders merging back into traffic lanes at the end of them.

    1. Kicked out together with Auckland Transport’s (former) walking and cycling team, or course. Cycle lanes are so 2010s.

  9. So they’re moving all those buses to Wellesley Street with no bus lane in one direction?

    Well I’m glad I’m not commuting to the city by bus.

    And closing Queen Street for cars, the thing with taboos is they take a long time to go away. Give it another 20 years or so.

  10. My crazy proposal.

    Extend a greenway from Mayers Park all the way down to Te Komititanga Square.
    This will be done by closing Queen St from Mayoral Dr to Customs St to traffic and unearthing the stream that was put into a culvert some 100 years ago.

    This will give us a nice green park with ponds and waterfalls all the way down to the harbour.

  11. I counted four different coloured paint lines side by side on small section of Queen St this morning. Yellow, light blue, green and white. Someone should go an add some red or that terrible mauve for good measure. The complains are in part because they have made Queen Street really ugly. The grey pavers and trees that just look dark green and gloomy all year were a poor start. Then they have added as many different coloured paint lines, sticks, boxes and lumps of concrete. There is even what looks like a sheet of plywood stuck down up from the Civic.

    It is time to redo the whole street. The previous red pavers and flowering trees were far better. Time to block it to through traffic. Time to find some other street to blight with the diesel buses. This really is a low point for Queen Street, it looks like the Council are trying to kill it.

    1. While the mauve is dodgy, surely its the beige accompanying it that is the real crime here crime.

      What were they thinking?

      1. Agreed. Was down there on the weekend. Were they high? Beige?
        I presume the thought process was white? nah will get too dirty, A nice off white would be better. And bam we get a street that looks like an 80s kitchen.

      2. Yes beige. I was trying to remember the name of that dirty putty colour so I left it out. But also they have orange sticks at Wellesley St, bright yellow sticks elsewhere, a different yellow for tactile paving and of course another yellow for no stopping. I can’t choose colours but I do know a mess when I see one. The old Queen Street had a happy pinkish red footpath, trees that flowered, gave shade, then autumn colour, then let light through in winter. In the old layout trees were matched on both sides of the street, it looked like someone cared. There was beauty.

    2. Yeah its funny.

      The white is for the original road marking.
      The yellow is for the COVID ones that were added.
      The green is for the bus lanes that arent there any more.
      The blue is for parades for where to stick barriers or whatever.

  12. Thanks, Matt. I looked at the link. It actually says, “The changes will be designed to provide more and better-quality space for people and to prioritise Aucklanders who walk, cycle, and use public transport in the area.”

    Yet it doesn’t achieve that.

    What’s the point, Council and AT?

  13. They should have closed it to cars pre-covid when the sidewalks were packed.
    It’s a ghost-town now by comparison. Much harder to justify now with so many stores shut.

    Businesses still need loading zones to function, but that can be done outside of peak hours.

    I wonder how many people will be run over by electric buses.

      1. Nice victim blaming there. Plenty of people just step out onto the road without looking (for a whole variety of reasons). Electric vehicles are far quieter, especially when moving at low speed. There is more than enough data from overseas showing that electric vehicles have a higher chance of hitting a pedestrian because the pedestrian doesn’t hear the vehicle.

        1. Please provide the links to this published and peer-reviewed international research.

          Does the same apply to bicycles, prams, and electric cars? Should we ban them all?

    1. “I wonder how many people will be run over by electric buses’

      The new electric buses will be trialling a new warning feature.

      They are equipped with a pre-recorded voice that booms out “Look out you idiot, a bus is coming, look out!”

  14. Forcing cars to turn into Shortland st would mean cars will use Fort St to rat run.

    I worried Fort St will soon have long queue of cars taking shortcut. It makes the place full of cars with noisy engine noise and polluting exhaust gas.

    Shall they try to discourage people using Jean Batten Place?

  15. I know Council has a dedicate rate for the inner city , but evertime someone snezzes they devde Queen Street needs to be rebuilt and the amount they have spent over the Decades they could hace paved the whole Street in GOLD .

  16. Also I noticed there is a lack of children playground, lack of parent rooms, Brest feeding near the Queen St area.

    The closest playground is in Wynyard Quarter and Myer Park.

    It makes Queens St very hostiles for young families.

    1. “there is a lack of children playground, lack of parent rooms,”

      It is a trial. There is also a lack of : waterslides, skateboard ramps, public art, free coffee qiosks, petting zoos, outdoor cinemas, free back rub booths, oxygen bars, penguin enclosures and other nice to have stuff.

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