With the City Rail Link tunnelling now complete the major civil works at the Te Waihorotiu station will soon be completed and some of the focus can shift to the above-ground works.
Earlier this week Auckland Council and Auckland Transport confirmed that early next year, work will start on the planned improvements to Victoria and Wellesley Streets, which are “a pivotal part of the city centre’s midtown regeneration programme“.
Both Wellesley and Victoria Streets were once dense traffic routes carrying four lanes of cars, trucks and buses, with cyclists daring to weave a path along the fringes and pedestrians competing with e-scooters for a sliver of pavement on either side.
That is all changing – for the better.
In 2021 Auckland Transport buses were moved from Victoria Street across to Wellesley Street. That helped Aucklanders picture the future of Wellesley Street as midtown’s dedicated east-west bus corridor between Albert and Queen Streets. It also enabled a pedestrian-prioritised Victoria Street – Te Hā Noa – to proceed.
The aim is to achieve a system, a form of urban symbiosis, for these two historic east-west streets, as both will have portals into and out of Te Waihorotiu Station (Aotea).
Victoria Street is set to become a tree-lined, pedestrian-prioritised street with the delivery of Te Hā Noa. The design of the street will provide one lane of vehicles in each direction, connected laneways, wide footpaths with places to sit and spend time, street furniture, public art and a protected cycleway.
Construction will start on the midtown part of Te Hā Noa in Victoria Street in early 2023. Stage One of the Wellesley Street Bus Improvements project, turning the section between Albert and Queen Street into a bus corridor first, will begin in late 2023.
When Te Waihorotiu Station (Aotea), Wellesley Street bus corridor and Te Hā Noa are operational, another page will turn on the Auckland Council group’s delivery of the City Centre Masterplan vision – to create a more welcoming, greener and vibrant city centre, with people-friendly streets and a well-connected world-class public transport system.
Te Hā Noa is what was previously known as the Victoria St Linear Park and something we had to fight hard to retain.
The opportunity to build the Linear Park was almost lost a few years ago after Auckland Transport ignored the CCMP as well as their strategic plans and business cases by proposing to use Victoria St to funnel buses through the city, an option that had a negative benefit cost ratio. Thankfully following public feedback they eventually gave up on the idea.
And now the fist section, between Albert St and Queen St, will start construction early and be followed by the Queen St to Kitchener St section. The design was consulted on late last year and will see public space along the corridor expanded, with 20 native trees and a cycleway added.
I’m really looking forward to getting off a train at Te Waihorotiu, strolling out of the station and straight onto Te Hā Noa
It would be even better if we could get the Albert Park tunnels reopened along with an entrance on Victoria St like the City Centre Masterplan suggested.
On Wellesley St the plan is to make the section between Albert and Queen St bus only, this will enable footpaths to be widened, bus tops improved and a better pedestrian crossing between Bledisloe Lane and Elliott St.
One aspect of this I’m quite looking forward to is that it should help improve the experience for those wanting to transfer between trains and buses to/from the North Shore.
While we’re on the City Centre, the council say that later this month we’ll see the final result of the improvements to Queen St, starting with the section between Aotea Square and The Civic. Some of the final touches will be a “wayfinding system with safety cues layered into the experience”
Safety cues include wayfinding patterns, placement of planting, textural changes and signage. The elements will work together to guide slow riders safely along the path while providing a buffer of protection for shoppers and others who walk along the footpath and cross the street.
The first of the wayfinding patterns will be applied to the path this week in zone 5, developed with Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei mana whenua design studio, Kaunuku.
Jenny Larking, Head of City Centre Programmes at Auckland Council, explains the role of the wayfinding patterns that Aucklanders will see outside The Civic.
“The approach is twofold: the system of ground markings along our new Waihorotiu path carries cultural expression of the Waihorotiu valley narrative, developed by the project’s mana whenua partners, and also safety measures for effective operation of the path.
“Supporting the other wayfinding measures we have built into the design, the markings help define the area of the multi-use path and provide visual delineation, guiding user behaviour at key locations such as pedestrian crossings and bus boarding areas,” she says.
The multi-use path has been named ‘Waihorotiu path’ to reflect the important waterways that once carved natural pathways across the whenua (land) where the present-day city centre now stands. The name will daylight knowledge about the awa (river) that continues to flow underneath Queen Street.
It does feel like these markings are part of a sign that the project made some wrong turns along the way. In particular the focus on creating a shared path for use by slow riders and fast walkers. As we’ve talked about before, we believe the path should be a dedicated cycleway.
The footpath extensions already completed look a bit bare but they won’t be for long as the planters for the widened footpath have been arrived
— AK CC ResidentsGroup (@CityAklccrg) September 21, 2022
Hopefully now that the Auckland Transport are ticketing drivers who travel along (part of) Queen St we’ll see a big reduction in the number doing it.