Auckland's central business district long ago ceased to be a place that people drove through by choice. With good motorway ramps now providing an easy bypass there is no need to drive into the city centre unless it is to work or shop or dine or attend some entertainment.
So the "car-free" plan adopted by Auckland Council this week makes sense. It will divide the CBD into "cells" of vehicle access, allowing people to drive into each segment of the centre but no through-roads would connect the segments.
With no traffic crossing Queen St, the road will be clear for pedestrians and public transport, an achievement that has eluded a generation of civic planners. Many times over the years they have advanced the idea of getting cars out of Queen St and every time those with business investments in the "golden mile" have opposed the idea. Today their organisation sounds more open to it, though nervous no doubt.
It is easy to enthuse about car-free streets when your livelihood does not depend upon the access of all kinds the streets provide. Queen St today might have "13 times more pedestrians than cars", as the Waitemata Local Board chair said at the meeting adopting the plan, but not many of those people walked into town and they did not all come by public transport.
Nor will they when the city rail link is completed and trams might be trundling up Queen St again.
Business in the CBD may be more worried about the loss of street parking than the loss of passing traffic. Additional parking buildings could accommodate the cars no longer lining Queen St, High St and some others but people coming into the city for a brief purpose want the option of a metered park, not paying a building charge. Doubtless, Aucklanders will quickly discover which "cells" offer a better prospect of finding a park.
With no cars along their kerbs, Queen St and High St should be fine pedestrian malls but it will take more than the absence of cars to make them so.
The council's civic designers will need to do as well as they have done at the Wynyard Quarter, with amenities and attractions that make outdoor malls enjoyable places to be.
If trams are to have pride of place they will need to move slowly, allowing people to move about easily on foot. If they are to run on overhead wires, it must be hoped those do not clutter the streetscape as they did when Auckland had trolley buses. The city celebrated when those wires were removed.
But today Queen St needs something drastic to restore its glory. It has had several make-overs in recent times and none has worked magic. All have steadily enlarged the footpaths and pedestrian crossing, reduced the kerbside parking and slowed the traffic with the intended result that drivers have avoided Queen St for years.
Now it sounds like the streets crossing it are to become cul-de-sacs, open only on one side to side streets in their "cell". The detailed street plan has yet to be devised but the planners have been told to get on with it, and they should.
They have talked about removing cars from Queens St for long enough. It's time to set some trial road closures and see what will happen.