Auckland Council has released a new plan for Queen St. It's progress, but with problems.
The council has listened to complaints about the stop-start piecemeal approach to developing the street, with endless rounds of consultation, and decided to do the whole job at once. Good on them for that.
A single new consultation period starts now, ahead of work itself starting by the end of the year, Covid permitting.
Good on them also for addressing several other problems, including:
• Private vehicles using Queen St as a through route.
• Scooters sharing space with slow pedestrians.
• Bikes having to share the road with buses.
• Service and delivery vehicles not well catered for.
• Side streets not well-enough pedestrianised.
• Town hall concert patrons not able to be dropped off and picked up.
The council's strategic aim is to remove non-essential traffic from the central city and make the place a lively, inviting place for shoppers, office workers, residents, students and visitors. But if there was a prize for the outfit most determined to crabwalk sideways towards its own goals, the council would be the easy winner.
Some of its specific proposals are peculiar.
Queen St won't be closed to private vehicles, but one block will. That's the block by the Civic, which will become an "essential vehicles area" for buses, service and emergency vehicles. Bikes, scooters and motorbikes will also be able to ride through.
This will stop cars using Queen St as a through route, but it will still invite drivers in from the cross streets. Perhaps the thinking is that it's a step towards eliminating non-essential traffic, without announcing it as such.
There's no proposal to reduce the number of buses in the street, although it is also recognised that light rail might run down Queen St and change the need for buses there. Light rail is a Government project, not a council one, and a decision is pending.
But how about this? The footpaths will be widened and their outer strips designated for the use of bikes, scooters and "fast walkers".
Inviting pedestrians to mix with bikes and scooters is in breach of council's own guidelines for a street like this and it's hard to imagine the plan will please anyone at all.
Prediction: those parts of the footpath will be given a physical barrier and dedicated to bikes and scooters, within a year.
Loading zones will "better align with business needs", we're told, but no maps have yet been presented to show this.
Vulcan Lane will be redesignated as a pedestrian zone. Who knew that it wasn't? So will small parts of Fort and Lorne Sts. This will stop those streets becoming through routes, which will be excellent for Lorne St especially.
But why stop there? Lower High St could be a pedestrian mall too.
The move possibly spells an end to the preference for "shared spaces", where pedestrians are never quite sure if a car is going to run them down. That wouldn't be a bad thing.
Also announced: the council will provide "drop-off and pick-up zones" around the town hall, and create mobility parking spots too. That looks like a big win for the Auckland Philharmonia and others who have lobbied hard on the issue, although we don't know yet where they will be.
Queen St is getting there. The decision not to close more of the road or the side streets to private vehicles looks unreasonably timid, but the Civic block closure is at least a start. As for the bike lanes, that's just beyond rational comprehension.
The full plans will be "shared with Aucklanders", says the council, this month.