Next year, hallelujah, we're going to have some trials to work out how to remove unnecessary cars from the inner city.
What does it mean? We don't know. There's still much to be resolved, especially for people with special mobility challenges, tradies and people who don't want to ride a bicycle or scooter. And if you work late – if you feel vulnerable for any reason at all – and right now your car provides you with transport security, how will you get home?
Much to decide. Therefore, much need for trials. Here are 25 they might try.
1. Get the whole council on board, especially Auckland Transport
Not, strictly speaking, a trial so much as a fit-for-purpose exercise for the whole council. This Sunday, with the Santa Parade rescheduled from last weekend's washout, AT is offering free parking in its two big central city parking buildings. But it has not scheduled any fare reductions on the trains, buses or ferries. A Papakura family of four will pay $28.80 to get the train to town and back on Sunday.
That's a fundamental disconnect between the council and its transport agency. Mayor Phil Goff was nonplussed when asked about it yesterday. He needs to remind council-controlled organisations of their obligations – AT, for example, appears to have forgotten its commitment to prioritising public transport.
2. Experiment with fares and frequencies
AT believes greater frequency of service, rather than reduced fares, is the best way to get more people on board. Are they right? What's the sweet spot between price and frequency? Trials shouldn't mean constant unsettling changes to services. But the assumption that fares are not a barrier to greater use should be challenged with some focused trialling.
3. Fix the shared spaces
Let service vehicles in early, but after 11am raise the bollards. Ban cars from driving straight through – do it with by wardens or by camera. Use trees in planters to put in chicanes, so drivers can't see the end of the street. Just close some shared spaces altogether. Darby St, say. Keep the loop of Commerce St, Fort St and Gore St for buses, service vehicles and carpark access, but close Jean Batten Place and the east and west entrances to Fort St.
4. Remove car park spots
Remove private parking bays spots from Lorne St, High St, Shortland St, Quay St, wherever it might work. Take out some and then take our some more. Use the space created for pedestrians or dedicated bike/scooter lanes. Keep loading zones, and let tradies park right outside to unload, but take their vans to a carpark building for the rest of the day. Keep mobility spaces.
5. Just close High St
If the retailers won't let it happen before Christmas, do it over the quiet holiday period with temporary barriers. Monitor how it works as the shoppers return. Get some street entertainment going. High St has no car park buildings except the council one, which doesn't need to open on to High St. It's an easy street to close.
6. Put bike/scooter lanes on Queen St
Cheaply, with road cones stuck to the road. Do it on all the other streets that don't already have them. Pedestrians must feel safe and bikes and scooters should be encouraged.
7. Highlight taxi ranks and ban cruising
No Ubers or cabs drifting aimlessly around the streets.
8. More e-cargo bikes
Work with courier companies to reduce the number of vans.
9. Put all the buses on Wellesley St
This is the plan anyway, so why wait for all the expensive work? Just trial it now.
10. Make that linear park on Victoria St
This is also the plan anyway, so trial it now. Borrow from Times Square: get out the road cones and astroturf and deck chairs.
11. Use construction disruption
When a street closes for construction, use that as the start of a new plan. Unless there's a very good reason, don't reopen it. Build on the excitement: put up viewing gantries, have regular market days for all the affected retailers, put up lots of signage, stage lunchtime events, hold temporary street exhibitions and installations ... wrap the city, for pedestrians, in a sense of wow, there's just so much going on.
12. Plant edible gardens
Herbs, especially, but also vegetables. Planter boxes and raised beds, all over the city.
13. Paint a poem on the road
All the way down Queen St. Paint the lyrics of a song on Wellesley St. After a month or two, paint something else.
14. Set up some culture and history stations
On street corners, say. What used to happen here? Maori history and more.
15. Set up some art stations
Give art students, architecture students and others a bit of money for materials and a site and a month, each, to present us with some fabulous work. Do the same thing with music, and with philosophy, and with people who collect extraordinary things.
16. Encourage the inside to come out
Relax the bylaws about what can happen on the footpaths, so we get food stalls, bargain bins and other trading activity on the streets. Walking down them becomes more of an adventure, and because the footpaths are wider, it's all possible.
17. Go carrot and stick on private car parks
Work with companies to help close their carparks. Offer staff enticements: Hop card introductory discounts, Waiheke visits, show tickets to Auckland Live venues, landscaping on the street outside the building... simultaneously, lobby Government to reinstate fringe benefit tax on staff car parking.
18. Promote the Link buses
Break the taxi and Uber habit. Use clever marketing to make the Link services the cool way to get around.
19. Use the festivals
At Chinese New Year, light the route from downtown to the Lantern Festival in the Domain. All the routes. The Lantern Festival people probably have some lanterns for that. Use the Arts Festival in March as an excuse for street parties. With great food.
20. Have rolling closures
Close the bottom block of Queen St. Then another one. Then another. Roll it around. Don't worry about traffic chaos – aim, instead, for lots of pop-up activities, for surprises and delights for everyone who's out and about.
21. Big public display boards
Social media debates will happen, but let's have some big display boards too, downtown, to create a public forum and a sense of public engagement with the whole process.
22. Create some carpark zones
Will we need places for people to park just on the edge of the city centre? Angle parks all the way down College Hill? That barren land at the bottom of Grafton Gully?
23. Last mile shuttles
And then offer electric shuttles buses, and bike-hire and scooter-hire, for the last part of the trip into town.
24. Do more surveys
Keep surveying drivers, public transport users and pedestrians about what's going right and what's going wrong. This is critical.
25. Do these things in other places too
Living a better life in the middle of town applies to smaller town centres as well. Take every downtown activation and work out if it can be done in Otahuhu, Albany, Takapuna, Henderson, Manukau, Glen Innes ... and vice versa, for that matter.