Auckland’s $133m mid-town regeneration plans: Fewer cars, more pedestrians and cyclists

Just when you thought Auckland’s disruptive central-city works were nearing an end, get ready for the next round of changes – or if you’re Auckland Council, it’s called “regeneration”.

You’ve seen it already on Quay St, Lorne St and High St with more people-friendly, less car-centric environments.

Now, changes are being planned in the heart of the city.

The council plans to spend $133 million in the next five years on what it calls “mid-town regeneration projects”, improving streets for pedestrians and bus passengers including furthering controversial plans for Queen St.

Severely deterring private vehicles and making the mid-town area more pedestrian, cyclist, scooter and bus passenger-friendly is a big part of this next stage of its plan.

Car fans definitely won’t like this glimpse into Auckland in the future.

The thinking behind the changes is to make the city more of a people-friendly place – which inherently means deterring cars in the CBD.

The City Rail Link is due to be completed in 2024 but these council works aren’t due to be done till 2025. Part of the planned works relate to that $4.4b CRL project.

Upgrades are ear-marked around the new Aotea train station but also to Federal St, Wellesley St, Victoria St, Queen St, High St, the entrance to Myers Park on the Mayoral Dr side and parts of Hobson St and Albert St.

The projects include the first stage of creating what the council has long wanted as a “linear park”: changing Victoria St to create what it sees as a connection between Victoria Park and Albert Park by landscaping the street centre in a traffic-calming measure.

But that Victoria St project – Te Hā Nova – alone has been estimated by the council to cost $134m. Works to the centre traffic lanes of Victoria St follow installations of cycle lanes on both sides of the busy thoroughfare.

The council said today the projects are:

• Stage one of the Wellesley St bus improvements from Albert St to Queen St, upgrading the area for commuters and pedestrians.

• Stage one of Te Hā Noa: Building the beginnings of the Victoria St linear park from Albert St to Kitchener Street. Basically, it means turning the four-lane road partly into a park. Since 2012, the council has planned this “transformational, green” link. Instead of a four-lane motorway-style thoroughfare, “breakout” space will be built for those in the CBD and a wave of green vegetation cascading between the two parks. “Reduced vehicular traffic function and space allocation over time, including for public transport services, to unlock significant space reallocation in favour of pedestrians and public space activity,” is how the council put the pro-pedestrian sentiment in its city centre masterplan document on Victoria St.

• Federal St upgrade: extension of the shared path laneway circuit;

• Wai Horotiu Queen St project, again significantly removing car-centric uses to make our showcase main drag greener, extend footpaths, deter cars and eliminate private car parking. Only one lane of traffic will be allowed in each direction and attempts will be made to remove general traffic. Two short sections of pedestrian mall are to be created at Fort St and Lorne St.

• Myers Park underpass upgrade;

• Aotea over-station development by MRCB, enabled by Eke Panuku;

• High St upgrade;

• Hobson St upgrade between Victoria St and Wellesley St;

• Finishing the ongoing Aotea Centre refurbishment;

• Finishing the Albert St upgrade between Wyndham St and Wellesley St.

“Excluding Aotea Station itself, the over station development and Watercare’s wastewater upgrade, Auckland Council is investing more than $133m into midtown in the next five years,” a statement released today said.

The Herald reported in 2018 that trials were starting to turn central Auckland into a car-free zone. The council voted unanimously to adopt a strategy, Access for Everyone, which calls for all non-essential vehicles to be kept out of the inner city.

As part of the strategy, the council instructed officials to come up with a plan for trials.

The approach involves an “open streets” approach, which means opening the streets to pedestrians and other users by closing them to traffic. It will also be trialled in other urban centres around Auckland.

The council’s plans for Queen St have been heavily criticised by local retail traders, property owners and the Automobile Association which says confidence with Queen St’s “dishevelled state” is at a “low ebb” with “significant unanswered questions and disgruntled stakeholders”.

Auckland Transport says measures proposed will discourage private vehicles from travelling the entire length of the street at certain times of the day.

Auckland CBD business association Heart of the City’s chief executive Viv Beck has said desperate business owners were out of patience with the constant disruption to Queen St.

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