What is the pilot?
The Wai Horotiu Queen Street Valley Pilot is one of a series of trials to test the principles of Access for Everyone - a City Centre Masterplan concept that reshapes how city centre streets are used, so more street space is given to people walking, cycling, using public transport, and delivering and servicing homes and buildings. This pilot is the first in a series of stages to improve Queen Street for everyone, and will contribute to the transformation of our city centre to put people at the heart and create a greener, safer, better connected city centre for all.
What is Access for Everyone and why is it important?
There is increasing demand for space in our city centre, so we need to help people travel to and within the city centre more efficiently. We also want to help create a better quality of life for current and future generations, so the quality and uses of street space needs to improve. We’re shifting from a ‘go-through’ to a ‘go-to’ city centre, a place we can all be proud of, and one that puts people first. Access for Everyone shapes all city centre projects and programmes. For more information on Access for Everyone, visit the City Centre Masterplan website.
What will be piloted?
The pilot will use tactical urbanism interventions – which are quick, temporary and low-cost – to trial different ways to use the space that is available on Queen Street. The space will be prioritised for walking, cycling, disabled people, public transport users, emergency vehicles, and vehicles servicing businesses and residents (such as delivery vehicles).
Are the emergency works on Queen Street the same thing as the Wai Horotiu Queen Street Valley Pilot?
No. The emergency measures were installed quickly in Queen Street for physical distancing as a COVID-19 health measure.
Separate to this, an Access for Everyone pilot was endorsed by the Planning Committee. The pilot seeks to create more space for people, and to improve their experience on Queen Street. It made sense to use the findings from the COVID-19 emergency works as a base for the pilot.
Unlike the emergency works, the pilot will use a co-design process involving the Queen St community in the design and installation.
What is the time frame for the pilot?
The Wai Horotiu Queen St Valley Pilot commenced in July 2020 and physical changes will be in place by July 2021.
What is the cost of the pilot?
The Queen St A4E pilot budget comes from the combined Innovating Streets grant of up to $1m and the City Centre Targeted Rate allocation of $600k.
What is the role of co-design and how will it work?
Co-design is used to ensure that what we eventually create will be something that Queen Street users want, and that meets the needs of lots of different users.
It involves a diverse range of Queen Street users such as businesses, residents, commuters, street users, Mana Whenua, the Waitematā Local Board and membership organisations (Heart of the City, City Centre Residents Group, Auckland City Centre Advisory Board).
Through co-design we use lots of different engagement techniques – such as surveys, workshops, and street observations – to understand the way people use the street and feel about it.
Once we understand the problem areas, we will work with users to brainstorm and imagine ways to fix the problem and make Queen Street better. Once we have possible solutions, we make them and test them through installations and activations.
There will be some ‘givens’ that the co-design process must work within (e.g. it must allow for safe and reliable bus movements) but the co-design process will come up with the designs and solutions.
What is tactical urbanism?
Tactical Urbanism Initiatives (TUI) are a design approach that uses temporary interventions to deliver lighter, quicker, cheaper changes to roads and streets.
It allows ideas to be tried out and for changes to be made quickly. It is a cumulative and iterative process - findings from one stage of TUI inform subsequent stages and can shape a permanent scheme.
TUI is often implemented using a co-design process. This is a system of engagement to deliver mutually beneficial outcomes for the people that use the space.
For more on Tactical Urbanism read Simon Wilson's piece in the herald here.
What's the financial benefit of tactical urbanism?
As a low-cost way to deliver street changes, TUI can help reduce the impacts of budget constraints and can provide an interim solution until longer term funding is available for permanent changes.
What relationship does this pilot have to the City Rail Link construction and the closing of Victoria St?
We are beginning this pilot now because in 2021, following the reopening of the Wellesley and Albert Street Intersection, the Victoria and Albert Street intersection will close for around 18 months to allow for further Aotea CRL Station construction. This significant network change will require some buses to be temporarily diverted onto Queen Street and gives us the opportunity to see Queen Street become a people and public transport priority street.
To accommodate the additional bus movements on Queen Street, it would help to have less general traffic on Queen Street, and this would also help improve the amenity of the area for pedestrians. There are a number of ways to discourage unnecessary through traffic and manage the remaining vehicle access, and this will be worked through as part of the co-design process.
Why not keep two lanes each way on Queen St to accommodate extra buses instead of restricting general traffic?
The City Centre Masterplan has since 2012 identified Queen St as a low traffic, pedestrian-focused street and the upcoming network change gives us the opportunity to start to reduce traffic volumes and improve the pedestrian experience on Queen St.
Data from observing traffic in Queen Street since February 2020 also shows us that having more lanes operating along Queen Street does not reduce journey times significantly, but restricting traffic does.
Why not divert buses onto Albert St instead of Queen Street?
Albert Street is currently closed or restricted in many places due to City Rail Link (CRL) works and is expected to reopen to traffic and buses at the lower end, between Wyndham Street and Customs Street by the end of 2020. Whilst the long-term intention is to route buses on Albert Street, CRL works at Aotea Station will prevent buses from using Albert Street in full until 2023-2024. Many buses will be able to travel southbound along Albert Street when Victoria Street closes in 2021, however buses won’t be able to travel northbound on Albert Street until 2023 -2024. Queen Street is the most suitable temporary alternative and is also where most people on buses are heading to and from.
What about air quality on Queen Street?
Before COVID-19 there were around 7,000 vehicles per day running on Queen Street. Reducing general traffic will improve air quality. Although bus volumes will temporarily be higher than normal, bus volumes are a fraction of total traffic. In addition, AT are introducing a fully electric fleet of buses to the City Link in 2021, this will mean that by mid 2021 more than half of the buses travelling down Queen Street will be electric, improving air quality further.
What is the plan for Queen Street beyond the pilot?
A business case will be prepared by Auckland Transport to investigate all the workstreams needed to implement Access for Everyone and to seek more funding to continue the work started by the pilot. The pilot is the first in a series of stages to improve Queen Street for everyone. With additional funding we can continue to work with the Queen Street community to make the permanent changes needed to achieve the Queen Street that is envisaged by the City Centre Masterplan.
The City Centre Masterplan presents a vision for Wai Horotiu Valley to become central zone of the Access for Everyone (A4E) concept, prioritising pedestrians. A low-emission zone will be achieved in Waihorotiu Valley by removing unnecessary traffic and freeing up road space for public transport, deliveries, emergency services and for people with limited mobility.
This vision is presented in Transformational Move 3 – Waihorotiu / Queen Street Valley. Queen Street will be a vibrant pedestrian priority shopping street at the heart of Wai Horotiu Valley which will support centre-running transit (starting with buses) and become the centrepiece of a greatly expanded pedestrian priority and low emissions zone.
Once CRL is completed and Albert Street reopens, only a handful of electric buses will remain on Queen Street. There is ongoing work being done by a number of organisations to look at the longer-term solutions for rapid transit along Queen St.