Submission to Auckland Transport on Queen Street changes Phase 1 and 2
Heart of the City (HOTC) is the business association for Auckland’s city centre and we represent the interests of businesses and property owners. We are committed to the growth and success of the city centre as a vibrant, accessible, safe and welcoming urban community.
Heart of the City (HOTC) wants to see a beautiful and well-functioning Queen Street – one that is inclusive, supports business and encourages people to come here.
Queen Street plays an important economic, civic, cultural and social role. Pre-COVID, Queen Street generated more than half a billion dollars of retail sales per annum. The current context for Queen Street and the wider city centre is that access has been severely impacted by cumulative and ongoing construction. This is a deterrent for visitation, which has been compounded by the covid emergency works installed in April 2020.
Economic recovery requires not only an attractive environment, but also one that functions well to ensure that both Queen Street and the wider city centre is inviting and accessible.
The Auckland Transport proposals for Queen Street lack an understanding of needs and empathy for many city centre users. As proposed, the plans will have a detrimental impact for business and will not support the economic success of the area.
Lack of holistic planning, innovation and coordination
HOTC has, over a long period of time requested improvements to how change is undertaken to support a vibrant, successful and accessible city centre.
It is deeply concerning to read these proposals. They are piecemeal, they have not been coordinated with other plans for Queen Street and they lack vision and innovation. They do not follow contemporary kerbside practice or introduce a strategic approach to servicing and loading.
Ideally AT, in coordination with Auckland Council would go back to the drawing board on Queen Street. We sincerely hope that happens. However, we have responded to the proposed changes in this document so that they don’t proceed as planned.
Access for Everyone
The proposals are at odds with the strategic intent for Access for Everyone (A4E), which the Queen Street/Waihorotiu pilot project was intended to deliver on. Auckland Council has published that Access for Everyone, wants to achieve:
- “Mode shift towards public transport, walking, cycling and micro-mobility.
- Easier access for people with accessibility and mobility needs.
- Better conditions for freight access in the city centre, including construction, deliveries and rubbish collection.
- More reliable access for emergency services.
A4E would rebalance streets to prioritise space-efficient modes of transport, while freeing up road space for journeys that really need it. By taking a strategic approach to managing road space, A4E would enable this work to take place while improving access for people and goods.”
Given the definition for A4E, HOTC expects that any Auckland Transport proposals for Queen Street would mean that:
- people and goods who need to get to Queen Street can, efficiently and without discrimination.
- changes for Queen Street are inclusive and take a strategic approach to user needs.
- essential traffic is considered a priority, and that this includes goods and service vehicles, trucks and vans, small passenger service vehicles, emergency vehicles and people with mobility disabilities being dropped off or having a mobility permit.
- access is also required for those needing to get to businesses such as hotels.
- public transport is prioritised, and cycles and micro mobility such as scooters are accommodated.
- proposed changes would be underpinned by innovative strategic work including, for example, a shift in the way deliveries would happen in the area, enabling scarce kerbside space to be freed up at key times to improve pedestrian amenity.
Proposed plans not good enough
The potential impacts of AT’s proposals are significant and would have serious ramifications for the vitality of Queen Street and the wider city centre if implemented as proposed.
The proposals fundamentally ignore key users and have failed on many levels. Overall, there is blatant disregard for the needs of businesses and their customers. The current proposals will mean:
- accessibility restrictions for people and goods into the Queen Street area, including those most vulnerable such as people with mobility disabilities.
- loading and servicing will become significantly more difficult, and in some places prevented, and will result in Health and Safety risks and cost/time inefficiencies.
- people on buses won’t get a reliable journey time along the whole street, as there are no plans to create dedicated bus lanes along the full length of the street. This is contrary to AT’s own strategy.
- there won’t be safe cycling on the street, with the requirement for cyclists to be sharing lanes along the length of Queen Street with buses.
We have heard from and spoken to businesses, industry representatives and Aucklanders about the impact that the proposed plans will have on their ability to access Queen Street to deliver goods, support businesses, and participate in Queen Street life.
This is illustrated by an extract from an email that we have received that goes to the heart of the impact that these proposals will have on everyday Aucklanders:
“I, like many people who would like to come to Queen St to see a consultant, go to a concert and even perhaps do some shopping, would now be totally unable to do so. I am nearly eighty and due to a fractured spine, can now only walk a short distance.
I do not need a wheel chair but use a mobility scooter to get to my car and then rely on my mobility pass to be able to park near where I need to go. I enjoy the APO and need to be able to either be dropped outside or able to park under Aotea Square - where the Town Hall lift has now been out of action for months - making attendance impossible unless the front door is open and one can find a nearby handicapped parking place” - Auckland Resident
Loading and servicing
The proposals will significantly impact the ability for efficient deliveries and will negatively impact businesses in the area as a result. This is an ongoing and increasingly significant issue for businesses and the freight industry with reduced access and ongoing reduction in dedicated kerbside space in the city centre.
We note Auckland Transport’s own research carried out by Gravitas, undertaken in 2017 which highlighted the growing issues in relation to this important function in the city centre. The research found that:
“Many businesses are extremely challenged by the current parking and loading environment and indicate this is having a material impact on their business – around a third had lost and a third had refused business due to parking and loading issues. The challenge is greatest for trades/service businesses and the construction industry” (Loading and Servicing in Auckland CBD, Business Survey Results, Gravitas, 2017)
Fast forward four years, there has been and continues to be significant cannibalisation of space for loading provision without adequate alternatives provided. This is simply not good enough.
Freight industry organisation, National Road Carriers Association, has highlighted the serious issue that the proposals will have for getting goods to businesses in the Queen Street area. They say the4 plans will “significantly reduce access for freight”, and add “time, expense and risk for delivery drivers”, with possible implications of no longer servicing businesses.
Mayoral Drive to Wakefield Street
HOTC does not support the proposed changes as this will mean no access for loading/servicing, drop off and small passenger vehicle pick up/drop offs in this area, including for people with mobility needs.
The proposal will seriously impact businesses and accessibility to venues in this area. There are heritage buildings with no off-street loading space. It is not satisfactory or safe to suggest that businesses in this area can utilise loading zones 100m away and across the road. This is illustrated by a comment from a business in the area:
"I have at least 6 heavy deliveries per week including some by myself, on my own, from my own vehicle and other substantial deliveries of stock. There are also regular visits by service vehicles who regularly service equipment on the premises who need to access their vehicles while completing the job. The health and safety of myself and the delivery people will be compromised with the risk of injury and strain to ourselves, potential injury to pedestrians and the very likely possibility of damage to stock over such a long distance”- Queen Street Business
The proposal also has a material impact on the accessibility rights for people with mobility issues. This is not acceptable and the proposed alternative for access from the mobility parking across the road is not a safe or suitable alternative. This concern has been validated by those with mobility needs that we have spoken to.
One of the people that HOTC has heard from is Dr Le Grice, CNZM, OBE, FRSC, who cites the “outrageous and totally unacceptable” plan (to close Queen Street, between Mayoral Drive and Wellesley Street, to all cars and other vehicles, except for buses, travelling north) that blatantly disregards the human rights of people with mobility disability needs.
Auckland Transport must:
- Review the current layout and proposed restrictions in this part of the street (without Covid works).
- Enable access for customer drop offs and picks ups in this section of Queen Street, on both the western and eastern side, including for valet parking outside the hotel and to support the businesses, including the Town Hall.
- Enable access for servicing and loading.
- Review the overall needs for mobility access/parking in this area, noting the key destinations such as hotels as well as arts venues.
- Enable safe cycling.
HOTC can support a dedicated bus lane heading north in this area if the requested provisions are provided for.
Wakefield to Wellesley Street
HOTC does not support the current proposal for 24/7 bus lanes in both directions.
One of the implications of this proposal is that access for pick ups and drop offs to the Civic Theatre will be prevented. The proposal will also restrict the ability for some businesses in this part of the street to receive deliveries, including overnight, without penalty. This is required as there are no alternatives for this activity to happen elsewhere.
Auckland Transport must:
- Review the current layout and proposed restrictions in this part of the street and utilise the space effectively (without Covid works).
- Enable access for pick ups and drop offs to businesses, including the Civic Theatre.
- Allow freight and goods and service activity through this area, including at night-time to support deliveries to businesses in this area.
- Enable safe cycling.
- Review the needs for mobility access in this area, noting key destinations such as the Civic Theatre.
Wellesley Street to Shortland Street
HOTC is concerned about buses, service vehicles and all other vehicles and modes operating in one lane. Auckland Transport must:
- Provide separate bus priority to avoid conflict and congestion with other traffic in the area (by removing the covid works).
Shortland Street to Customs Street
- HOTC does not support the introduction of a bus only lane northbound from 6am to 10am and 4pm to 7pm as this will restrict access for essential traffic in particular GSV vehicles and this would have a material impact on businesses in the area for receiving goods and services at peak times.
- HOTC would support the introduction of a special purpose lane that permits buses and essential traffic only northbound from 6am to 10am and 4pm to 7pm, enabling access for loading and servicing activity in the area. However, concerns have been raised about potential environmental issues for Shortland Street with the diversion of northbound non-essential traffic during peak time and potential impacts on the Fort Street shared spaces. These should be assessed before a decision is made.
Fort Street closure
- Operational issues raised by businesses must be addressed urgently.