What's driving all of this talk about pedestrianising the city centre - and what it means for business
Council are moving towards greater pedestrianisation in the Queen Street area with a decision to revise the City Centre Master Plan and a new concept called Access for Everyone.
Whilst the idea for more people friendly spaces is nothing new - we've seen the creation of new shared spaces such as O'Connell Street and Fort Street, and spaces like Freyberg Place over a number of years - there is a renewed focus on increasing the amount of space for people in and around the Queen Street area. We agree the time is right for Council to explore these changes, and with the vision and approach they're taking.
Why is now the time to start seriously exploring this change?
It's a combination of a few things:
- Keeping up with the huge growth the city's seeing - which means more people walking on the streets and getting in and out of the city centre
- Anticipating changes that projects like Light Rail (NB. business case for this is likely to be released early in the new year) are likely to bring to the city
- Addressing environmental issues like carbon levels
What exactly is Access For Everyone (A4E)?
A4E is a city access concept based on examples used successfully in overseas cities like Barcelona and under consideration in Melbourne.
The idea is to make it easier for people to access the city, prioritising access for necessary trips like those by emergency vehicles, servicing, construction vehicles, deliveries, rubbish removal, existing access to buildings (including parking buildings), people with specific mobility requirements and other critical business trips.
To make this kind of ‘non-discretionary’ access easier, trips that aren’t necessary – like ‘rat runs’ from east to west across the city - would be prevented. This means car drivers would need to use the motorway or Mayoral Drive to get close to where they’re going before entering the city centre.
Council estimates total vehicle trips in the city centre may be reduced by up to 20% due to these changes, which would free up the space for necessary trips like deliveries and make more space for people.
A4E is a major departure from existing traffic movement patterns in the city, so the idea will need to be well tested and explored so we end up with a plan that supports the core functions of the city – including people being able to get in and out easily and for services, maintenance and construction to take place effectively.
What happens now?
Now that councillors have given the green light for A4E as a concept, council is looking at city centre access needs for all kinds of users and exploring issues and opportunities. We’re a part of the stakeholder group inputting into this process.
We'll likely see trials and ‘tactical urbanism’ to help test the thinking and give the community examples of how things might work so they can give feedback on how it works for them. In a similar vein, we are already talking with the High Street community about their views on temporary changes for High Street. The timing and approach for these trials has yet to be confirmed.
- Loading and servicing
In partnership with Auckland Transport, we have established a Loading and Servicing reference group looking at the needs and issues around loading and servicing and exploring ideas for innovation in the changing city environment. This will feed into plans like A4E.
The next steps for A4E will be consulted on with the public along with the City Centre Master Plan refresh in the middle of next year. This will guide any permanent changes, which could be in place before proposed Light Rail construction in Queen Street (timing yet to be determined).
Frequently asked questions
I/my staff/clients currently drive to the city centre and park here – what will this mean for us?
Access to buildings, including existing car parks, will be maintained but the point where you enter the city may need to change.
My business depends on deliveries – how will the changes affect me?
Loading and servicing is important to keep the city functioning, so making sure businesses can receive deliveries is vital. The changes may mean that deliveries happen within certain time windows, or that delivery services increase the use of delivery hubs at the edge of the city centre, for example using cargo bikes to complete the ‘last mile’.
I have a construction project planned or underway - will any changes complicate things for me?
One of the reasons for exploring A4E is to make it easier for vital city activity, including construction, to take place. It's been recognised that the current busy city centre traffic environment could discourage property owners and developers from setting out on construction projects, so the intention would be to create easier access by reducing non-vital traffic in the city.
We'll continue to update businesses with more information and FAQs about the revised City Centre Master Plan and A4E as thinking progresses and more details become available.
For more information and to discuss
If you’d like to see more detail about the City Centre Master Plan refresh and the idea of A4E, read Council’s report here.
We look forward to having more discussions with businesses as council develops the ideas behind these plans and the potential for trials in and around the Queen Street area further.
If you’d like to talk to us about any of this, please email Tania Loveridge or call her on (09) 379 8000.