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Photo of the day – Queen St

Queen St hums with people most days. Time for some more pedestrian space?

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45 comments to Photo of the day – Queen St

  • Fred

    Everyone seems to know it’s a no brainer to increase pedestrian space on Queen St, but it doesn’t happen. What’s the hold up?

    • Max

      Arguably that happened only 6-7 years ago (which is very recent, for a whole-of-street change). Get out some photos from 2005, and check how wide Queen Street footpaths were then!

      Not saying we shouldn’t be making it even better, but probably the way to go there is by reducing the type of and number of vehicles, and thsu making the street more permeable (get rid of signalised mid-block crossings by making it safe and easy to cross anywhere etc…) rather than simply spend another HUGE sum on widening footpaths again. Or simply pedestrianise it all, except for buses… that could be done without changing the kerbs as an interim measure.

      • bbc

        Yes it could be done in a weekend with planters and bollards a la NY’s Times Square. Many streets could get the same treatment, in lieu of full pedestrianisation of High Street simply place pots in all the parking spaces until such a time as money is available. The road per se isn’t the issue on High Street rather the narrow footpaths resulting from all the parking.

  • SteveC

    the majority of people traversing Queen St have always been on foot

    • 72% apparently! the other quarter being bus or car users. I figure car users are probably around 10% tops.

      • And they are all passing through: there is no Queen St destination for private cars.

        When will AC and AT wake up to this? The traffic engineers at AT are all about ‘demand’ for road building but not so interested, it seems, when it comes to road closing. Now why would that be? Seems to be much more of a faith based profession than they tell themselves: only certain facts are emphasised and considered important, ones that may be interpreted to support their religion of more Tarmac everywhere always.

  • Needs to be a Transit Mall, ie for pedestrians and buses which could be upgraded to light rail. Obvious other end of the route is Dominion Rd. Oh there you go its on the CFN map as light rail. How to get there? Get the buses running well first by getting the pointless private cars out of their way. Also Queen St will be needed to run the services that are currently on Albert St. How about we get them there now with proper priority bringing yet even more people directly to this already pedestrian place. Obviously some road space still required for deliveries, but they too will work better without the cars going round and round in circles slowly through there.

    • SteveC

      The distribution of bus stops around the CBD needs to be re-thought, particularly as the centre of gravity of employment moves north to Britomart and the Viaduct. The following may well change with the implementation of the PT Plan, but these comments are based on what happens now.

      In very broad terms, the majority of the bus routes that terminate at Britomart serve areas also served by rail, the west, the east and south. The Central Isthmus services have termini at Victoria St or south of there, Dominion Rd in particular is a considerable walk from the new ASB building for example. Yes, you could catch the inner Link, but that adds cost and perhaps less certainty than walking.

      As the Central Isthmus is unlikely to have rail, light, heavy, steam, maglev or electric in the forseeable future, I think that Dominon, Sandringham, Mt Eden and Manukau Rd buses should all start at the Britomart precinct, run up and down Queen St with absolute priority (i.e. only stop at bus stops, wishful thinking perhaps, they can stop for ped phases) and then on to their respective catchments.

      With greater rail frequencies, the possibly less frequent buses traversing the rail catchments (as I have said often before, buses and trains running in paralel serve different markets) could easily move to the uptown stops and people downtown choose to catch a train and transfer if need be at a suburban station, or walk uptown to catch a bus. They will have a choice. At present Central Isthmus people also have a choice, CBD bus terminals that might be some distance from work, or maybe drive.

      This is a very broad brush concept that arose from some work I did on accessibility to thewaterfront edge, it was typed up pretty quickly without checking detail, so consider the concept and how it relates to accessibility for people south of the Waitemata.

      • SteveC

        I should have said that this comment spun off from Patrick’s reference to the Dom Rd buses.

        • Don

          One of the problems that occurs with buses in Queen St. is that due to the location of the stops and no bus control of the traffic light phasing a bus will stop to pick up passengers, move off and often then stop again for the lights. As there is intermediate pedestrian crossings each block this invariably means another stop before stopping again for passengers then the next traffic lights…….no wonder that a pedestrian can out-walk the bus! As I understand it the traffic lights are setup to ensure that a clear run is not possible to prevent cars racing but this has the debilitating effect on PT.
          What could be done is to have bus traffic lights at the bus stops which would sequence the departing bus to the lights through to the next stop. The timing would be linked to the position of the buses on their way up/down the street.

          • Timing the lights is simple and should be done: it’s the pointless private cars in the way that make the buses there so slow. Why on earth the buses at very least don’t have a lane each way of priority is a sign that our city institutions, AT and AC, are still totally captured by the motorist world view. As well as failing to point out to local retail that their view that cars equals sales is proven to be totally erroneous.

          • SteveC

            B aspects on all signals would alleviate this problem, but you also have to get the buses to the signals for the B phase to work, you could put the bus stops immediately on the approach side of the intersections and do some smart programming so the phase is only called when the front door closes

            no reason why the B sapect shouldn’t co-ordinate with parallel ped phases, unless the bus is turning off Queen St

          • Don

            If the bus routes that feed non rail destinations ( Dom Rd, Pt Chev etc) originated/terminated at Britomart there would be no need to turn off Queen St. A simple transponder in the bus could trigger the light sequence for a green wave ‘B’ or otherwise to the net bus stop. Even if all of the bus stops were compulsory stop to trigger the next ‘wave’ this would mean a reduction from a maximum of 14 stops (bus+lights) to 5 (bus only). Any bus routes currently turning onto/off Queen St at Victoria & Wellesley Sts should go via Britomart leaving cross routes as they are now.

          • SteveC

            I was thinking more of turning east onto Victoria St to Symonds, but that’s detail, I more wanted to express a principle

  • pete

    Those red buses going up and down Queen Street would be a help, except everytime I use one, it goes so slow with locals/tourists working out they have to pay a $1 to go two blocks. The bus driver doesn’t sell them a HOP card either, so this must happen to each city tourist a few times! Why aren’t they just free for everyone and therefore FAST and convienient

  • Logan

    Anyone else noticed a big uptick in homeless people downtown panhandling lately?

    • Joshua

      It annoys me the amount of ‘homeless’. I say that cause I’m sure many of them aren’t actually homeless. If they were they would take food when offered to them rather than just cash!

  • Jack

    I just have to blow my steam: those info stations have annoyed me since the day they were put up, they we’re glitchy (blue screen of death — seriously?), unattractive (the brightness was far too low and they showed bad content) and now have been out of order for months (if not years). Good idea, bad implementation, total waste of money.

  • KLK

    One thing I hadn’t thought about but picked up on Patricks 2011 post is the difference this would make to east-west traffic flows.

    Pedestrians get better amenity, buses get priority and the remaining cars get better set-west flow. So why isn’t this happening?

  • Ari

    Timing the lights is not simple. In fact it is incredibly difficult when you are constrained by double barnes dances and complicated phasing to deal with vehicle movements in all directions. And pedestrianising Queen St can’t be done in a weekend in terms of preparation. It requires weeks of consultation, TMP planning, and lots of money to pay for the whole thing.

    • Anthony McBride

      Tell that to New York City….

      • Ok weeks of consultation, so we could have it ready by Christmas then!

        I’m happy to cover the signals with black plastic while others are putting out the planters and barricades, that’s what they do for temporary signal changes around road works.

    • Luke C

      I wonder if we should look at further reducing traffic on Queen Street itself, by restricting left turns into Queen Street from Wellesley and/or Victoria Streets.
      Westbound traffic turning left into Queen St along Wellesley helps clog up buses, as was seen on the Transportblog twitter on Friday morning.
      Wakefield Street is also another shocker that fires cars into Queen St, should be made into a dead end just before Queen Street. Potentially could allow Dominion Road outbound buses through in the interim, but not much inconvenience for these to head down Queen to mayoral, then to Wakefield. In a couple of years won’t be using this connection anyway.

    • Steve D

      If we turned Queen Street into a transit mall, and pedestrianised the closest block of each of Fort Street, Shortland Street, and Wyndham Street, you wouldn’t need “complicated phasing to deal with vehicle movements in all directions”.

      Cars won’t be turning on or off, New Network buses will run straight along Wellesley Street, rather than turning around at Wakefield Street, and the Airbus and City LINK will continue to run straight up and down Queen Street. No-one’s going to be making any turns between Customs Street and Mayoral Drive, except for very occasionally, a service vehicle. I think they can live with left-in, left-out.

      I guess there’s also bikes (if they’re allowed in the transit mall at all – they aren’t in Wellington), but there’s various options for them, like a bike scramble at the start of the ped scramble, hook turns, or (I’m not a traffic engineer) having whatever you call a green phase that allows right turns but doesn’t give them right-of-way. Is that a filter turn?

      Though I think it would still be impossible to time Wellesley/Queen, with the sheer volume of buses in each direction.

      • Yeah that’s it; radical simplification. Better for every mode, way better for quality of place, way way better for retailers. The lawyers up Shortland St will get used to driving up and not down. And lets send all the Dominion Rd buses through Queen to build up to a light rail conversion and give some relief to the Symonds St and Wellesley St bus routes.

        I guess you have to allow taxis still into Queen for access? Im not sure about this, alternatively they could have lavish ranks on the terminated side streets: Wyndam, Shortland, Wakefield….?

        • Steve D

          I’d say that the cross streets will be fine. As I understand the RPTP maps, there won’t be any buses on Victoria Street any more, so that could be a good option for a decent-sized taxi rank.

          I think the stubs of terminated streets like Wyndham and Shortland would be better used for loading zones to serve businesses in the pedestrianised bits. Taxis are a bit more time-sensitive (people are paying by the km and the minute, lots of taxis on small streets will cause congestion), but on the other hand, people should be willing to walk a bit farther for a taxi than when loading/unloading.

          Totally forgot about Wakefield Street, though. Maybe make it a one-way loop feeding in from Rutland Street (which would be one-way westbound), closing the Queen Street connection, and pedestrianise Lorne outside the library? That garage in the building ASB is in could be left-in, left-out from Wellesley. Given how wide the streets are, making Rutland and Wakefield one-way would open up a huge amount of free space for kerb build-outs, and (wait for it) angle parking, both of which are far more useful than being able to drive at 50km/h for three seconds.

          Airedale would probably have to stay as it is, though, so cars would need to be allowed through Queen Street, at least southbound, to access it. So maybe we’d still need to allow left turns out of Wakefield/Rutland? Or is there another option?

          • There’s four lanes on Queen currently, middle two for Transit [bus then Light Rail] outer with stops and indented loading bays for deliveries… ? Current bays become extended footpath/ furniture/ planting etc

          • Steve D

            I do like the Dominion Road/Queen Street bus idea.

            I think we need to seriously widen the footpaths on Queen Street, though. I’d cut it to one lane each way with pullouts for bus stops so the Airbus, City Link, and Dom Rd can pass each other. Deliveries can use the same lanes, and have separate parking bays, but no access during the peak. Key thing is kerb extensions at intersections, so pedestrians only need to walk across two lanes (which by the way, irony time, would speed up the pedestrian phase!).

            Once the CRL and airport line are built we can drop the Airbus and City Link and have inline stops for Dom Rd buses (or later, light rail).

            One real mystery is what’s planned for Wellesley Street. The RPTP has it as an incredibly busy spine for most of the buses coming over Grafton Bridge or the Symonds Street bridge. I’d guess the plan is to have one general lane and one bus lane each way, with pullout stops at the kerb, and buses running skip-stop. Anyone know?

          • SteveD says:

            “I’d cut it to one lane each way with pullouts for bus stops so the Airbus, City Link, and Dom Rd can pass each other. Deliveries can use the same lanes, and have separate parking bays, but no access during the peak. Key thing is kerb extensions at intersections, so pedestrians only need to walk across two lanes (which by the way, irony time, would speed up the pedestrian phase!).

            Once the CRL and airport line are built we can drop the Airbus [from Queen St] and City Link and have inline stops for Dom Rd buses (or later, light rail).”

            I say: YES THIS.

            And the Barnes Dances could go as the Peds will always have a direction clear on every phase as there will be no turning… every cycle will get a turn more frequently or have a longer duration as there will only be two, Like New York: North South or East West. And they can be synchronised! Like NYC!

            Only two light phases!

            Radical simplicity.

          • Steve D

            Or like San Francisco, or even like parts of Wellington (Featherston Street works like this during the day when people keep the stupid beg buttons pushed). Both of those cities, and Manhattan, have serious one-way systems though, which would help the timing somewhat.

  • I have just come back from a weekend in Brisbane (2.2m metro pop., density 346.0/km2 ). It really puts the lack of progress in Auckland (1.5m metro pop, density 2,700/km2) into stark contrast.

    The main north/south pedestrian mall (Queen Street) is about the length of our Queen Street from Quay Street to Wellesley and also has a second perpendicular pedestrian area running roughly east/west. Just at the end of the east/west mall is King George Square which is the equivalent of Aotea Square, only good. In general the public spaces are fantastic and were full of people, especially families with children.

    Pedestrianising Queen Street is such a no brainer and as many have said above, we only need to do a New York, Time Square job to try it for a few weeks. Once the retailers realise their customers are not arriving by car (how could any sane person look at Queen Street and think otherwise?) they will be jumping up and down to make it permanent, just like Fort Street.

    Some of the highlights for me in Brisbane were:

    1. The reach and scale of the train network. The city has just extended a line. There are regular trains to the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast. Even with the low dnsity, it is still working.

    2. The busways and how effective they are. One busway runs under the pedestrian mall and half of many central streets are given over to the grade separated busway. Sometimes I saw three buses in a row racing through.

    3. The City Cycle bike share scheme has great potential but is being held back by lacklustre technology, limited hours and the helmet requirement (some bikes come with helmets but many people are turned off by hygiene issues). I did see some people using it but I couldnt get subscribed online – a common problem I heard. It can be commected to the Go card (the equivalent of Hop).

    4. Lack of traffic. Despite the huge crowds in the centre, traffic was light and some streets had almost no traffic but obviously did at peak times. A lot of people were arriving by train or bus.

    5. Shared pedestrian/cycle paths down the river. On one side these are cantilevered and also connect to the river ferry network. We are getting there with the new waterfront paths but it does show what a disgrace Tamaki Drive is in terms of cycling.

    6. Train to the airport. We must have it.

    The train frequency did seem a little low but there were signs up at stations that these were being increased and the timetables being revised, so changes are happening.

    It might be said that Queensland has mining and other advantages, but if Auckland even had half of what Brisbane has in the way of a functioning transport system, it would be doing much better than now. There is nothing special about Auckland, we have just made bad transport choices.

  • Ari

    I reiterate. It may be a no-brainer, but it is far from simply throwing out a few traffic cones. It would take lots of work and consultation to even put in a temporary closure. Plus the cost for the TMP alone for a weekend would be tens of thousands. I can just imagine the complaints about money being wasted on temporary efforts while berms are left unmown.

    • Max

      The amount of work it costs may be non-trivial (i.e. “tens of thousands”) – but that amount IS trivial compared to the benefits, and even more trivial compared to other projects which our prime minister and our mayor kick off without so much as a consultation exercise as to whether we need them. I regularly hold in my hand thick design and planning document which (from working in the industry) I know cost many hundreds of thousands of dollars. Then there’s some motorway projects where even the ADVANCE planning is costed in the MILLIONS.

      In short – get over it, Ari. It remains dirt cheap. To argue that we should even HESITATE to do it on that account shows how skewed those priorities are that assume pedestrians aren’t even worth a cheap trial costing a fraction of the PR budget alone of a large project like Waterview or P2W or AMETI.

  • Ari

    I have nothing to get over. How did making Queen St a pedestrian space on the weekends somehow get compared to a motorway project? The difference is my rates money vs other people’s petrol taxes.Wasting funds on temporary measures is money down the drain. But it isnt even about money. All I have said is that it isnt a simple project as commented by others. This is fact. If it were simple, it would have been done already.

    • Complexity or cost hasn’t prevented this only a lack of vision, political will and the car-culture at our institutions.

    • It has been done already, all the time in fact.

      We closed Queen St last year for a pedestrian funday, not to mention every year for the Santa parade, Diwali, triathlon and the golden mile.
      It is simple, and does get done routinely every few of months.

    • Max

      Funny – you are STILL being very selective. Motorway projects come out of your pockets as well, or do you still believe the myth that petrol taxes pay for all our construction and maintenance costs? Also, how is AMETI a motorway? And the comment about how temporary things are money down the drain, yeepers, mate, so many things in life and society are temporary. Under your logic, Council or government should never ever support or organise any event financially (because if temporary pedestrianisation for some weeks or months is money down the drain then obviously an event lasting a few hours is, like what, high treason?).

      Bang for your buck is the question you should be asking. This has so much bang you’d be deaf if we actually did it. New York, in that car-obsessed country US of A did it, and they loved it so much that they are making it permanent now. Here in NZ we’d spend 5 times as much in writing reports, they simply tested it in real life.

  • Sacha

    I’d rather see a car-free High St/Lorne St linking Britomart via the Fort St shared space with Aotea Square. Queen St has little going for it as a pedestrian route, and the building scale along the other way is far more human-scale and engaging.

    Not that I wouldn’t convert a lane of Queen St to bus-only right away. When I drive in the cbd it has never been a hardship avoiding Queen St.

  • The only problem i see with making Queen St or High St fro that matter but to a lesser extent, is Businesses being able to receive products. How would a courier driver take a package to someone? Or how would a building receieve a new desk? All this would have to be wheeled or carried down Queen street which i guess isnt so bad for one item but what about when fitting a whole building? The extra cost to these companies would be HUGE! I’m not saying making Queen Street pedestrian only is a bad idea. I just think its a lot more complicated than saying “Not driving down Queen street is easy for me so everyone else can do it”

    • SteveC

      servicing could easily be taken care of by an exemption for delivery vehicles between 7:00 and 10:AM, a generous period which should cover opening hours for retail and office premises. There may be bars or clubs closed during that period, but they can be accomodated, maybe another period from 7:00 to 9:00 PM, but I doubt carriers would be too chuffed delivering in the evening.

    • Tony delivery companies are reporting that the shared spaces make deliveries easier: streets not cluttered with parked cars make it easier. Anyway we just do what every dense city in the world does and that’s time priority access for deliveries. This is not a big problem.

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