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O’Connell St shared space is wonderful, but

Over the weekend the latest shared space in the city was completed, on O’Connell Street. This joins the growing network of shared spaces with Lorne Street, Elliott St, Darby St, Fort St and the also recently completed Federal Street. I would argue that O’Connell Street is the best one yet. The new paved look beautifully matches the scale of the street and period buildings. The street is also all activated frontages with no parking buildings that cause issues on some of the other spaces at peak times.

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O’Connell Street on late Sunday afternoon

 

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A great feature is that all of the benches have little historic stories in the street. Several focussed on how the area was viewed negatively for so long. Another bench notes how the street was widened by 50% in the 1920’s, with buildings from the 1840’s demolished for this to occur. However this can party explain the wonderful character of the street.

 

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O’Connell St on Monday lunchtime

 

Even though the street had been a construction site for 6 months until a few days ago, the street was buzzing with people yesterday lunchtime. A couple of cafes on the street had already set up tables on the street, and I’m sure more will follow. People we also sitting on the benches reading or otherwise relaxing. Overall had a wonderful atmosphere.

For a comparison, this is what O’Connell Street looked like at the start of the year.

O'Connell St

 

A contributing reason for the great atmosphere was that workers were still touching up a few small things, therefore street was still closed to general traffic. However as soon as barriers were removed even briefly, people drove through, and straight away someone was taking advantage of the free parking on offer. I understand later in the afternoon the street was fully opened for general traffic and there were some issues with cars driving too fast.

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It is worthwhile pointing out that their are no vehicles entrances on the street, and no carparks. Therefore the only reason cars need to be on the street is for deliveries, which certainly are essential.

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This sign from the end of the street makes clear that deliveries should occur between 6am and 11am. So therefore after 11am their are no reasons for cars to be on the street at all. So we really need to ask the question as to why general traffic is allowed at all. The only use is as a rat-run, or for people circling around looking for parking, both pointless activities. So why not shut the street from 11am everyday, or even better have bollards to allow deliveries only between 6am and 11am, so no general traffic is allowed at all. This will not mean any money has been wasted, but will allow the full potential of the space to be used everyday.

 

50 comments to O’Connell St shared space is wonderful, but

  • Even if just one end was closed that would really achieve that aim. The issue is not so much access as much as it being used as a through route by cars. That is what adds to the speed problems and rat running.

    Same issue as with Fort Street.

    • Shaun Tee

      Interesting take on a ‘shared’ space

      • Well that is an outdated concept that has rapidly been abandoned in the Netherlands, where it started, as not being sufficient to create a walking and cycling friendly environment. So the concept is already defunct but it is a good start for NZ.

        Much better is a “woonerf” design which is now best practice in the Netherlands:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woonerf

        O’Connell, Elliott, Fort and High Streets are perfect for that kind of treatment.

    • Jack

      Agree that one end of each shared space should be closed to cars to ensure that the space is only used by cars for local access and not shortcutting. Haven’t been on O’Connell Street, but cars are a HUGE problem on Elliott Street.

  • SDW

    I would have thought the cost to include an automated bollard system at one end wouldn’t have significantly added to the overall cost of the project – or would indeed be expensive to put in, in the future if there is an identified problems with car abusing the street. Perhaps something to keep in mind during consultation for all shared spaces projects going forward – or to possibly lobby the local board for.

  • Barney

    It looks great. The beautiful buildings enhance the atmosphere. Maybe needs some entertainers and street vendors to attract people. Maybe apply the same design to Queen St.
    I do agree about closing it to traffic though. I use Elliot St almost daily and at times it is almost dangerous and the mental drivers are often middle aged business men types. Says a lot for our business community.

    • Luke C

      Elliott is another one that should be closed after 11am. Designers do need to get away from long straight lines too. Did like the slalom in the old version of Elliott St, but could achieve same affect with shared spaces if alternated benches.

  • Logan

    I suggest a drone-based defensive system which fires pellets of bright orange “shame paint” at vehicles in the area outside the permitted hours.
    (Car-shaped pedestrians may be collateral damage, but that’s a small price to pay for properly enforcing pedestrian priority.)

  • The world certainly didn’t end or the CBD come to a grinding halt from it being closed for the months it was under construction. Leave it closed permanently.

  • One thing I am concerned about it this low benches. I’m sure we can all remember what happened to the REO sign on Lorne St.

    • bbc

      They will be struck and damaged, much as all the bike stands are slowly being detsroyed in the shared spaces too. The outcome is I avoid ever attaching my bike as I know it’s not safe.

      • Luke C

        these are made of stone, so car will sure to come of second best. Hopefully could be fixed with just a polish, rather than the poor old REO sign. This is being repositioned up on the top level btw.

  • Anthony McBride

    Does anyone have a picture of an overview of which streets are shared spaces now and which will become shared spaces? I’m a non-local so I get a bit lost. >_>;

    • Morgan

      I agree, not being a Aucklander I have no idea where these streets are in relation to one another.

      • Stu Donovan

        is google maps only available to Aucklanders?

        • Logan

          Although technically it is available, people outside Auckland prefer to avoid digital devices and instead communicate with potatoes. Napier to Hastings is 530 potato-hurlings, for example. The charter of Whangarei is written on a large, flat potato and mainly discusses potato husbandry. There is a religious order in Greymouth which requires of the observant to carry baby potatoes in their cheeks during Lent.
          You may be interested to know that the term for Aucklanders by non-Aucklanders, ‘JAFA’, is a corruption of ‘jurfaquar’ which means ‘eater of fewer potatoes’.

  • Good, hopefully they could build more affordable carparks buildings nearby to compensate for the lost street car parks.

    Also looking forward for the use of public space bylaw to pass so people can do some street performance and set up small stalls there.

    • Chris O

      There are two off-street carparking buildings about a block away in the Chancery Quarter, the council car park on Victoria Street plus at least four more parking facilities in the Fort Street area. The zone is awash with off-street car parking.

      O’Connell Street is already my preferred route between work and Unity Books, although I had an experience today of a car racing through at “hostile to pedestrians speed”. My personal policy is to walk in the middle of the shared space streets to remind cars about the “shared” part. (I don’t block cars – just want them to be aware they have to consider pedestrians). I was quite impressed with the speed with which the first benches came out for outside eating and drinking.

      Hope the High Street retailers are envious…

    • Klein ‘affordable’ carparking is impossible because of land value. There are already ratepayer subsidised parking buildings and adding to these would be a disaster. Because it isn’t smart to subsidise more driving in or to the city. Investing to improve the appeal and effectiveness of the transit and active options is what’s needed.

      • The reason why the car park charge so much is because the lack of competition and expensive bodycorp. There is only 2 private competitors: tournament and Wilson. We really need more than 2 competitors for real competitions. Is the new competitors hard to enter the market due to some strict law here?

        From an investment point of view, I found out the body corp for car-park in NZ is unreasonable expensive here. That’s why the landlord has to charge more to make a good investment. Unless the investor owns the whole building, otherwise they just have to pay what the body corp asked, which drives up rent.

        • No AT provides thousands of subsidised spaces in the CBD. No amount of competition can change the economics of land value anyhow.

        • Kelvin,

          There is not infinite land available on which to put car parks; this is a physical limit on supply, and therefore cost, given there is committed demand. It is not a matter of competition for the marginal dollar. Indeed, if there was excess supplier competition for the sake of it, you’d probably be charged even higher prices, due to inefficiencies from dividing economies of scale (whereas overheads like towing, maintenance, automation, security, staff, etc, are currently more consolidated). You’re better off cutting demand for car parking, which perhaps counter-intuitively requires shifting land use away from motoring services and towards walking, cycling, public transit, mixed use and dense living. Then, as a motorist, you’ll have an easier time bidding for the (still many) remaining car parking spots, should you find them necessary.

        • How many carparks were there on O’Connell St anyway? 30? And timed to what, 60 mins?

  • Nik

    I’m looking forward to other parts of the city centre having the same treatment, then the gradual linking up of these islands of sanity, where cars are an unwelcome addition.

    As the city centre becomes more pedestrianised and transit improves it may even be possible to head to the city centre without a car and enjoy the entire experience.

  • Stevenz

    I have always been suspicious of shared spaces here mainly because drivers in NZ don’t pay any attention to pedestrians. And the long straight lines are surely the products of the traffic engineers who don’t want *too* much constraint on cars. But if they’re working OK with respect to those problems, and speed limits enforced, I’m all for them.

    • Loraxus

      The fact that our shared spaces are still very straight-lined is at least in part because our mobility access groups (wisely or wrongly) requested that there still be “footpath strips” along the building sides that are totally or at least largely out of bounds for cars (look at the design closesly). That however means that the abilty to “meander” the actual cars-still-allowed-part is much more constrained.

  • I like Shared Spaces but there is no need for this short street with no vehicle destinations to allow through traffic. It is also arguably Auckland’s best architectural street that deserves to be used without moving or parked tin in the way. It will surely be closed soon enough to traffic except delivery at specified times and emergency

  • The Real Matthew

    The lack of shop frontage on this shared space is a real concern for me.

    The success of the street is going to be reliant on the Council to bring ideas in that make the place vibrant. That introduces an additional cost which the ratepayer should not be footing the bill for.

    Otherwise it risks turning into an abandoned alleyway.

    • ‘Lack of shop frontage’ ? What on eart do you mean? Have you actually been there? Anyway ‘abandoned alleyway': cool.

      • The Real Matthew

        Can you not see the pictures Patrick? There is a real lack of frontage to the road which compromises the ability to utilise the area for human based activity.

        My fear is that we have just created a really wide footpath, which is rather pointless.

        The whole idea of shared spaces is to open up the land usage. With the lack of shop frontage it’s hard to see how this change of use is going to open up other usages.

        • Stu Donovan

          I don’t know what you’re talking about: There’s a solid retail activity on the western side and fairly solid commercial/retail on the eastern. There’s doors to buildings everywhere; believe me it’s fairly active. Much more active than any of the other shared spaces, actually, with the possible exception of western end of Fort Street.

    • Hope the trading/activities in public space bylaw is passed and applied here.

  • Rharris

    Looks good. Next shared space high street.

  • Lord Maths

    As a serious question, is it a positive that people are setting up tables on the street here? They are (directly) profiting from a scarce public resource (the footpath). Isn’t that just a subsidy by the ratepayer to the cafe in question?

    Which leads to another “bee in my bonnet” – why do we constantly allow construction companies to occupy vast swathes of the road to make profit? Look around any of the major construction sites in town (Skytower, Mansons Vic Street West, Fontera) and you will see closure of either the footpath or the road. I don’t think we should, again, be using ratepayer funded space to subsidise capitalism.

    My 2cents from a left wing perspective.

    • Loraxus

      Cafes pay rent for footpath use, and have to comply with bylaws. And yes, we should allow it, I think – commercia is life. We just shouldn’t allow it to choke of the street.

      Construction companies also have to pay rent, at least if they use up large amounts of space.

    • JeffT

      I’m personally happy with businesses setting up tables and chairs. It adds hugely to the life of a street. Just while I’m here (because I don’t seem to be able to log on these days), I also make a point to walk down the middle of Elliot Street. Could we not have just one street for pedestrians alone in Auckland?!

      • Loraxus

        Vulcan Lane…?

        Horrible little place. All those dead shops and bars. Cam Brewer and his likes must weep for the stalwarts still trying to survive there…

    • Stu Donovan

      yes they pay: and a reasonable amount too. I just wish the Council didn’t lease the space and then let me box it off with walls like they have on Fort Street.

    • I can see that in your (not particularly clever or subtle) way you are trying to trap people into a contradiction with free on street parking.

      Unfortunately for you, you obviously did zero research and so didn’t bother to discover with a 30sec Google search that businesses do pay a licence fee to use footpath space and there is quite a process to go through. Plus if they abuse or breach the terms of that licence, it will be taken away very quickly.

      As opposed to businesses that profit from rate payer subsidised on street parking that they pay nothing for. Plus if it is suggested that something that doesn’t belong to them is taken away for other rate payers to use, they suddenly act as though they do own it.

      Why an avowedly neoliberal government would allow such blatantly socialist subsidies to businesses I have no idea. My 2cents from a right wing, neoliberal perspective.

  • Luke C

    I am a little conflicted by that. However businesses do pay for the privilege. Use as general public usually very cheap, just a few dollars for a coffee.
    Not sure if construction companies pay, but they probably should. Encourages them to reduce footprint, often space taken up for free worker parking.

  • Stu Donovan

    I think it looks fabulous, vast improvement on what was there. Credit to Auckland Council and all the other consultant/construction staff involved in bringing this project to fruition.

    Agree with the desire to make it pedestrian only after 11am, but to be fair I think that’s an easy next step to make. For now it’d just be good to let the businesses re-establish themselves post-construction and benefit from the changes, before then thinking about stage 2, i.e. High Street!

    • BBC

      It does look amazing and it’s absolutely incredible how it’s such a nice space now with all the parking gone. It’s still very easy however, to now take this new status quo and wish it was even better with no cars.

      What does really annoy me however, is that during the construction of this, they relaid the whole curb for that ridiculous little road through Freyburg Square, the logical thing would have been to have relaid the curb closing it off, instead money was spent maintaining a pointless little road.

      • Luke C

        yes Freyberg Place especially ridiculous. Was talked about for next city centre upgrades, but in need of JSK.
        Did notice on Monday that a cone had handily been placed across the road at the High St end of Freyberg Places, and cars weren’t able to turn in.

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