27 Nov 2018

Car-free CBD in Auckland comes one step closer

6:56 pm on 27 November 2018

Plans are afoot to ban cars from Queen St and other roads in central Auckland, with councillors voting unanimously to trial the idea next year.

A concept image of what Queen St could look like without cars.

A concept image of what Queen St could look like without cars. Photo: Supplied / Auckland council

There has been debate around whether or not to ban cars to make it a more vibrant, safe and clean environment since the 1960s.

But the plans never left the drawing board.

With the City Rail Link, the country's largest infrastructure project, now well underway and plans to build light rail from the city centre to the Airport in the works, the council has identified an opportunity to get things moving.

Today, a team of urban design specialists pitched their vision for the central city to the council's Planning Committee.

Councillors voted unanimously to trial the idea next year, which would radically transform the city centre.

Principal urban designer George Weeks said the "open streets" plan would make Queen St inaccessible to all vehicles except for buses, delivery vehicles and essential service vehicles like rubbish trucks.

"Over the next decade public transport capacity will increase by ... up to 370 per cent with rail, light rail, buses and ferries bringing hundreds of thousands of people into the city.

"Access for Everyone prioritises movement between zones for trains, buses, and light rail vehicles."

Federal St and High St are also being put forward as pedestrian-only roads, and Quay St near the waterfront as a pedestrian-friendly road.

"Fundamentally, the heart of the Queen St valley becomes the most accessible place in the whole of New Zealand. By removing the discretionary layer of car traffic you free-up street space to other functions," Mr Weeks said.

"It allows us to prepare the streets for light rail construction years before it's actually built, minimising disruption to business."

Auckland Design Office general manager Ludo Campbell-Reid said the plan had community backing.

"It was the number one most publicly-supported project in the City Centre Master Plan in 2012, so you have the mandate from the public to consider this and to drive it forward," he said.

Councillors at the meeting were overwhelmingly positive and committee chairperson Chris Darby said he wanted to see trials as soon as possible.

"I don't want to see a report come back in, you know, a year.

"I'd actually like to look towards March [and] I'd like to see a lower Queen St, possible High [St], possibly Howick, possibly Otahuhu on in Henderson and on a Sunday, between 10am and 3pm we'll just celebrate Auckland with an open streets plan."

Mayor Phil Goff said with the swelling number of people in the CBD every day, there needed to be change soon.

"It's not a matter of choice, it's not even a matter of it's a lovely vision. It is a lovely vision if we get it right. But it's a matter of absolute necessity with pedestrian numbers doubling every few years and CRL and light rail expanding that."

The urban design team will come back to the Planning Committee next year with some concrete proposals.

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