Recently Auckland announced that they are going to completely transform their city centre by pedestrianising Queen Street, and making an amazing environment for everyone on foot, on bike or in public transport throughout the whole central city. This will be achieved by retaining vehicle movements only for servicing and access, and removing all through traffic from the central city and making them drive around it instead. Summary at Greater Auckland.
This is massive. When I first saw the plan I thought it looks nice, but it will be way too controversial to ever happen, no politican will want to risk the backlash from the old-school crowd averse to any change. But in contrast, it was approved on a unanimous vote. And the media coverage seems to have been mainly positive. This is probably partly to do with it being introduced on a trial basis.
It got me thinking – could we do something like this in Christchurch?
You could argue that our pedestrian spine should be Cashel Street (already pedestrianised) or Colombo Street (pedestrianisation proposed). But with the opening of the Promenade last weekend (more on that here), I was really impressed with just how nice it is along the Avon River now. I think the river is a natural pedestrian spine through the city.
I came up with a vision for a pedestrianised riverside, combined with a couple of spurs up Victoria and High Streets. This divides the central city into 4 sectors. People wanting to drive to and from these sectors could still do so, it just means anyone driving through the city would have to instead drive around it. and someone wanting to drive from one sector to another couldn’t do it directly, they’d have to walk, bike, scooter or bus. Or alternatively they could drive out to the edge of the central city, round the outside, and then back in again. Some of the more necessary vehicles could still be allowed – emergency vehicles, service vehicles, and public transport. Possibly you could allow mobility card holders as well. It’s not necessary to remove all cars, if we can just remove the 90% of vehicles that are there unnecessarily these places will immediately become much more pleasant and efficient places to live, work and play.
Do you think Christchurch is ready for something like this?
I have a feeling it’s probably not quite yet. There are a few things Auckland has that we don’t:
- 65,000 inner city residents. We have only 7,000 (is predicted to be about 20,000 once the rebuild is complete).
- 150,000 inner city workers. We have only about 35,000 (is predicted to be 75,000 by 2048).
- Better public transport. The majority of central city workers in Auckland arrive on trains, buses and ferries, or already live there. I haven’t seen the numbers for Christchurch central city, but I imagine the percentage arriving in buses would be a small minority.
But we don’t need to jump in and do it all in one go. A lot of it already exists: much of the promenade is now pedestrianised or shared space, Hagley Park, Victoria Square, Cathedral Square, High Street are pedestrianised. Worcester Boulevard is basically a shared space. As far as pedestrian bridges go, we already have Antigua Street bridge, Cashel Street bridge and Victoria Square bridge. I think we could start by connecting up these pieces, by simply pedestrianising a couple of the bridges which don’t really provide a useful vehicle route anyway – I’m thinking Hereford Street, Worcester Street, Gloucester Street, Armagh Street. Simultaneously we need to keep progressing improvements to public transport, walking and cycling infrastructure, and working hard to enable more high-density residential and commercial development.
In a few years it’s likely we’ll have some form of rapid transit (be it trains, bus rapid transit, trams…), and hopefully a whole lot more inner city workers and residents. At that point we could look at making Manchester Street bridge bus-only, and pedestrianising Armagh Street bridge and Colombo Street bridge.
I think the Montreal/Durham pair would be the most difficult to sever, as they provide a genuine arterial function. Maybe you could retain them and try to do some sort of grade-separation.
What do you think of what Auckland has done? Would you like something similar done in Christchurch?