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City Centre Bus Infrastructure Changes: submission to Auckland Transport

Friday 26 Feb 2021

Heart of the City's feedback to Auckland Transport on changes to bus infrastructure in the city centre: submitted 26 February 2021.

Heart of the City represents the interests of business and property owners in the city centre. Please find our feedback outlined below. 

Heart of the City cannot support the proposed changes for the following reasons:

  • Enabling loading and servicing is critical for the success of the city centre. We continue to see the cannibalisation of dedicated loading space, project by project, street by street, which has a significant impact on business. There is no strategic approach to how loading and servicing activity is dealt with, despite the importance of this function being acknowledged in Council’s own strategic documents such as the City Centre Masterplan. This cannot continue.
  • The impact to business operations is illustrated by feedback from businesses to these proposals:
    • ​“The reduction of loading zones impacts us as a tour operator as there are less and less hotels we can access and stop directly outside to collect customers” – City centre business owner
    • “The removal of the parking/loading zone on Wellesley Street by Albert Park will create major issues for the venues in this area and businesses like ours that take people to these venues. For example, large groups travel to Auckland Art Gallery by coach and they need this parking to ensure access to the Gallery. If they remove that zone, there is literally nowhere for private coaches to safely drop-off/pickup people.” – City Centre business owner
    • “I firmly believe our bars will go out of business as the stock is extremely heavy and no delivery driver is going to carry it too far, we rely on these drivers and have a great repour [sic] with them, but this will soon disintegrate.” – City centre business owner
  • The proposed removal of all the loading zones on Wellesley Street between Albert Street and Queen Street presents a significant issue for businesses located on the street, particularly accommodation and hospitality businesses.  
  • We are unable to support these changes as there are no plans to offset the proposed removal of loading and taxis zones in this area.
  • Further, there has been no engagement with businesses in the area to understand their needs, despite the plans for Wellesley Street being in the pipeline for some time.
  • It cannot be assumed that other streets such as Elliott Street, or Queen Street, can just pick up the slack to support loading in this area.
    • “We also have 3-4 large bottle bins collected everyday how is this going to continue…..are we expected to carry 100 - 200 kegs from a loading zone approximately 100-200 metres away from the premises” -Business owner, Wellesley Street.
  • Furthermore, we are deeply concerned that there are plans from the Link Alliance to extend loading in Elliott Street until 3pm (currently 11am), for a two-year duration. Whilst this may be seen as providing immediate relief to the removal of loading zones in this area, it is not a satisfactory, long term outcome for Elliott Street. As a shared space which has been designed as place for people to gather and linger, it should not become a place for extended periods of loading.
  • We also note that loading in this part of Wellesley Street was proposed to be removed as part Auckland Transport’s NX2 consultation in 2018. Due to feedback from businesses at the time, Auckland Transport decided to retain loading provision in the area.
  • Action required: As we continue to request, Auckland Transport must urgently develop and implement a loading and servicing plan for the midtown of the city centre. This should include undertaking a needs assessment of what loading provision is needed, and to identify how and where loading can and should be provided. This must be done before the Wellesley Street/Albert Street intersection reopens in the middle of the year and needs to consider the future changes that the City Rail Link will bring to the area.

Rideshare and Taxis

  • To give priority to buses, the proposal sees the planned removal of taxi stops that are currently located on Wellesley Street, between Albert Street and Queen Street. In addition, Wellesley Street will have a significant increase in bus movements, which will mean this area will likely become difficult for those accessing via taxi or rideshare. The Civic Theatre is an important destination in the city centre, and our expectation is that any planned changes consider how best people, often with mobility needs, will be able to be dropped off and picked up in this part of the city. Safety, particularly at nighttime is an important aspect to consider. Recent research undertaken by Auckland Unlimited indicates this is a real concern for people in this part of the city centre.
  • Action required: Auckland Transport must urgently develop and implement a plan for taxi and rideshare access for the midtown of the city centre.

Integration with other projects

  • We believe that these proposed changes should have been coordinated with the Queen Street pilot project, including timing of consultation. It is imperative that there is an overall strategic approach to how this part of the city centre works, taking into consideration access and functional requirements for different user groups. Understanding the needs of businesses and others in the area must be a part of this process.
  • The proposed changes on Queen Street, including the physical changes on the street – such as extension of asphalt bus stops in several locations, and the filling in of a parking bay near the Q Theatre, is proposed in advance of consultation for the Queen Street pilot, planned we understand for late February/March 2021.
  • Action requested: That no physical changes are made to Queen Street in advance of a decision on the Queen Street pilot.  

Other operational considerations

  • A number of businesses have raised specific concerns with Auckland Transport on the proposed plans, some of these in summary, are outlined below:
    • Issues with illegal/obstructive loading near 137 Wellesley Street, request for loading zone in the area to mitigate this.
    • Issues with buses blocking carpark entrance at 137 Wellesley Street West
      • Buses often block carpark entrance by bus stop, illegally letting passengers off, right by the entrance and yellow lines
      • Congestion around private Les Mills car park causes pedestrians/car/bus users to have blind spots (submitter was hit by a car here)
    • Lack of provision for shelter for people waiting for the bus.
      • “On a rainy day this means that people are naturally going to congregate under the verandahs of our building on Wellesley St blocking access to both the tenants and our own store. We believe some form of shelter needs to be incorporated into the street design.”

Consultation Process

We have heard from a number of businesses who have advised us that they have not been made aware of the consultation direct from Auckland Transport, despite them being in the area impacted by the proposed changes.