I am in the March issue of Metro talking about shared space: here is what I said.
As someone with nearly 30 years experience working, drinking, eating, parking and even dancing in the High Street district, I get asked all the time why I don’t support turning it into a shared space. My response is resolute; I don’t believe it is necessarily the best solution and feel there is a whole raft of things that could (and should) be done first that would improve it significantly.
I agree that bits of the street are frustrating and need fixing but my concern is that simply changing the street to a shared space does nothing to solve these underlying issues.
To me, it makes more sense to address these first, paving the street over is nothing more than a band-aid for a far greater degree of dysfunction that could be solved with a lot less (of our) ratepayer’s money being spent. Money that the council doesn’t even have to spend, if you believe the hype.
I am not a town planner, in fact one recently told me that I should stick to what I know best, but I would argue that after such a long and unbroken tenure on this street that I am far better placed to speak with some authority than most people are.
So in no particular order here is what I would do first:
Place more focus on traffic management by installing traffic lights and a pedestrian crossing on, or near, the High & Shortland Street intersection.
I would also extend the footpath where possible, even at the expense of parking. For example number 1 High Street is a choke point for parking due to accessibility and this could simply be removed. These areas could be simply redeveloped to include public seating (of which there is currently none on High Street).
Remove all trade vehicles from High, Lorne and Shortland Street between the hours of 10.00am and 5.00pm every day. This would dramatically reduce congestion. Council has this within their power by imposing stricter requirements on permits and if need be increasing the compliance cost. This would be a better deterrent. It could also be extended to include Film and Moving Companies conducting their work outside retail hours.
Upgrade the Victoria Car Park and its retail tenancies. This would include closing the exit on to High and Victoria Street by diverting traffic back on to Kitchener Street to reduce gridlock. This would also create room for electric vehicle charging or proper bike storage and the old exit could become additional retail tenancies.
The council also needs to improve their existing tenant mix by vetting potential tenants and subsidizing rents to get a better cluster of businesses. To fund the refurbishment they could investigate a move to strata off the top two tiers of car parks to inner city residential tenants and businesses.
Give Freyberg Square and Ellen Melville Hall the face-lift it deserves, remove the existing ground floor tenant and create a shared space for small-scale conferences, meetings and even music or an outdoor cinema in summer. Close traffic between High Street and O’Connell Street.
Fine restaurants and cafes that do not follow proper procedure around waste disposal by creating designated “drop zones” for approved bags. No food waste on the street could be part of the current compliance process.
I would also introduce a zero tolerance on graffiti and promote twice daily street cleaning as well as better street lighting and improved signage for local and international visitors. There is currently no unified signage plan or link between the Viaduct, Britomart and landmarks such as the Art Gallery, University and Albert Park, Civic, Aotea and beyond.
The council seems resolute that their paved earth policy will miraculously transform central Auckland: I am yet to be convinced.
Removing cars doesn’t remove the problems.