Kate Hawkesby: Pedestrian-mad council has ruined Auckland's CBD

Author
Kate Hawkesby,
Publish Date
Mon, 3 Aug 2020, 11:28AM
Is it any wonder foot traffic is down when cars can't park? (Photo / File)

Kate Hawkesby: Pedestrian-mad council has ruined Auckland's CBD

Author
Kate Hawkesby,
Publish Date
Mon, 3 Aug 2020, 11:28AM

Having spoken this morning to Auckland's Heart Of the City CEO about restaurant month kicking off, I'm hopeful it does indeed draw people into Auckland, because we're hearing reports Auckland's CBD resembles a ghost town these days.  

During level 4 lockdown, foot traffic in Queen St was down 90 per cent on usual, but despite other places being up and running and thriving again now, Auckland's main street foot traffic is still about 20 to 30 per cent below normal.

Yes, Covid and no cruise ships coming in is a huge factor, and people working from home still, won't help, but I also wonder about how attractive the CBD really is these days.

Haphazard council plans and diabolical AT Transport moves to eradicate cars from the city has not really worked. If the goal was to increase foot traffic - it hasn't.

Carving up roads and taking away parking, turning streets into shared spaces, punishing retailers with never-ending roadworks and footpaths being ripped up in front of their shops doesn't bode well.

If you've already got fewer people in town, then you make it nigh on impossible for others to come in as a destination, then you're just not going to see an increase in numbers, are you?

As a born and bred Aucklander who has lived in the city all my life, I can tell you town is not what it used to be. I've watched its demise over time. Having traversed the main streets as a uni student, picking up cheat eats at friendly cafes, dining in big groups at BYO restaurants, frequenting inner-city nightclubs, putting down laybuys on denim jeans at designer stores, town was a regular and safe hang out - which it now isn't.

Too often we hear reports of late night fights and violence. Those welcoming cafes, BYO’s and designer stores have been replaced by empty windows and for lease signs.

And in terms of accessing town - it's a nightmare. The Council might be anti-car and wanting everyone on a bus, but that theory doesn't match the reality.

Why are malls like Sylvia Park so popular, despite being well out of the city centre? Because they offer free parking and lots of it. There are nowhere near as many bus routes there and I don't recall seeing a single cycle lane near the place, yet the shoppers are there. (You're not taking a bike to go shopping, let's be honest)

So in Auckland's CBD, pedestrian count is down a quarter, spending down 20 percent.

And you can't argue Covid has made everyone shy to spend because they're certainly spending other places.

But if you thought this may be a lesson to our city planners that stripping cities of cars was effective, think again. They continue the crusade to have town as one big ‘shared space’.

The problem is, apart from the theorists at the Auckland City Council, whose actually sharing it?