Thursday, March 15, 2007

There's a lesson down there in Queen St

News that Auckland City Council want to ban cars from Queen St, however temporarily, is just another chapter in a long story of unintended consequences.

Once upon a time, say about twenty-five years ago, retail rentals in Queen St outstripped retail rentals elsewhere by quite some margin. If you were a retailer or a shopper, this was the place to be in Auckland.

Then, to "encourage greater use of public transport," Auckland City Council began limiting the number of central city car parks that were allowed to be included in new developments. As car park numbers shrank, people didn't begin using buses, they simply went down the motorway to Newmarket. This is when Newmarket became the new shopping mecca that it is now.

Later on, in the mid-nineties, lower Fort St, Customs St and the Britomart area was a thriving night-and-day business and entertainment area. Then, to "encourage greater use of public transport," the Auckland City Council announced plans for a a large, new, downtown transport centre, and they began boarding up businesses and buildings in the area to make one.

Nearly ten years later the area was reopened, and those retail businesses and the landlords who had stayed in the area were found to be out of business, and the city's 'centre of gravity' had moved away from the shiny, new and expensive transport hub -- a hub that still remains well underutilised.

At the same time, private interests had been working away on privately owned shopping malls like St Lukes, Shore City and Westmall, doubling the capacity of these retail centres without closing down the retail businesses therein -- unlike the council's treatment of retailers, the mall owners treated their tenants with courtesy and respect -- which left these malls perfectly placed to pick up the increased retail traffic coming their way because of the ever-increasing council push to keep cars out of the city and to "encourage public transport use."

People didn't jump onto buses. The kept right on jumping in their cars, and headed off to the malls. This is when these malls became the real shopping meccas they are now for many people -- and once again the consequences that council planners intended were turned up on their heads. If people now want to go comfort shopping, they don't go to Queen St, they head off to the mall or to Newmarket (and retail rental levels reflect this reality).

And now? After more than two decades of council "encouragement," public transport use has still barely climbed above the levels of two decades ago, and no-one outside the twenty-storey council building would see Queen St as a retail mecca.

Where Queen St retail levels were once the highest in the country, Queen St retail rentals now lag rentals elsewhere by quite some margin, and Queen St itself is populated largely by two-dollar shops, cheap tourist tat, and shops serving the Asian student population who inhabit so many of central Auckland's former office buildings ... and the Auckland City Council are now talking about banning cars in Queen St.

They just don't learn. Perhaps the councillors could get in their own cars and head to Onehunga, which is another popular shopping destination, and another lesson for planners: Onehunga, which died as a retail centre when cars were banned from the main shopping street, has become increasingly popular as a shopping destination ... especially since the cars were allowed back into the main shopping street.

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9 Comments:

Anonymous Sean said...

Far be it for me to defend the council, but isn't just a proposed temporary ban to ease the gridlock caused by (albeit unnecessary) renovations on the street?

3/15/2007 03:26:00 pm  
Anonymous Tim Wikiriwhi said...

This ban is all part of the U.N socialist Agenda 21!
It is part of the Global warming scam!
It is tree hugging B.S!
I would expect nothing less from Dick!
Here in Hamilton the same rubbish is going on! Cycle lanes are all the rage with H.C.C...but not with commuters! Nobody uses them!
The H.C.C are driving up parking meter fees (to grab loot and encourage public transport use) yet Malls outside the center are growing humungusly!
Oh and H.C.C has poll position in Downtown...and are having a spend up on renovations!

3/15/2007 04:01:00 pm  
Anonymous Tim Wikiriwhi said...

Sean, this is about Buses!
The council want Auckanders to use public transport and are prepared to grant monoplies to it to force them out of their cars!
Dont be deluded by their pretext!

3/15/2007 04:14:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

Sean, yes it is. I guess my point is that the ban, however temporary, shows they've learned nothing from their own recent history.

Once customers and retail move away form an area, it takes a while to get them back again -- and businesses affected by a drastic drop in custom may never come back.

Organisations like Westfield know this, and they carefully programme their work for the least possible intrusion on retailers. By contrast, council just bowls on ahead regardless, and then starts talking about bans.

3/15/2007 04:24:00 pm  
Anonymous Sean said...

PC,

I take your point, and see how it applies to even a temporary situation. I am in perfect agreement. I just think it is best to mention the temporary nature of the ban. Otherwise One risks overstating One's case and therefore losing it almost by default.

Sean.

3/15/2007 06:23:00 pm  
Blogger MikeE said...

You've only gotta look at the bullshit going on on aucklands north shore, where we have two transite lanes on Constelation drive to encourage public transport and car pooling.

These transport lanes operate between 7:30 and 9 and 4:30 and six, seriously screwing all the people who work in the area and need to park for work, as they have to move from one side of the road to the other or face a $40 fine.

In the 6 to 12 months that these have been operating I have yet to see one bus actually use these fucking monstrosoties.

3/15/2007 09:16:00 pm  
Blogger libertyscott said...

Auckland City Council's transport general manager is Stephen Rainbow - who was a Green councillor in Wellington City some years back for some time. He then led the campaign against the motorway extension between Mt Victoria Tunnel and the motorway, and won because all the environmental mitigation demanded priced it off the agenda.

He is a "blue" green and was on the National list a couple of elections back, but he is no transport economist or engineer - his Ph.D is in politics - green politics.

3/16/2007 03:04:00 am  
Blogger darren said...

Central Auckland and Queen Stret in partciular should be the shame of New zealand.
Queen street should be Auckland's and New Zealand's premiere shopping destination- just as Bond street is to Britain, unless Red `Ken has fucked it up in the years i have been away from England.
I see that huge hole where the car park is, by that stup[id bungy thingy.
But yes, Queen Street. It fails because no-one will go there. As you say, People love their cars. They want somewhere to park cheaply and easily.
This is why the malls win hands down.
Queen Street is far away from their homes, so it needs something to draw the shoppers in.
As yet, there is nothing.
Now, with that big hole I mention, what is needed is five levels of underground parking, five levels of shops, topped of with 20 storreys of luxury appartments or offices.
There needs to be a major redevelopment of Queens Street and the surrounding areas if Auckland is to have a trily living beating heart once more.
Current council policies are just killing it.

3/16/2007 03:28:00 am  
Anonymous Tim Wikiriwhi said...

What made the council suggest this Ban?
The fact that buses are taking too long to get through so this means the people who use them will get sick of it and abandon them!
This is all about buses and using poltical force to get Aucklanders out of their cars and into state buses!
They will crush all private interests that stand in the way of their Green plans!
Not to mention revenue gathering!
They will put up rates to fund this rubbish!

In todays Waikato times ..."Bus run figures shock Mayor..."A heavily subsidised 5 days-a-week bus run from Morinsville to Hamilton is atracting less than 1 passanger a day!"...

Buses are the Big thing with the commy Greens and the UN.
Watch these Agenda 21 plans get foisted upon every town and city in the country!
And Kyoto is part of this same U.N scheme!

3/16/2007 04:22:00 am  

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