The Elephant in the Room

Saturday, September 12th, 2009

Phil Jones‘ talk on last Wednesday (9 Sept 09) presented the idea of shared spaces (also known as naked streets) in the context of the council’s proposal to convert lower Cuba St into a shared space.

This is in compensation for depriving pedestrians of Manners Mall – which is intended to become a giant bus lane in illustration of the transport evolutionary pecking order cars: then buses: then pedestrians.

While I don’t believe we pedestrians should lose Manners Mall to buses, I more strongly believe that converting lower Cuba St into a shared space isn’t much compensation.  Ok so Blair and Allen St might be better examples of shared spaces – but lower Cuba already operates in partial ways as a shared space – it’s small compensation to take that tiny step to make it officially one.

Instead I’d recommend Transit put their money where their mouth was when they were lobbying for the bypass – which they proclaimed would reduce “traffic flow along the waterfront,” namely Jervois and Customhouse Quays.  Let’s take them at their word – rather than the daily reality – and put a shared space or two along this stretch now that the bypass has technically diminished its arterial status.

A prime location seems to me to be Post Office Square.  This could become Wellington’s Trafalgar Square – a significance public and commerical space of interaction.

Mexico City has the Zocalo Square, New York has Times Square, Venice has Piazzo San Marco.  Ok so extending Post Office Square into Queen’s Wharf would be slightly smaller than any of these European monsters – but still this civic space would extend the vibrancy of Queen’s Wharf into the city and become one of the much needed connections between city and sea.

Unlike Civic Square, which is protected by a wall of council buildings from the commercial heart of the city, this extension of the Outer T into the inner city would be a meeting place, a tourist mecca, a place of buskers, lunchers and coffee carts: a civic marae.  What shall we call it?  I understand Kumototo Plaza is already taken.


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Posted under: Comment, RANTING, urban design | 10 Comments »

10 Responses to “The Elephant in the Room”

  1. helen Says:

    interesting idea – and I like the term civic marae?

  2. Horatio Hornblower Says:

    The so called “Greening of the Quays” was a Council project to try to slow down the flow of traffic along the waterfront and encourage a ‘boulevarde’ atmosphere for pedestrians. Unfortunately the Council ran out of money or gumption and we only ended up with one skinny row of shrubs rather than the three rows of trees we were promised. Perhaps it is indeed time to reclaim the streets.

  3. Bus dodger of Miramar Says:

    The celebration of the pedestrian that was the experiment of Cuba Mall has proven highly sucessfull but also proven that it cannot be severed by some great public transport arterial running across it. The link between Cuba Mall and Manners Mall never worked because of high traffic of Dixon Street cutting it in half.

    Remove the crossing of pedestrians and traffic and you might start to create a vibrant and people friendly cityscape. So long as the two are forced to cross each other they will never work… so why try and repeat the failure by extending down to Lower Cuba without solving the bus route first?

  4. Guy Says:

    There’s a big article in the paper today discussing all that.
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/local/2864505/Trees-and-cafes-in-lower-Cuba-St-plan

    “Wellington’s lower Cuba St could become a tree-lined boulevard with extra-wide footpaths and fewer parking spaces under plans to reintroduce buses to Manners Mall.
    The footpath outside the James Smiths Market is to be 7.5 metres wide and the opposite pavement 4.5m, with both sides suitable for outdoor dining.
    Parallel parking on both sides of the street would accommodate up to 24 vehicles, but the road could be closed for special events and open air markets. Speed limits could be set as low as 10kmh to make the area safer for pedestrians.”

    Is this your “Civic Marae” ?

  5. tomek Says:

    Traffic and pedestrians. It seems like a dangerous mix but must the two be mutually exclusive? For as long as we separate the two they will be a dangerous mix but it is my belief that we can have both. Car, buses, motorcycles, they’re not machines that drive themselves. They are driven by people who many times are pedestrians themselves. They would quickly learn to share because the alternative is not really acceptable. I believe that there are many examples in Europe where this has been done successfully (sorry, no citation).

    For as long as we, architects, city planners, designers, treat problems (I don’t like that word) as having mutually exclusive solutions because we underestimate the human kind, we will come up with solutions which exclude, negate, contradict and in effect not solve the problem. I really believe that we have to have a more holistic and realistic approach to design and above all we should design with long-term goals in mind. This is something that NZ overall as a country lacks – long term view of who we want to be and what we want to be doing in the future.

    2c from Mr. T

  6. tomek Says:

    P.S.
    By the way, the Manners Mall proposal is really lame looking.

  7. richard Says:

    I’m intrigued by the idea. I’m not sure how the current wall of traffic will be able to engage with this kind of “shared space”/”naked street” alternative but definitely worth a try – perhaps the second tunnel under the Terrace is needed to get it to really work?

  8. JCB Says:

    Why not just a tunnel under Jervois Quay?

  9. richard Says:

    by far the best idea – but I think it would still be good to at least have a dribble of traffic along the waterfront…

  10. m-d Says:

    yeah, i’m still sore about that point – although I won’t pretend to be surprised by the outcome – everyone knew that Karo Drive would ‘generate’ additional traffic rather than divert from other arterial routes…

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