Auckland City Council really has gone out of its way to make stupid decisions on matters relating to bus lanes in recent times. There was its frustrating stubbornness to refuse to accept the fact that its signage was inadequate and confusing, there was its bizarre championing of Tamaki Drive’s conversion from a bus lane to a T2 lane as a success when its own analysis suggested otherwise, and there was of course the Dominion Road debacle, where thankfully it seems as though all ideas of a T2 lane have been banished.
It seems as though the Council isn’t quite yet satisfied about being stupid enough when it comes to bus lanes though, with a most recent decision made at the September Transport Committee meeting going against all logic, and the advice of its own staff, to once again undermine bus lanes along key streets in Auckland’s CBD.
Item 8 of the agenda to the September Transport Committee meeting was a rather odd read – an analysis of whether the 24 hour bus lanes in parts of Auckland’s CBD really ought to be 24 hour bus lanes. I guess the most logical reason for questioning this is the fact that buses generally don’t operate between midnight and 6am – so it’s pretty pointless having a bus lane (although there’s never any congestion then either so it’s not like you really need the road space).
The response of the council to this recommendation is quite staggering in its stupidity. Here are the resolutions, as recorded in the minutes of the meeting:
- That the Transport Committee note that Auckland City Council operates five 24-hour bus lanes that provide reliable bus services to Aucklanders. These bus lanes are located in highly congested areas within and around the CBD to ensure dedicated access and service reliability for critical regional services.
- That the Transport Committee note that the Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA) and the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) are major funders of the 24-hour bus lanes and that any changes to the council’s funding contract to provide the bus lanes would require at least a three month process and a review of the funding contract and may result in repayment of grant funding. It would not, therefore, be possible for the council to implement any changes before the change in governance.
- That the Transport Committee note that bus lanes also provide for motorcyclists and cyclists to encourage these forms of transport and ensure cyclists experience as little conflict with general traffic as possible. The council will investigate improving signage on bus lanes to notify road users that the bus lanes also provide for motorcyclists and cyclists.
- That the Transport Committee note that 24-hour bus lanes do not require regulatory signage showing operating times. However, the council will investigate improving 24-hour bus lane notification signage to clarify that the lanes operate at all times of the day.
- That the Transport Committee note that bus lane enforcement is focussed on peak daytime operation of the bus lanes to encourage bus lane compliance. Outside of peak times, monitoring is undertaken and bus lane enforcement is only carried out when required, to address disruption to the operational running of the network.
- That the Transport Committee approve in principle bus lanes in Fanshawe Street, Symonds Street, Anzac Avenue and Park Road to operate as clear ways after 7pm and before 7am and that officers prepare a submission to ARTA seeking their endorsements of the change.
The first few of the resolutions are obvious and effectively just parrot back what was in the report, but the staggering one is the last one – that all 24 hour bus lanes should become clearways after 7am and before 7am. Let’s count the reasons why this is stupid:
- There are potentially large numbers of buses travelling along some of these core routes (Symonds Street and Fanshawe Street) after 7pm and just before 7am. They’re now going to all get held up by general traffic.
- The council will have to spend tens of thousands of dollars on changing signage to indicate the new hours of operation of the bus lanes and clearways.
- The roads themselves are generally uncongested during night-hours, meaning that there is little gain for drivers.
- There is a clear contradiction between the fourth resolution and the sixth one.
- ARTA and NZTA funding for the Central Connector was provided on the basis that the bus lanes operated 24 hours a day (apart from Grafton Bridge). The council was made aware of this, but still pursued with the stupidity above.
Perhaps Auckland City Council knows that they won’t ever have time to implement such a stupid change, and were just looking for an opportunity to “bash the bus lanes” after their public humiliation over both the poor signage issue and the Dominion Road T2 debacle. It’s the only logical reason I can think of for making such a daft decision.
Fortunately, there’s an easy solution to this stupidity and the Council even hints at it in the final few words of their resolution. ARTA need to not provide Auckland City with endorsement of the change, but rather go tell them to take a flying leap. Come on ARTA, stick up for the bus lanes.