One consequence of the recent bus route changes has been to shift even more bus routes onto Albert Street – as the 020, 030 and Inner Link have been shifted off Queen Street, while the 005 has been shifted off Hobson Street and Queen Street. At first glance that is not a bad thing: Albert Street has bus lanes while neither Queen nor Hobson streets do – so these routes should enjoy faster travelling times than they used to. However, it has seemed to me after a few days of observations, that Albert Street is really getting to the point of being tremendously overloaded in terms of the number of bus routes it has to handle. Furthermore, Albert Street’s bus lanes aren’t actually particularly high quality.
The map below shows in green the extent of the Albert St bus lanes, as far as I can ascertain. While they are reasonably continuous, major pinch-points exist around the corner with Victoria Street for southbound vehicles and around the Customs Street intersection for northbound vehicles. Having so many West Auckland buses turning right into Victoria Street, then using Hobson Street to get up to Pitt Street, rather than just going straight up Albert and Vincent Streets, is a bit bizarre and probably slows then down a lot. But ultimately, I think by having most buses from West Auckland, the North Shore and (now) the Western Bays all using one route in central Auckland is problematic. Particularly because, unlike Symonds Street, its bus lanes aren’t of a particularly high quality either.
Another weakness of Albert Street is that it has no bus stops between Wyndham and Wellesley streets on its souther side: a core part of the city centre where people can’t even get on the bus. This is due to the stupid slip-lanes in both the two blocks, which not only destroy Albert Street’s urban form, but also narrow its roadway width and prevent the location of any bus stops.
In short, we’re asking too much from a street that, while in some respects is pretty good for public transport (in terms of its proximity to many high-rise buildings where people work and less conflict with pedestrians that Queen Street) is certainly not ideal.
There are two steps that I think should be taken to improve this. The first is to send all those West Auckland buses up Albert & Vincent streets, rather than take the huge dogleg via Hobson Street. This should speed up their trips times quite a lot. The second is something I’ve been talking about for a while now – to shift all the North Shore buses other than the Northern Express to travel via Wellesley Street – along a route somewhat similar to this (though I haven’t yet resolved how to turn them around at the university, so let’s just set that issue aside for now): Dedicating Albert Street to West Auckland buses, while making Wellesley Street the main route for North Shore buses, should also help make it easier to understand Auckland’s bus system – along with the obvious advantage of providing a direct link between the North Shore at the university (with some buses extending to the hospital, Newmarket and potentially beyond). But perhaps most importantly, it would ensure Albert Street can operate more efficiently for all users, as it wouldn’t be quite so overloaded.