I was wracking my brain last night thinking about an interesting question – has Auckland Transport actually added a single metre of bus lane in the last two years since they came into existence? They’ve certainly wound the Remuera Road bus lanes back to being T3 lanes and, looking at the November board papers, it seems they’re even chickening out on creating a new T3 lane on Onewa Road westbound in the evening peak:Given that the Council has made it quite clear that improving public transport is close to the number one priority it has, it seems utterly incredible that Auckland Transport have been so useless that they haven’t managed to add a single metre of new bus lane in over two years from what I can remember.
The thing about bus lanes is that obviously they’re really cheap to put in, just a lick of green paint and a few signs, but they take a bit of courage because generally you need to either take away space from general traffic or you need to remove on-street parking. But the benefits are truly enormous:
- Faster travel for public transport users – attracting more people onto the bus
- Shorter journey times for the buses themselves mean significant operation cost savings because you don’t need as many buses on the road to deliver a certain service frequency
- Much more reliable travel times for public transport user – which is extremely important as we shift to a public transport network that is based around transfers between services reliability is going to become increasingly important to ensure you don’t miss your connecting service
The really strange thing is that Auckland Transport should be far better than the old councils at delivering bus lanes, because it is Auckland Transport itself who benefit from them. Back in the “old days” I imagine getting a single metre of bus lane must have involved massive negotiations because for the council (who had the responsibility of putting them in) there was no real benefit, only grumpy car drivers and businesses who lost their parking. Yet we still managed to get a fairly extensive network of bus lanes in Auckland City and a few T2/T3 lanes on the North Shore. It always surprised me that supposedly “eco” Waitakere City didn’t have many bus lanes, it surprised me less that roads-mad Manukau didn’t have anything much at all.
Clearly there are a few projects in the works that will improve things for buses in the longer term – like a major rebuild of Dominion Road and the AMETI busway. However there are still an unbelievable number of “low hanging fruit”, like bus lanes along Manukau Road, through Newmarket, along Fanshawe Street at its city end, along Victoria and Wellesley Streets on their western sides and in many many other locations. It’s just truly astounding that absolutely no progress has been made on bus lanes along these streets in the last two years.
Come on Auckland Transport, you can do a lot better than this.