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Buses stuck at Westgate

I have been getting a few emails lately from people who catch the express buses from Westgate or Kumeu to town about an issue with the bus lanes, or lack of them as a result of the new bits of motorway that opened last year. There are two issues, the first is that the onramp itself was not built with a shoulder on it, despite the previous layout having one. This means that buses are getting held up in general traffic, waiting for around 5 minutes every day where as previously buses could use the shoulder to bypass much of the traffic. You can see the difference between the old and new layout in the image below.

The second issue is perhaps even worse as not only does it hold buses and bus users up, it rubs their nose in it. As part of the previously mentioned motorway works, an extra lane was added close to Westgate as well as a wide shoulder that can be used by buses however it doesn’t yet extend all the way to Royal Rd and won’t do so for perhaps another decade until that section of motorway is also upgraded. Even though there is quite a decent lenth of the shoulder already installed that buses could use, they aren’t allowed to. This means that often buses are getting delayed by 5-10 minutes as they sit in the general traffic lanes just like everyone else.

The shoulder clearly visible to the south of the interchange

And here is an image from a reader showing the traffic, you can just see the bus shoulder in the background

A typical morning at Westgate

So NZTA, while it looks like it would be expensive to change the layout of the onramp, at least let the buses use the shoulder or is it all part of an attempt to to make buses unattractive to help justify more motorway works?

25 comments to Buses stuck at Westgate

  • Luke C

    The traffic there is absolutely shocking, seems induced traffic alive and well! So much for the Western Ring Route being a good bypass of the Harbour Bridge! Not surprising as this is what happens with hopeless public transport, sprawling houses and scattered jobs.
    That third picture brings up an idea of mine. Could ramp signals be linked with traffic link pre-emption that is often fitted to buses. This would allow more of a busway type operation along sections without having to spend big bucks on extra ramps etc. Seems easy to do at on-ramps. Would be a bit more complicated at off-ramps but something could be worked out.

  • The Royal road upgrade, which must, I guess include 3 lanes and bus shoulder lane, from where it finishes just before Royal Road to Lincoln Road, will be done with the rest of the WRR upgrade so 2017 at the latest and quite possibly sooner. Also, isn’t there supposed to be a bus interchange going into Westgate? How will this connect to the NW I wonder?

  • obi

    The hard shoulder is a road safety feature. There is no way it should be used as a bus lane. Especially since to be effective it would mean buses undertaking other traffic. That would be illegal in most countries, because it is a dangerous thing to do.

    If you want a dedicated right of way for buses, then build a proper segregated bus lane.

    • My understanding is that the NZTA build the shoulder as a QTN standard bus lane so it is designed for buses to use. Its just that they are not allowed to yet.

    • Erm Obi we have bus shoulders all over the place, have done for years! I spent my university years on a bus undertaking gridlock on the Northern Motorway.

      • obi

        Doesn’t make it the right thing to do. It’s a cheap bodgy alternative to a proper bus lane or busway. The drawback is the increased danger to all road users.

        I think NZers, on the whole, have a pretty poor attitude towards hard shoulders and the police don’t seem to care. You see cars and machinery parked on the shoulders all the time, or parked just off the shoulder on adjacent land. There is no way you’d get away with that in the UK. If you pulled over on to the shoulder then the police would be there within minutes, either to arrange a tow if your vehicle was disabled, or to ticket you and get you moving again.

        This link (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/1333288.stm) summarises the issues: “Motorists are being warned of the danger of stopping on the hard shoulder of motorways. Research suggests that drivers who stay in their cars on the hard shoulder are seven times as likely to be killed as those who get out to a place of safety. But a recent report said that one in two women and 29% of men believed that waiting in the car was the best policy if they broke down.”

        Lastly, surely I don’t need to explain the risks of underpassing.

        • Cheap and bodgy, yes that is the NZTA approach to bus provision in a nutshell. Unfortunately they are those ones responsible for motorways and state highways. By all means, please do campaign NZTA to build proper segregated bus lanes everywhere!

          • Ah well, that’s not quite the whole story in this case is it Nick? After all, NZTA have built what the previous WCC and ARTA indicated they needed QTN). If they had said the NW was going to require a busway at the same time as the upgrades then it is more likely that we would actually have got it. Instead they focused pretty much on the rail improvements.

          • And more, one of the main reasons given for the Puhoi – Warkworth motorway is that AC have included Warkworth as a ‘satellite’ town. You get what you ask for. It’s not all NZTA’s fault.

          • Nick R

            I don’t see how removing a previously functional bus shoulder on the ramp and replacing it with an intersection design that deliberately slows two traffic lanes then forces buses to sit in those same lanes can be considered QTN.

          • Quite right Nick but, and I suspect you’re more privy to info than me, how is the Westgate bus interchange supposed to connect to the NW? Are the plans for a separate bus entry point?
            As for the bus shoulder lanes – exactly what ARTA asked for.

          • At this stage all I’ve heard about is a bus interchange in the new Westgate town centre, which presumably means buses will have to use Fred Taylor Dr and the regular ramps to get to the motorway as they do now. It looks like they’re stuck in traffic for quite some time.

            As for Warkworth being a main reason for a Puhoi to Warkworth motorway, that a complete load of cobblers. The only reason for Puhoi to Warkworth is that the MoT decided it was on their list of Roads of National Government Significance (RoNGS) because of their misplaced idea that a third state highway going north will magically unleash the Northland economy in a way that they existing two haven’t. Helensville, Pukekohe, Waiuku, Beachlands, they are all ‘satellite’ towns according to Auckland Council, where are their motorway plans? Where has AC asked for Puhoi-Wellsford or any of these?

          • Under the Auckland Plan it is just Pukekohe and Warkworth. Pukekohe has a rail line and I recall hearing there is also a plan for a ‘expressway’.

          • Luke C

            The Puhoi – Wellsford RONS existed well before the Auckland Plan, the RONS came in the 2008 election campaign thought up by the great transport minds of the National Party PR unit. Of course now Warkworth is included in the Auckland Plan they have added that to their list of reasons, however NZTA have been desperately trying to find any hopeless excuse to put in their PR material to justify the road.

  • bbc

    I shake my head in disbelief at all these NZTA projects costing hundreds of millions and every single one attempts to make it as unpleasant as possible to use PT. These are the sort of interchanges I’d expect to be built in the 60’s and yet it’s 2012 and these are brand new.

  • Ari

    the Western ring route is an excellent bypass to the harbour bridge. just not at peak time in the peak direction.
    no the ramp signals can’t be pre empted by buses. but for operational reasons not technical reasons.

  • Mr Plod

    It would probably be easier for the buses to drive from Westgate along Westgate drive to Royal Rd and get on there.

  • Ari

    LOL. IF only you could. westgate drive is a private road with a concrete wall accross it in the middle somewhere. from what I’m told the developer refuses to pay something it says it has already paid and council doesn’t want the road till it gets what it thinks should be paid.

  • KBilly

    “There is no way you’d get away with that in the UK”

    How come then on some of the motorways in the UK you can use the shoulder as an extra lane?

  • Malc

    More great work by the NZTA….
    aka New Zealand Trucking Agency

  • Geoff

    Even allowing for future proofing, why does the Westgate onramp now need two lanes of traffic, rather than one and a bus lane. The previous ramp carried all the citybound traffic from Hobsonville and beyond, whereas the new one carries only the local traffic, with the rest sweeping through on the new motorway. The point about the bus shoulder is not whether it should be a dedicated busway. Rather, it is in fact a QTN bus lane, built as requested, but not being used for reasons that aren’t clear.

  • NZTA seem to hate buses don’t they?

  • Dan Again

    I had to laugh when I first read this post.

    Nobody made a squeak about buses or this on-ramp over the previous 10 years of design. However a year after its open and the roadworks down the road start causing congestion folk get all up in arms.

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