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The brilliance of bus lanes

I ended my last post by imploring that one of the most important ways of improving public transport is through building “A WHOLE HEAP MORE BUS LANES!” This assertion was questioned, so perhaps it’s useful to explain in more detail why I’m such a fan of bus lanes and what I mean by bus lanes.

In most situations across Auckland buses currently run in what’s called “mixed traffic”. This means they’re treated just the same as any other vehicle on the road – meaning they wait for the same lights, drive in the same lanes, get stuck in the same traffic jams and so forth. Because buses have to stop off to pick up and drop off passengers and because they’re generally slower and more lumbering beasts to manoeuvre than a car, we find ourselves with an initial “golden rule of buses”: (although to be properly mode neutral, this same thing applies to trams. Many tram routes in Melbourne run in mixed traffic – as does sections of the Wynyard Quarter tramway)

A bus (or tram) in mixed traffic will always be slower than a car doing the same trip.

If we’re trying to attract people onto public transport in situations where our buses (or trams) are running in mixed traffic we’re pretty much playing catch up right from the start. The trip will be slower than driving (unless you need to circle for ages to find a parking space when you drive), the question is only how much slower?

For public transport to start competing (or at least getting close) with the car in terms of speed, in its broad sense, we need some sort of infrastructure beyond just travelling along the road. There’s an enormous variety of different interventions which can be undertaken – generally providing ever more separation from other traffic at ever greater costs. These might include:

  1. Bus advance signals at intersections
  2. Painted bus lanes during peak times only
  3. 24 hour painted bus lanes
  4. Dedicated on street busway (median or along one side of the road) or light rail line
  5. Busway/BRT/LRT system with grade separation at intersections
  6. Heavy rail with some level crossings sharing tracks with freight trains
  7. Fully dedicated passenger metro rail

In a comprehensive public transport system there are likely to be different levels of infrastructure provided to suit the demands and characteristics of the particular transport corridor they’re located in. Along very high demand corridors you’re obviously going to need a higher standard of infrastructure to provide the speed/capacity/reliability of service at high levels of demand. But clearly that will come at a cost.

For a city like Auckland, where we still have relatively low public transport usage and where we don’t have tens of billions of dollars to splash out on major infrastructure improvements everywhere, we need to be smart about targeting our infrastructural responses to the demands and characteristics of the corridors we have. And for most corridors, at least in the short to medium term, bus lanes along arterial roads are going to work really well. By bus lanes I really just mean what we have along many streets at the moment (Dominion Road, Sandringham Road, Fanshawe Street, Symonds Street etc.) – the side lanes painted green with signs up indicating they’re for buses only. In some situations bus lanes are needed/appropriate during peak times only while in other situations they’re needed/appropriate all the time – once again the demands and characteristics of the corridor will determine that.bus-lane

So what’s really great about these lanes – which seem to annoy Herald editors and writers more than anything else in the world? Well let’s explore that a little:

  1. Bus lanes are pretty damn cheap to install. Just a lick of green pain and some signs is probably a slight over-simplification but generally we’re working within the existing road width and simply reallocating a lane which is either currently used by vehicles or used by parked cars.
  2. Bus lanes are very quick to install. Linked to the above, compared to building large (but obviously essential) rail projects which can take around a decade from initial investigation to completion, bus lanes can go from an idea to a finished product in a matter of weeks or months if there’s the support and desire to see them happen.
  3. Bus lanes make bus trips much faster and more reliable, meaning that the “golden rule” referred to above can be broken and actually it might be faster to catch the bus than to drive along certain routes – like into town along Dominion Road in the morning peak or up Symonds Street in the afternoon peak. Furthermore as the buses are now separated from general traffic they are less likely to get stuck in congestion and therefore the trip times are much more reliable.

The speed and reliability benefits outlined in the final point above are critical – but perhaps for more reasons than you might think. Let’s start with speed, which obviously makes catching the bus more attractive if you’re able to travel faster than cars – therefore generating additional patronage and revenue. The other fantastic thing about increasing speed is that it reduces operating costs because fewer buses are required to maintain a certain frequency of service. Let’s say a route takes an hour from end to end before a bus lane goes in and we want to run buses every 10 minutes along this route – we’re likely to need at least 12 buses to operate the service, paying 12 drivers, owning 12 buses (or paying the bus company for the privilege) and so forth. If a bus lane reduces the trip time to 40 minutes each way then all of a sudden you only need 8-9 buses to run that same frequency – simply because the buses can turn around and do another run much quicker than before.

In essence we have the following outcome:

  • No bus lane: slow and unattractive/unreliable service puts people off using the bus and drives up operating costs by having very lengthy routes (in terms of time) to run. This equals the requirement for big public subsidies.
  • Bus lane: faster and more reliable/attractive service generates patronage and revenue and reduces operating costs by shortening the time it takes for buses to complete a full return journey. By both increasing revenue and reducing costs the requirement for a public subsidy potentially decreases dramatically.

Hopefully in this post I have outlined why bus lanes have a critical role to play in improving Auckland’s public transport system. Although rail patronage has grown much faster than bus patronage in the past few years, the vast bulk of public transport trips in Auckland are still taken on the bus – something that will continue even after electrification and even after the City Rail Link is constructed. The sad part of this story is that more than two years after coming into existence, and despite having a massive financial incentive to introduce bus lanes (to reduce the amount of subsidy they need to pay the bus operators and to grow patronage) Auckland Transport hasn’t added any new bus lanes anywhere in Auckland. Goodness knows why they’ve been so hopeless on this issue.

67 comments to The brilliance of bus lanes

  • Christopher

    A bus lane is certainly needed coming into town along Mt Eden Rd. Going out to Fickling Centre the other day at 8.40am to attend a workshop, I noted the queue of traffic waiting at the Symonds St/Mt Eden Rd intersection. That queue didn’t finish until several hundred metres past the Balmoral Rd/Mt Eden Rd intersection. I measured it in google earth – a distance of 3.3kms! Astonishing. The road along here is wide enough for a bus lane.

  • Crickid

    Agreed. But Symonds Street just had a major upgrade and didnt do ANYTHING to improve cycling. They need to happen at the same time as bues and bicycles are not very compatable.

  • Kevin

    Presumably for those of us that get travel sick on bouncy buses, and indeed the more than 50% that use cars its much worse traffic congestion as a travel lane is taken away? Thank heavens over in Beach Haven we now have a Ferry! (A journey so blissful that 4 German Tourists were riding it last night for fun)
    Don’t get me wrong I think bus lanes that don’t reduce existing road capacity are a good idea, but I feel that the only way you are going to get people on public transport is by making it something people choose to use, and not by making the alternative intentionally worse.

    • Actually many roads with bus lanes actually have more people travelling along them than they do in cars. Dominion Rd is above 50% of people on the bus, Fanshawe is up around 70-80% on bus, Onewa is is pretty high too. If the only way we are able to get bus lanes is by widening roads then it will never happen. Better to re prioritise existing road space.

    • George D

      Actually, when a bus lane is installed a bus is no longer rushing in out of traffic, braking and accelerating and weaving between lanes, and trying desperately to reach a schedule created a decade ago when population patterns were different. Unsurprisingly, the ride tends to get smoother. The ride takes much less time, which helps too.

      And yes, when you take people out of cars and put them in buses, there’s a lot more room on the road for other users. A fast and efficient bus lane over time can actually speed traffic in the remaining lane of traffic – a full bus is equivalent to about 40-50 cars, or 150m of congestion. Of course, even if you do speed up, you might feel slower, as you’re now comparing yourself to a fast bus… which might make the car user upset if s/he hasn’t had the mechanics explained in a way they understand.

  • Harvey Specter

    I vote for Onewa Road (uphill) during evening peak.

    This was proposed by AT last year and turned down. I dont think the reasons or the alternative have been released yet??

    We need to speed up those buses home so Kevin can take one when the Harbour is choppy (boat sick vs bus sick??)

  • Kevin

    I’ve never been boat sick or travel sick in anything other than a bus, and I’ve been on some choppy boats!

    • George D

      Same, I’m occasionally a recreational sailor and have no issues. It’s the difference between what the inner ear comprehends and what the eyes take in, and the rapid changes in velocity and direction that cause motion sickness. Anything that makes the ride smoother will help. Bus lanes will help.

    • SteveC

      The question of travel sickness on buses is not something that I have found a significant issue in 20+ years of working in and with the PT industry. Do those who experience it find it a response to acceleration/braking, or to ride quality i.e. bumps and road surface quality?

      Maybe heavy duty seal could be installed on high frequency bus routes to ensure a good ride, driver training to encourage smooth progress should be implemented.

  • Malcolm M

    Who pockets the operating cost savings of bus lanes ? If bus lanes are introduced BEFORE next bus contracts, AT gets the savings. If bus lanes are introduced AFTER contracts are issued, it is the operator (unless the contract allows for some sharing of savings with AT). So if the next round of bus contracts are to get value for ratepayers, bus lanes need to be introduced well before the contracts are advertised. There needs to be enough time after bus lane introduction for its benefits to be measured and the timetable changed, so bidding operators can take the changed travel times into account when preparing their bids.

    While bus lanes may lengthen queues in the car lanes, it will not necessarily increase car travel times if the queueing is because of a capacity limitation further along the route. This needs some careful modelling. Alternatively if all that’s needed is green paint and some signs, introduce them for a trial period and measure the results.

    A form of bus priority the post doesn’t mention is “jump lanes” at traffic lights. In Melbourne there are some traffic light-controlled intersections where there is a left turn-only lane, except for buses. After the left turn triangle is a short bus lane, which is just long enough to hold one bus. It can then be given a “B” light just before the green light for other traffic and get a head-start. This is particularly useful if the bus needs to make a right turn at the following intersection.

    • Greg N

      “A form of bus priority the post doesn’t mention is “jump lanes” at traffic lights. In Melbourne there are some traffic light-controlled intersections where there is a left turn-only lane, except for buses. After the left turn triangle is a short bus lane, which is just long enough to hold one bus. It can then be given a “B” light just before the green light for other traffic and get a head-start. This is particularly useful if the bus needs to make a right turn at the following intersection.”

      Mr A mentioned those, they’re called Bus Advance signals (first bullet point in his post) and they’re already in use around the place, example of one is just south of 277 in Newmarket, heading towards Newmarket. There is a “B” sign on the traffic light for exactly this purpose.

      Another one can be found on the corner of Ti Rakau Drive and Pakuranga Highway T intersection, in the left lane heading towards Panmure.
      Another on is the intersection of Remuera Road and Meadowbank Roads, Meadowbank (outside the BP station), heading towards St Johns – Bus advance signal/lane there.

  • Jeff H

    Yes Mr Anderson. This is the decade for the Silly-SOV’s to make way for the PT Express.

  • Dan

    I don’t much understand why bus lanes are sometimes peak-only. During off-peak, presumably the general traffic lanes are flowing freely so why bother complicating the bus-lane rules with someitmes allowing general traffic and sometimes not? As a cyclist who enjoys using bus lanes, this annoys me…

    • Harvey Specter

      On Onewa Road (downhill) it reverts to being parking so it goes back to one lane. Personally I would have no parking on Onewa Road (up or down) but then I dont live or have a business on it.

  • George D

    Are there any Auckland studies which show increased revenue to businesses after a bus lane is successfully installed? A lot of the opposition comes from residents who will lose their parking (nothing to do about that, although in many cases improved bus access will improve amenity and increase the desirability/value of their property). The rest comes from business owners scared they’ll lose custom and risk their livelihoods. That’s a legitimate fear, and one that can be countered. In many locations, bus customers increase movement through businesses dramatically. In others, they make up for the lost parking.

    A better demonstration of these impacts (including the negative ones) would help us get to where we need to be.

  • All cities need buses and to not prioritise them over cars is a regressive policy. In spite of the hating of bus based cities in the other threads. e.g. London buses carry 6 million per weekday, far more than the tube.

    Sure, in some cases rail might be more suitable, but that doesn’t work everywhere.

    • Harvey Specter

      My view is that we need to build more bus lanes (cheap as pointed out) to increase the level of public transport. Once those lanes are full, then it is probably time to look at high occupancy options like trains/light rail (more capital intensive and paid upfront (lower operation costs going forward)).

  • Tony Bailey

    And that has happened in Brisbane?

    Chronic over bussing and PM bus jams.

    • In Brisbane, they can easily fix the congestion in the PM peak, they just choose not to.

    • Stu Donovan

      Brisbane’s problems are over-stated – the Cultural Centre is the issue and that’s mainly due to policy/technology (i.e. not gating bus stations) rather than the failings of buses per se. All networks have issues with crowding at peak times.

      • Fare gates are the least of the problems at the Cultural Centre. It would also be a bit counter intuitive to touch on outside the bus but touch off inside. But I agree that the failings here are not problems with buses per se.

  • Greg N

    “Auckland Transport hasn’t added any new bus lanes anywhere in Auckland. Goodness knows why they’ve been so hopeless on this issue.”

    And lets not forget that they have also chickened out on keeping the bus lanes they have as Bus lanes and made the Remuera Road ones T3 lanes!

    A step backwards in my opinion and a few others here.

  • Ben S

    This crosses over to a challenge I laid down in another thread – namely If buses – and therefore bus lanes – were the answer then show me the other ‘quality’ cities on this planet that have implemented buses as the lead PT mode.

    The best anyone could come up with is Vancouver – yet their City PT plan through to 2040 calls for getting rid of diesel buses.

    People talk about London and Paris but their subway & rail systems carry vast amounts of people compared to the bus mode – it’s a tertiary mode at best.

    What we need to do in AKL is to send a signal that we’re re-engineering, rebooting and re-visioning the city away from motorized transport.

    Buses do not send this signal. They are the past, not the future.

    To me, this scratching around for the benefits of bus lanes represents a failure of the imagination.

    • Harvey Specter

      Why not treat bus lanes as an interim solution. By 2040, Auckland’s population will warrant a larger rail/light rail network. Until public transport numbers, urban densities reach that point, we need a solution.

      No buses currently on the road now will be doing CBD commuter runs in 2040 (Pretty sure they have to be phased out by 20 years to meet tendering criteria)

    • Ben S, one answer to your question is: London.

      London is a quality city that has implemented buses as the lead PT mode.

      London buses carry six million trips every day. The Underground carries around three and a half million, the commuter rail lines around one and a half million. The Overground carries about 200k, the DLR around 300k. Their buses carry more trips that all rail modes put together.

      Sorry but you’re barking mad if you call buses a tertiary mode in London, and you are completely wrong to say the “subway and rail systems carry vast amounts of people compared to the bus mode”. You might want to check the facts, they’re not always consistent with ideology.

    • Stu Donovan

      Boom, I think Nick just responded to your challenge.

    • Ben – We know that cities around the world use both bus and rail for their PT and when it comes to buses, they often use bus lanes to help the buses avoid the congestion of local streets. It isn’t rail or bus but both. Take a look at the Rue de Rivoli for example. The busiest metro line in Paris runs under it yet on the surface it has a separated bus lane too. What we are talking about here with bus lanes is sorting out the low hanging fruit, the stuff that is quick and easy to implement. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t also address bigger scale things like the CRL or even considering trams on some specific routes.

    • SteveC

      Ben, buses aren’t the answer, light rail isn’t the answer, heavy rail isn’t the answer, the answer is a multi modal network where the available modes each work to their strengths in a complimentary manner to help people move around, the failure of the imagination (perhaps rather a failure of understanding) is yours.

      Clearly any fixed route mode is still subject to delay and possibly greater delay in the case of a breakdown or in the unfortunate event of a level crossing incident or similar, in this case a bus can be rerouted around the location, a railed vehicle can’t.

      The technique known variously as “quality bus corridor” “overground” or “bus rapid transit” (as distinct from “busway”) is well established and entails continuous bus lanes and signal pre-emption so that buses only stop to pick up and set down.

      Edinburgh is cited in other responses, add Manchester and Dublin in the UK and interestingly the reviled Great Satan of automobilia, Los Angeles, which has several rapid bus corridors that have proven remarkably successful:

      “Los Angeles County has several roadways that have many aspectsof bus rapid transit (BRT). The 12-mile San Bernadino (I-10 El Monte) Busway, built at a cost of $57 million, carries more than 18,000 bus riders each day at speeds of over 40 mph [65 kph]. It also carries an additional 25,000 high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) users. The 11-mile [18-km] Harbor Transitway serves over 9,500 riders each day at speeds of over 30 mph [48 kph]. In addition, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) initiated its demonstration Metro Rapid service on the 26-mile [42-km] Line 720 Wilshire/Whittier Boulevard and the 14-mile [23-km] Ventura Boulevard line. Implementation coincided with the extension of the Metro Red Line subway to the San Fernando Valley. BRT elements included simple route layout, frequent service, headway-based schedules, less frequent stops, level boarding and alighting, color-code d buses and stations, and bus signal priorities. (Stations with“next bus” displays were completed in 2001.) Implementation costs were about $31 million, including previously ordered buses diverted to the project.” from http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/tcrp/tcrp90v1_cs/LosAngeles.pdf

      See also: http://www.nbrti.org/docs/ppt/Broward%20County%20BRT%20Workshop/Metro_Rapid_Presentation.pdf

      So “scratching around for the benefits of bus lanes” doesn’t reflect a failed imagination, but rather an appropriate response to the need for appropriate PT along routes where capacities are higher than a suburban street, but where LRT isn’t appropriate or affordable.

  • Simon C

    Ben S, I think the famous one for buses is Bogota, Colombia from the BRT system they introduced fairly recently.

    • Ben S

      Bogota – hmmm,, apparently there were mass riots last year in Bogota protesting against their bus system – complete with riot police & several bus stations destroyed.

  • Ben S

    Harvey – that’s one way of looking at it, fair enough – but in a way we’ve had a series of interim solutions and that’s why we’re in this mess.

    Nick R – you’re citing facts but where from? Name YOUR sources before you start dishing it out would be my advice.

    Paris – 2,593 million passenger journeys per year on all rail from from metro through to tram. Bus – 1,130 million (the largest share of it in outer suburban Paris btw, for obvious reasons).

    Source: NSW Official Briefing Paper 2008.

    http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/publications.nsf/key/TransportProblemsFacingLargeCities/$File/TransportFINALindex.pdf

    London – most recent figures I have are for 2008:

    Daily average number of trips in Greater London by Underground/Rail & Light Rail – 4.3 million.

    By Bus (and they include Tram in this stat for some strange reason): 3.5 million.

    Source: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/assets/downloads/Travel_in_London_Report_2.pdf

    One concession: London has a long-held bus culture – unique & special to London in many way – ie double-deckers.

    Moving on, the NSW report notes that: “The car remains the dominant mode in London, accounting for 40 percent of all journeys.”

    • Stu Donovan

      Edinburgh. A city of just over 500,000 that generates ~114+ million bus trips per year and has cost-recovery approaching 100% (includes government payments for concessions). Edinburgh has the highest PT mode for travel to airport … yes, by bus. Much of downtown Edinburgh is a UNESCO world heritage site. Edinburgh are just finishing a light rail line; cost over-runs were so high (twice original forecasts) they almost canned the entire project half way through. One billion pounds for 13km, i.e. ~ 75 million pounds per km.

      In terms of London, you will see that bus patronage is growing faster than rail. Mainly because after congestion charging people voted with their feet … for buses.

      • smith d

        How much of the airport PT factor is due to Edinburgh having the second highest number of tourist visits of UK cities, i.e proportionally different to any other city and the massive airport parking charges, as well as only charging $12 for a return bus trip though?

        Also, that city has very slow population growth compared to Auckland. The tram was planned to link one of the few large property developments at the waterfront as the road network is congested with buses, aka Princes St in the city. In addition a very large student population and densely populated spaces mean car parking is not an option for most. You also fail to mention that old commuter rail links are being opened up and the budget for cycling has been increased hugely, indicating that buses are not the magic solution for most commuters.

        • Stu Donovan

          Lots of questions! Numbered in order you asked.
          1. Not much I suspect – in my experience tourists are more likely to use rental cars, which suggests PT trips to airport more likely to be business visitors and locals. You make it seem like they are discounting bus travel to the airport: Far from it I suspect. The reason they can charge only $12 is because A) buses are relatively cheap to operate and B) so many people use it.
          2. Road network is not that congested with buses. Seemed to work fine when I was there.
          3. Yes old commuter rail links are being opened up. That’s nice, but so what? How many trips per year would they handle? 2 million at most?
          4. Yes budget for cycling is increase. That’s nice, but so what? It’s miniscule mode share compared to buses.

          Your conclusion is bizarre. Nobody said buses were the magic solution; I’m just suggesting they are an important part of the solution. That’s how Edinburgh can get 200 PT trips per capita from a bus system alone. It’s not that much denser than many other cities in Europe …

          • smith d

            Think I only asked one (somewhat rhetorical) question – huge numbers of tourists use the airport bus as there are huge numbers of tourists compared to locals! This distorts the data compared to other less touristy cities. The topic was an example of a city with buses as a leading transport mode and buses are of course that mode in Edinburgh but that is due to a very unique set of circumstances. The points made were that other modes are being invested in now more heavily, such as trains, trams and cycling as the roads are clogged with buses and they are now very slow for most people.

          • Stu Donovan

            So your answer to examples of cities where buses do well (such as Brisbane, Seattle, Ottawa, Edinburgh, London, and Hong Kong, ) is that they are “unique”? How profound. Here I was thinking that every city is unique; good to know that it’s only cities where buses do well that are different.

            Edinburgh’s not that unique actually. It’s most distinctive characteristics are probably its age and its density. The number of tourists is a red herring – PT is mainly used by locals. Investing in other modes is also a red herring – the reality is that PT mode share in Edinburgh is over 20%, i.e. significant, and it’s growing. The fact they’re investing in cycling *as well* does not allow you to draw the conclusions you are drawing (i.e. “buses are very slow for most people”). Define “slow”? Define “most people”?

            All I’ll say is that with 20% PT mode share and just under 200 PT trips per capita per year Edinburgh’s buses are obviously doing something right. The fact you guys can’t acknowledge that is, well, both bemusing and amusing.

          • smith d

            More the fact that Edinburgh is less relevant than those other cities you have now listed such as Seattle and Brisbane. These are much better examples for a city such as Auckland which is growing rapidly, is already sprawled and does not have somewhat of a captive public transport population, I.e the solutions required for modal shift/growth.

      • Svartmetall

        In fairness, bus patronage in London is growing faster than tube/rail because it is more widespread. People who are being stung by the congestion charge and want to change modes are statistically more likely to have a bus close to them than a tube or rail station.

        That said, I’m surprised no one has mentioned Hong Kong in terms of buses – they are insanely popular there too despite the amazing MTR service available – KMB alone transports 2.7 million people a day on average compared to around 4 million on the MTR. Equally, no one mentions the large Japanese cities for the pro-rail camp where bus transport has been relegated to almost an inconsequential mode used primarily by the old and infirm (in Tokyo and Osaka at least) rather than the highly efficient rail system. The thing is, both of these examples I mention here are excellent for the free market enthusiasts as all of them are 100% commercially viable whether buoyed up by real estate or simply as profit from their own rail operations that’s another matter, but they are profitable.

        Finally, just to counter the Edinburgh claims – Karlsruhe in Germany, a city that boasts that the whole city area can be reached by tram, has a population of 297,000 but a public transport patronage of 109 million per year excluding the excellent Karlsruhe stadtbahn (which functions as an S-bahn linking the small villages and has a ridership of 69.8 million). In other words, trams in Karlsruhe are actually more effective than the buses in Edinburgh despite the dispersed nature of Karlsruhe (it isn’t very dense).

        • Stu Donovan

          not sure I follow that argument. Growth is measured in percentage terms. So the fact that buses are starting from a higher coverage and higher base is not necessarily an advantage in this context.

          Hong Kong is a good example.

          I’m not sure why you feel the need to “counter” my example? Ben’s question was “… If buses – and therefore bus lanes – were the answer then show me the other ‘quality’ cities on this planet that have implemented buses as the lead PT mode …”

          Edinburgh seems to be an appropriate answer to this question. That’s not to say that Karlsruhe does not have a good LRT system – but that does not seem relevant to the question Ben posed.

          I am interested in knowing more about Karlsruhe, in particular its capital/operating costs?

          • Svartmetall

            The argument regarding London is that when people are forced by economics (IE congestion charge becomes too much to stomach, partners being laid off due to the bad economy) to utilise public transportation then they will obviously utilise what is available to them. The buses in London are definitely ubiquitous and their services reach everywhere so it is of no surprise there is a greater growth in bus patronage simply because they are the most ubiquitous and easily accessed form of transport for cash-strapped Londoners, so even if people want to use the tube it probably isn’t available to them – especially in the south of London where coverage is particularly poor. The majority of those in London who are undergoing hardships are likely to be in the poorer south and in the poorer suburbs which are often those that are not so well connected. By contrast the bus network in the south is incredibly frequent and goes everywhere. So lets say someone in the south someone who lives in Roehampton on the Alton estate, who previously drove to work but due to expenses and their partner being laid off work has had to sacrifice their car, wants to travel to Wimbledon to work. They are not going to take the tube, but they are going to take the bus. A lot of outer London suburbs do not have rail with a decent cross-suburb connection so they rely upon the bus. The tube is great inside London, but outside zone 2 things become very radial indeed, so is it of any great surprise that bus travel is increasing to fill this void, hence my argument which I so badly stated above (it was a break at work when I wrote that, so brevity was the order of the day). Hope that makes a little more sense now.

            When it came to Edinburgh, I just wanted to point out that a tram-based city can achieve patronage levels of equal to a poster-child of the bus cities with a smaller population, that was my only point really (I kind of joined in the debate halfway through). I’m afraid I don’t have time at the moment to sift through a lot of German literature (though I am sure what you require is available at the KVV website), however, I can tell you that the VBK portion of the Karlsruhe Verkehrsverbund has a turnover of 278.5 million euros/year (and the regional arm, AVG has a turnover of 148.9 million euros per year). Both of these agencies are 100% owned by Karlsruhe city. I can try to dig a few more facts out for you if you are interested at a later date as I believe the Karlsruhe model is a very successful one indeed (and one that is often citied) – especially given the population of the city itself and the nature of the surrounding region where population is heavily dispersed. One thing I didn’t mention is that all tram lines operate in the city on a 10 minute interval, thus providing turn-up-and-go services to the majority of residents in the city, hence why I find it an interesting model.

          • Steve West

            It was also somewhat of a pioneer in the modern street train type system which would be a great interim solution in Auckland until CRL is built, i.e could have through trains up Queen St or along the viaduct. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tram-train

          • Stu Donovan

            Thanks, Karlsruhe sounds interesting – I might have to visit next time I’m in Europe.

        • Stu Donovan

          P.s. Edinburgh has a PT mode share of all journeys of 20.2% in 2011. The only comparable stat I could find for Karlsuhe was from 1992 (!!!) when it had PT mode share of 16%. So assuming it’s grown since then the cities seem broadly comparable in terms of PT usage.

  • Ben S

    Well, tracking back along that Fig. 1 their figures for 08 reflect roughly the same difference as ’11 – yet TFL’s figures for 08 are completely different to TFL’s figs in my official TFL source.

    It may stem from the different definitions of the zone covered – NYC’s stats vary wildly depending on the catchment area – i.e. Greater NYC. The boundaries of cities these size are hard to define – even the experts argue about it.

    In the area covered by the Tube system I’d still wager it carries way more people – what happens in Slough isn’t that relevant.

  • Both TfL documents linked above show higher bus trips than rail. Of course, pax-km is higher for rail.

  • Ben S

    BTW couldn’t help but allow a little smirk at the mistake in this text – “Bus lanes are pretty damn cheap to install. Just a lick of green pain (sic)… ”

    Yep, that green is pain – painfully fugly. And the pic just serves to illustrate how bad bus lanes look in a city environment.

    • Stu Donovan

      Perhaps it’s easier to change the colour of the paint used to designate bus lanes than it is to change one’s own biases with respect to transport modes?

      • Harvey Specter

        Obviously they should be painted “Auckland Transport Blue” though I am sure Russell Norman would see this as some conspiracy by the National Party and demand an inquiry.

    • David O

      So now we make decisions about transport infrastructure based on subjective aesthetic considerations about paint?! I think motorways are ‘fugly’. When are we going to stop building those?

    • Harvey Specter

      It may add a bit more cost, but based on the article in the Hearld today about various companies trialing double decker bus heights, maybe new bus lands on main arterials need to be made harder wearing with all drains, bumps etc leveled out.

      The NEX service is a no brainer but most other roads would prove difficult I would have through due to the camber in the road.

    • Stu Donovan

      Ben S – just one question: Do all bus lanes look fugly? If so then what’s your opinion on the aethetics of the combined bus/tram lanes in many European cities, such as Amsterdam? Are these lanes ugly only at the moment in time that a bus is using them? And then when a tram goes by minutes later they’re suddenly aesthetically pleasing again? Please help me understand how the aesthetics of a bus lane could be so temporally fickle …

  • Here is a question for you Ben S. Given the choice of one light rail line with dedicated lanes and signal priority, or full time bus lanes with signal priority on ten bus routes, what would you pick? Which is it? 5km of reliable frequent transit route for Auckland, or 50km?

    It’s not a facetious question, because light rail tracks are around an order of magnitude more expensive install than bus lanes. In either case you to recover the road space from traffic or parking and modify the signals, but with the rail alternative you have to dig up the street to install tracks and string up power supply.

    Trams might be nicer than buses to many people, but is one nice tram line going to attract more trips than ten unhindered bus lines?

  • Torbayite

    Another factor relting to spped is emissions.emissions. These are high per km at very slow speeds speeds. I have heard our average bus speeds are 9kph in CBD, 14 kph for inner suburbs and 28 kph in outer sururbs. (Londons cogestion charging resulted in buses being 4 kph faster. )
    There is also the factor of using the bus lane effectively as well. For example some buses on Northern busway do not stop at stops as they have caught their own routes earlier bus. they then can have a faster journey. This kind of only works when getting high frequencies

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