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Extending the Northern Busway

Monday’s NZ Herald finally picked up on the Northern Busway extension from Constellation to Albany being left out of the government’s accelerated transport package that was announced as part of the Budget.

Auckland’s successful Northern Busway has been set back by a Government decision to exclude an extension to Albany from an $815 million package of accelerated roading projects.

A Treasury paper shows the Government considered a Transport Agency plan to extend the dedicated bus highway from Constellation Drive, but backed off after being told it would cost an extra $250 million.

But it is pressing ahead with northern corridor roading improvements costing $460 million, including a full motorway-to-motorway “elbow” link extending four kilometres from State Highway 18 to Greville Rd on SH1 – parallel to the first part of the busway extension route of similar length.

As I mentioned last week the busway extension was originally an integral part of the “Northern Corridor” package of projects:

Northern Corridor Improvements

This went back to the Prime Minister’s speech in June last year, where he also made reference to improving the busway as part of the Northern Corridor package:

Deliver a complete motorway-to-motorway link between the Upper Harbour Highway and the Northern Motorway at Constellation Drive, upgrade the Greville road interchange and improve the Northern Busway

Plans to extend the busway from its current northern end at Constellation Station on to Albany have been around for a number of years – which I looked at in quite some detail last year, drawing from an OIA response on the busway extension’s route and business case which had been prepared for NZTA. Within that report there’s a good summary of how successful the existing busway has been:

Over the past few years investment in the Northern Busway, and efforts to improve bus and transit lanes in other parts of the North Shore, have resulted in a significant increase in the proportion of trips made by bus. Not only has the number of bus users across the Harbour Bridge improved significantly during this time, but there has been a decline in the number of cars crossing the bridge: freeing up space so everyone’s trip is faster and more reliable.

Recent figures indicate that almost 12,000 out of the 29,000 people crossing the bridge in the morning peak period are now travelling by bus (i.e. almost 41 percent of all people use the bus). This figure represents a significant increase in bus mode split compared to 2004 (which had roughly 5,000 out of 27,000 (18.5 percent)) of people crossing the bridge at peak times by bus.

The argument for extending the busway from Constellation to Albany is not only about the success of the current busway, but also about fixing some of the problems faced by buses along this section and supporting the growth of Albany into a true metropolitan centre. The current Northern Express bus gets a great ride between Constellation and Akoranga, but further north the only infrastructure available are some pretty stop-start shoulder lanes, the main consequences of which are that buses get stuck in general congestion on the motorway and also that (particularly northbound) buses waste a lot of time getting through the interchanges. Let’s just look at what a northbound bus needs to do at Constellation Station when going north (in red) compared to the much more direct route it could take with the busway extension (in green):

nex-northbound-detour

That might not look like much but getting from Parkway Dr on to Constellation Dr then turning right from Constellation Dr on to the motorway can easily take 5 minutes or more. Multiply that over hundreds of passengers a day and you have some substantial delays.

Further north at Greville Road, my understanding is that in the morning peak the buses get stuck around the interchange for ages as they exit it and then enter again to make use of the bus lanes and shoulder that exist. Yet again many minutes are lost for the huge number of people who use the Northern busway every day.

As a final point, it was interesting that when asked by the Herald, Gerry Brownlee seemed to leave his options open:

A spokesman for Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee said last night that although a $350 million Government loan to the agency for motorway improvements did not provide for the busway extension, the project “has not been dropped from the list of projects that may be considered for acceleration in the future”.

If the government did accelerate progress on the busway extension it would become the very first new public transport project in Auckland from them.

22 comments to Extending the Northern Busway

  • Fred

    This is so annoying. The one good bit of the accelerated package and it gets dumped nearly immediately.

  • Sam

    Yes that’s true about city-bound buses exiting then rejoiing motorway at Greville Rd; it’s basically driver’s discretion depending on how busy the motorway looks. It shouldn’t be necessary, and the buses often get stuck crossing Greville Rd because the roundabout and on-ramp are blocked with stationary cars queing for motorway…

  • JimboJones

    If the NZTA extended the busway it would take even more cars off the harbour bridge and potentially deny them a $5 billion budget to build a second crossing. The NZTA are more obsessed with spending money than saving money.

  • George D

    “has not been dropped from the list of projects that may be considered for acceleration in the future”.

    It’s not impossible that this Government would ever fund it. Just extremely unlikely.

    • nonsense

      “we’ll keep it in that list forever so at times we can use it for a bit of PTwashing”

    • Stu Donovan

      funny how under the current National Government PT projects *never* make it from the list of projects that are being considered and onto the list of actually being funded. Tomorrow’s always coming …

      As Matt notes, the only PT projects completed in Auckland over the last 6 years were *already committed* to by the last Labour Government. During their time in office the current National Government has stumped up approximately $10 billion in additional funding for relatively low-value highway projects, but found $0 in additional funding for relatively high-value PT projects.

      Now I’m passionately moderate in my political leanings, and would happily split my vote between Greens, Labour, National, and even a little bit for ACT if I could. But the message for Aucklanders like me who value better public transport (and the majority seem to) seems to be *don’t vote for National in the upcoming elections*.

      It really is in transport that National have positioned themselves deep into the road hogs category, and thereby (dishonourably) distinguished themselves from almost all the other parties.

      • tuktuk

        +1. National do actually have some very experienced and skilled money managers (quite clear given the background of the PM to give just one example). You’d want to leave the “keys to the house” with them after this election except…. on the whole vision thing, they are absolutely appalling. Facilitating NZ into a mono-cultural dairy farming future will have long term detrimental effects on our economy never-mind our rivers, and overall carbon footprint. The social experiment of a Christchurch that will sprawl for kilometres over the Canterbury Plains, yet have no heart is another shocker.

        And, to cap it all off the failure to build the Northern Busway extension should by now be…. well and truly ringing the alarm bells that these guys willfully ignore good economics in favour of blind ideology.

        • Sacha

          Not sure where that myth comes from. English learned everything he knows from neoliberal fools in Treasury who seem to only mix with other economists. Joyce ran some radio stations. Key was a foreign currency speculator.

          It’d be like giving your house keys to Uncle Eddie who’s keen on the horses and the casino and finding he’s lost the whole thing in a bet.

  • Mike

    Very similar is happening in Wellington. The Ngauranga to Airport plan includes widening SH1 between Aotea Quay and Ngauranga, with bus lanes on the parallel Hutt Rd. The northbound extra motorway lane has been announced ($50m for 3 km: $16,000 per lane metre) – which according to NZTA is “another step towards creating a fully integrated, multi-modal transport network for the Wellington region” (http://www.stuff.co.nz/motoring/news/10246140/Extra-lane-to-speed-travel-out-of-capital) – but any sign of the complementary bus lane? Regrettably, a silly question.

  • Bryce P

    Personally, I don’t believe it should follow the motorway to the existing Albany P’n’R. I think it should follow the Albany Expressway and provide for a connection to Massey Uni (7k students approx), North Harbour Stadium and the mall and associated development.

    As an aside, my dear mum uses PT quite a bit as she doesn’t drive by choice. A comment made to me is that she feels unsafe in the Albany P’n’R during the day. I presume this is because the concentration of people, required for social safety, is in the am and pm peaks. Having an interchange closer to amenities would provide for much more off-peak use.

    • Stu Donovan

      Disagree – leave busway where it is to provide fast/rapid north-south connection. Instead service those other demand centres with frequent/direct west-east routes. Remember there’s lots of demand to travel to those places from Eastern Bays, which can travel via busway station (and hence provide a connection between the two) on their way.

      Taking the busway at grade through Massey is not only geotechnically challenging (drive up Bush Road) but would also expose services to lots of localised delays/variability.

      • Bryce P

        Pi Yeah, lots of demand, from people who drive to the station. Hardly creating a walkable centre. Lets stay with the P’n’ride mentality just like the one at Silverdale.

      • Bryce P

        For clarification, Albany Expressway, not Albany Highway. Plenty of space for an at grade, central busway. And very little distance added vs motorway route.

    • Stu Donovan

      P.s. Albany will develop towards the busway station: And the office development tends to be located on eastern side close to busway station, much better than stadium (which typically generate 5/8s of not much patronage).

  • BD

    I hope National loose the election!

  • David

    I agree. The government should be making a priority extending the busway all the way to Silverdale. Rationale; by the time anyone gets their act together the Milbrook development north of Silverdale will have added 1,000’s more to the congestion heading south for work

  • Sacha

    Jam tomorrow. Vote these cretins out.

  • Glen

    This says everything about this Government’s priorities. Which boxes to tick come September should be self-evident.

    Hopefully this will be just as evident to those vocal Shore residents who are always saying they’re missing out. News flash – it’s not because you’re being ignored, it’s because the current Government won’t fund public transport on the Shore.

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