Next year will have a lot of really important milestones for Auckland’s public transport system. Let’s take a look at the biggies:
- The first electric trains are scheduled to arrive in the second half of 2013, although they’re not likely to be put into revenue service until early 2014.
- Integrated ticketing will finally be implemented across all buses, trains and ferries in the first half of 2013.
- The notice of requirement to secure route protection for the City Rail Link project should progress significantly throughout 2013, which will mean the project advances further than it has before in its many iterations over the past 90 years.
- We should start to see the first steps of implementing the exciting new bus network across Auckland.
My main hopes are that all of these momentous events are able to take place in a timely and successful manner. The history of integrated ticketing means that this is the one I’m most sceptical of seeing further delays over (has the Hop Card equipment even been ordered yet for the buses I wonder?) so I think we’ll need to keep an eye on that. Most things seem on track with construction of the EMUs, the CRL is likely to go through the standard consenting process which – unlike many projects where this is a scary hurdle – actually almost seems like it can be an opportunity to highlight and reinforce the benefits of the project. There will necessarily be a lot of information about things like station design that will need to be released as part of the consenting process so it’ll be interesting to comment on things like the location of station entrances and the like.
As well as these big headline projects, I also hope that Auckland Transport can do a better job at some of the small things – like actually getting in place a bus lane or two, sorting out the Outer Link bus, ensuring that the Fanshawe Street bus lane is reopened by early February, not putting up public transport fares for a while yet and having better real-time information available.
The other really interesting thing to come out in 2013 will be the Council’s Draft Unitary Plan. As the document with the statutory powers to regulate pretty much every bit of land-use development, the Unitary Plan will be critical in deciding whether the vision of the Auckland Plan can be achieved or not. Things like what the Plan’s approach to parking minimums will be and the extent to which clever intensification is enabled and encouraged will be something to keep a really close eye on – and I’m hoping the Council has the guts to be bold in changing the planning rulebook where it’s painfully obvious the old approaches simply don’t work.
It’ll be an interesting year, that’s for sure.
We have come quite a long way in improving Auckland’s public transport system over the last decade, but there are times when you realise that – perhaps sub-consciously more than anything else – there are some who think that public transport still isn’t important and that it’s OK to treat those who catch the train or ride the bus or ferry as second class citizens. It really pisses me off to be honest. Let’s take a look at the latest example:
Buses normally allocated their own lane along one of Auckland’s heaviest commuter routes will have to vie for space with cars during months of post-Christmas roadworks in Fanshawe St.
The city-bound bus lane between the Northern Motorway and Nelson St will be opened to general traffic while the road is narrowed between next week and March to make way for a $415 million electricity supply upgrade for Auckland and Northland.
Although two lanes will remain available to traffic from December 27, commuters from the North Shore will be urged to avoid delays by using the motorway’s Cook St or Grafton Gully exits to reach downtown Auckland.
What’s really frustrating about this proposal is that during peak times, it is the Fanshawe Street bus lane that actually carries the majority of people travelling along the corridor. Let’s take a look at the numbers from the 2012 CBD Screenline Survey:
The first line shows the key point – that along Fanshawe Street in the AM peak 65% of people are using the bus lane, which means that around 17% of people are using each of the other two general traffic lanes. But Transpower’s project means that it’s the poor sods using the bus who miss out on having a really critical bus lane just so the vastly lower number of people driving in their cars don’t have to squeeze down to one lane inbound. This is despite Mike Lee, chair of the Transport Committee, highlighting in a letter to Transpower that this was exactly what he didn’t want to see happen:
To be honest I’m not surprised that Transpower is showing such contempt for public transport passengers. The Northern Busway has been completely stuffed this whole year with the various sections of it being closed repeatedly – once again I can’t see Transpower getting away with closing two lanes of motorway (the equivalent of what’s carried on the Northern Busway at peak times) yet for some reason they can get away with stuffing around bus passengers all year long.
What is disappointing though is that presumably Auckland Transport have approved the closure of the Fanshawe Street bus lane, because at the end of the day it’s their piece of infrastructure. The closure is scheduled to go right through to March, traditionally the busiest month for public transport travel in the whole year, and Auckland Transport will know the impact of this on the attractiveness of public transport for people coming from the North Shore. They will know that the Fanshawe Street bus lane carries nearly twice as many people during the peak period as the other two lanes combined. Yet seemingly they don’t care.
No wonder public transport patronage is falling.
One part of the City Centre Future Access Study that is particularly interesting to look through is Appendix C – the deficiency analysis. This effectively highlights in more detail what ‘the problem’ is in terms of future access to central Auckland. In particular, it highlights the difficulties arising from the future number of buses on certain parts of the network and was undertaken during the relatively early stages of developing CCFAS – so apparently doesn’t look at certain issues later dealt with in more detail, like the application of public transport crowding in the modelling.
Given the discussions of the last few days, and in particular some of the concerns about CCFAS raised by the Minister in relation to the impact of currently planned project, it’s worth noting that the deficiency analysis outlines the projects assumed to be constructed in the transport modelling runs:
The following committed transport schemes were included:
- Rail electrification;
- AMETI early stages (including SE Busway);
- Waterview connection;
- Integrated ticketing and fares;
- New bus network implementation with PTOM;
- Puhoi to Wellsford RoNS.
In addition, a number of other schemes that are currently not funded were also included, as follows:
- Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing (in 2041 only);
- AMETI later stages;
- East-West link;
- State highway upgrades and removal of bottlenecks.
The impact of all these projects being included in the modelling is also noted:
As a result, the reference case scenarios used as the basis of this deficiency analysis included a large amount of road-based transport infrastructure investment outside the city centre. This therefore presents a ‘best case’ for the wider network in both 2021 and 2041 as there is currently no guarantee that some of the schemes listed above will be funded.
So not only are all the currently proposed/under construction motorway upgrades included in the analysis, a pile of additional motorway projects that aren’t yet funded (like AWHC and the East-West Link) are also assumed to be constructed. I do wonder whether the mess the city centre becomes in the transport modelling results might be partly because of the impact of AWHC but let’s set that issue aside for now.
There’s then a lot of discussion about the realistic capacity of bus corridors, which is critical to the issue of whether or not buses alone can handle the increased travel demands over the next 30 years. This is because the number of buses along many inner city streets increases pretty dramatically over time – even with the rationalisation of services that occurs with the introduction of the new bus network. Here are the anticipated bus volumes in 2021:
And then in 2041:
If it’s a bit difficult to read, the busiest section is on Symonds Street between Grafton Bridge and Wellesley Street – having 199 buses and hour in 2021 and 262 by 2041.The deficiency analysis then goes on to outline the problems which arise from such high volumes of buses:
…a key threshold that underpins this analysis relates to the operational capacity of a bus lane. Background research has indicated that 100 buses per hour is a reasonable threshold capacity for a single lane with no indented stops, and that the capacity can be increased to a degree with the provision of indented stops but space requirements at the stops themselves and the delays experienced by buses at junctions limits the effectiveness of increasing service capacity in this way.
…It should be noted that in the context of this analysis, such a threshold should be regarded as an upper-limit for the desirable efficient operation of a bus service rather than an absolute limit. There are many examples of bus corridors around the world operating with a combined frequency of more than 100 buses per hour, but … there is also much evidence to suggest that once this threshold is exceeded, the performance of the network in terms of delays and journey-time reliability begins to deteriorate.
Since service reliability is often identified as the most critical indicator in passengers’ perception of the quality of service, and consequently the demand for that service, there is a strong case to be made that such thresholds should be seriously considered in the planning of any bus network.
Clearly in the city centre itself, the sheer magnitude of future demand means that relying on buses alone simply cannot work due to the sheer volumes of vehicles that would need to traverse the key corridors. This is what leads to the requirement of closing off these streets to anything but buses in the Surface Bus Options looked at later in the report, but I’ll leave that further analysis for another post.
Moving further through the deficiency analysis work, it becomes clear that the problems with bus capacity exist not only on the inner city streets, but are actually much more widespread throughout Auckland. Using ‘volume to capacity’ ratios, which compare the PT demand with a realistic level of capacity supplied along that particular route, we see that demand absolutely swamps the amount of available capacity. Once again, first in 2021:
By 2041 it’s a real mess:
The ratios seem to be worked out by a comparison of future demand with the currently proposed future bus networks. If frequencies on the bus network were ramped up to provide more capacity to bring the ratios down, then the city ends up having to be hugely swamped with buses – like shown in the earlier diagrams, creating a nonsensical transport outcome. This creates the conundrum which sits at the heart of improving future access to the city centre: either the buses are enormously (and impossibly really) overcrowded or you need to run far too many buses for the city’s streets to cope with.
In fact, to meet the level of PT demand in 2021, there would need to be an average of close to 100 buses an hour on all the bus access points to the city centre:
What the deficiency analysis really highlights in my mind is how ultimately we need City Rail Link in order to save the CBD from being inundated with thousands upon thousands of buses. Of course even with CRL we will still need to run a lot of buses into town, but they will be from areas not served by rail to a greater and greater extent, while over time if we’re smart enough to build a North Shore rail link rather than a daft additional motorway crossing, there will be the opportunity to further avoid massive increases in the number of buses in the city centre over time.
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?
I found myself in an interesting discussion on Twitter yesterday about the Northern Busway and whether a North Shore railway line is likely to be necessary at some point in the future or not. This is a fairly common debate, but one that’s often a bit ill-informed by the assumptions that people make. Things like:
- Rail to the North Shore is really expensive. Well yes it is, but not nearly as expensive as building a $5 billion road tunnel.
- The North Shore already has a busway, why does it need a railway line? And here’s where things get interesting – read on!
While the North Shore certainly does have a busway – a very successful one at that – we must remember that the busway proper is only between Constellation and Akoranga Stations in both directions, then between Akoranga Station and the Onewa Road interchange in the southbound direction. In some other places there are bus shoulder lanes, but that’s it. When you actually start to map out how much of the Northern Express route (the core route along the busway) is busway (blue) bus lane or shoulder lane (green) and mixed traffic (red) the result is actually somewhat surprising:Breaking down the distances, you can see that northbound passengers in particular get a pretty raw deal:Total it all up and you actually find that only 41% of the Northern Express’s route is actually along the busway proper. A full 40% of the route is without any form of bus priority measures at all – including half of the route for northbound buses. Most worryingly the places with some of the patchiest bus priority measures, like the Harbour Bridge, St Mary’s Bay for northbound traffic and around the Britomart departure points are the very places where bus volumes are the highest and the competition for road space is most intense, with buses sadly losing out. For example, the fact that NZTA didn’t bother to put a northbound bus lane through St Mary’s Bay when widening that motorway speaks absolute volumes of the disdain that organisation has for public transport.
The point of all these calculations isn’t to criticise the Northern Busway, but actually to point out that a railway line south of Akoranga – like the rail line shown below - wouldn’t actually duplicate much of the busway at all: just the southbound section between Akoranga and Onewa which would be very handy for minimising the length of a cross-harbour tunnel:Furthermore, this is pretty much exactly the same section which NZTA’s Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing Project adds capacity to – at a cost of at least $5 billion (a rough estimate based on past analysis suggests that a Takapuna to Aotea rail link should be able to be built for under $2.5 billion). After all, the only thing AWHC does is shift ‘through-traffic’ off the harbour bridge into a new tunnel and then turn the harbour bridge into giant on and off ramps feeding a heap of cars into downtown that we don’t actually want. For $5 billion!
Clearly in the meanwhile there are things we can do to improve the busway and increase the measly 41% total. An extension northwards from Constellation to Albany is a no-brainer. Improved priority measures in the inner city is another clear requirement, plus we need to do something about getting a bus lane northbound through St Mary’s Bay. But for goodness sake, before we go and spend $5 billion on a road tunnel that’ll do nothing but feed cars into downtown, can we consider a much cheaper and much more effective alternative?
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.
I’ve lost count of the number of times this same story comes up in the Herald and about the only thing missing this time was a sob story from a motorist. Instead we get three councillors who think this is a perfect opportunity to try and score some political points.
A central Auckland bridge is netting $150,000 in traffic fines from confused motorists every month.
Almost 1000 tickets have been issued each month this year to drivers snapped by enforcement cameras as they cross Grafton Bridge – which has been closed to all but buses for three years.
This year’s total take is about $1.25 million.
Some civic leaders say a “dog’s breakfast” of signs around the bridge creates confusion.
Auckland Council members Cameron Brewer, George Wood and Calum Penrose have called for a review of the signs after learning that as many as 997 tickets, worth $150 each, are being issued each month.
Mr Brewer said the council-controlled Auckland Transport had put up an array of small signs around the busy approaches to the bridge to show it was for buses only between 7am and 7pm on weekdays.
But the number of signs had added to the confusion.
“For many who may be heading into the area for the first time in a long time, it is as clear as mud.
“With no time to take it all in, many drivers find themselves on the bridge, nowhere to go, and staring at a $150 fine.”
Mr Wood called the signs a “complete dog’s breakfast” and said they explained why so many people were still being fined three years after the bridge became a bus corridor.
Well George I don’t think that it is the signs that are causing people to keep using the bridge but a mix of stupidity and risk taking thinking they might get away with it. First there were cries of not enough signage, now cries of too much signage but I think that the signs are just a convenient excuse. As I understand it Auckland transport already has a policy of letting out of towners off with a warning and with the amount noise that was generated the previous times this issue has come up I would be really surprised if there was really that many people that didn’t know that the bridge was off limits.
If there is any confusion at all it is due to the fact the bus only status is only active between 7am and 7pm on weekdays, perhaps the solution is to just make it bus only 24/7. The other thing Auckland Transport should do is to is to come out and say that if people are going to be stupid enough to drive over the bridge then they deserve a fine (and the same goes for other bus lanes too). They shouldn’t have to appear almost ashamed that they are keeping the bus lanes moving as without enforcement they quickly deteriorate with drivers thinking they can get away with clogging them up.
Auckland Transport have proposed some changes to New North Road bus services – which is a good thing as the current buses are an absolute mess. Here are the details:
What are the proposed changes?
It is proposed to simplify all services running along New North Road to improve frequency and reliability and to reduce overcrowding.
- Future services will be timetabled to create a frequency of at least one bus every 15 minutes between Avondale and the City, 7am – 7pm, Monday to Friday. During peak hours buses will run approximately every 5 minutes. No change to weekend frequencies at this time.
- All future services will go via St Lukes. There will be no service on New North Road between St Lukes Road and Morningside Drive.
- All inbound routes in central Auckland will go via Symonds St, Wellesley St and terminate at Victoria St in the vicinity of Victoria Park (see future services map).
- Outbound buses will continue to use Victoria St and Waterloo Quadrant.
- Services will no longer go via Bond St, Great North Road and K Rd or via Ian McKinnon Drive and Upper Queen St.
- The deviation along Carrington Road, Fontenoy Street, Margaret Avenue, Martin Avenue, Rossgrove Terrace, Asquith Avenue and Wairere Avenue will be removed.
From Rosebank Road in Avondale all buses will take the same route so passengers travelling between Avondale and Midtown will be able to take any 221 to 224 bus.
And the thinking behind them:
Why are we proposing changes?
- To make better use of the services that travel along New North Road
- To simplify the routes from fourteen to five so that passengers will be able to more easily identify the bus they require
- To increase frequencies along the routes so that passenger waiting time will be reduced
- To provide local communities along the route with more frequent access to St Lukes (every 15 minutes instead of every 30 minutes)
- To serve the new intensive residential development around St Lukes
- To provide an hourly service along Patiki Road on Sundays
- To improve trip time through the city centre by taking the inbound services via Wellesley Street instead of Waterloo Quadrant
- To provide more capacity through Kingsland and Eden Terrace
- To improve access to the Victoria Park area
- To make it easier to turn buses around in the city as Federal St will no longer be available if it is turned into a shared space. To restart the next trip they will terminate and start in the same place
Let’s take a look at the current, rather complex, pattern of bus services in the area:
And what’s proposed:
Overall I support the changes, though with a few points:
- I’m not sure whether it’s really necessary to keep the 224 running to Henderson and quite a few buses, plus the trains, already do that trip between Henderson and New Lynn.
- It seems like all the express bus services have been removed, which is a bit odd and likely to be unpopular one would think.
- Sending every trip via St Lukes basically just makes the trip for anyone who isn’t going to St Lukes quite a bit longer – which is annoying. While obviously St Lukes is a big trip generator, this just highlights that it’s in the wrong location – fundamentally.
- What this route really needs is some bus lanes, especially through Kingsland shops where the buses get held up for ages during the morning peak.
It’s nice to see that Auckland Transport are still looking at ways of making small interim improvements to the bus network, in advance of rolling out the full new network over the next few years.
An article in the herald today has open up an interesting can of worms, should we let Taxis in to bus lanes.
Taxis may be let loose in some of Auckland’s bus lanes in a plan to ease congestion on roads in the Super City.
Auckland Transport has told the taxi industry it will apply to the Government’s Transport Agency to run a trial of cabs in “selected” bus lanes such as along Mt Eden Rd or Sandringham Rd.
The proposal, promoted by Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye after an approach by drivers from the city’s fleet of more than 3500 taxis, is vehemently opposed by council transport leader Mike Lee.
Now it is not surprising that the taxi drivers want to be able to drive in the lanes as there is a financial benefit to them doing so. It enables them to be more competitive against both buses/private cars and potentially complete more journeys in the same amount of time which means they can make more money. But before making a suggestion about whether this is a good idea or not, I think we need to look at a few other issues/points that float around in my head surrounding this discussion.
Are Taxis Public Transport?
Taxi companies like to tell us that because they carry the general public that they are another form of a public transport. Personally I think this is complete rubbish and in many ways they are actually worse than single occupant vehicle (SOV) due to the fact the taxi driver has to make additional trips to get to/from where they pick up or drop off their passengers. I would even say that taxis carrying only one passenger shouldn’t even be allowed in a T2 lane as it is technically still a single person making a journey along a route so no different to a SOV.
Do we need to make better use of Bus Lanes?
A reason often mentioned for having T2/3 lanes instead of buslanes is about making better use of the lane available and this seems to stem from a belief that unless a lane is full of vehicles it is not being used efficiently. While it may be the case that we could put a more vehicles in a lane, it is the very fact that it is ‘empty’ that allows the buses to complete their journeys faster than they otherwise would be able to which makes them more efficient. Every extra non planned vehicle added to lane increases the chances that a bus will be held up. If getting more value out of bus lanes is a key goal then we should also ask if taxis are the best way of providing that and where does it end? By this I mean why give access to taxis instead of say trucks or couriers or tradespeople which are more likely to be being productive and moving goods around. Now of course no one wants a truck hurtling past them while they are waiting for a bus to come along but allowing taxis will likely have these other road users asking why not them.
Even if we take taxis or any other vehicle out of the general traffic lanes and allow them to use the bus lanes will we actually see an improvement in congestion. I don’t think so as one of the big issues with having T2/3 vehicles in bus lanes is if they are travelling along behind a bus and the bus stops they normally force their way into the general traffic lane till they get around the bus. This was shown along Tamaki Dr after the bus lane there was converted to T2 and the only people who saw an improvement in journey times were those T2 vehicles. Taxis would cause the same issue and could be much worse if they stop to pick up/drop off passengers along a bus route.
Should Taxis have free access to Bus Lanes?
If these companies genuinely think they will benefit from having access to the lanes, which they must otherwise they wouldn’t be pushing for it, then they should be prepared to pay a fee for that access. Providing the fee was set at the right level then it would be an investment for them. Of course charging a fee also raises other issues like compliance and as with the previous point, other road users may be prepared to pay a fee for access. If a fee was charged for access then the money raised can go towards further improving PT services.
If taxis or other vehicles are allowed, should the lanes have extended time limits
One of the biggest issues with bus lanes right now is that most only tend to operate for four hours per day (7am-9am & 4pm-6pm). Even on Dominion Rd which is one of the busiest bus routes in the country and over 50% of peak users are on buses has its priority cut down to these hours. If are to start letting other vehicles use these lanes then perhaps AT need to start compensating for it by extending the operating hours, especially in light of the proposed PT network which will see buses operating far more frequently off peak.
How will usage be enforced?
We already seem to have problems in certain parts of the city with taxis ignoring rules and parking where they shouldn’t be and what will be done to ensure that taxis aren’t stopping to pick up/drop of passengers while holding up buses. We could put rules around it but witnessing the behaviour of many of the drivers it doesn’t give me much hope that they would abide by any bus lane rules.
There are probably a few other points that I have missed but at this stage I am not convinced that allowing taxis into bus lanes is the best solution. It mainly seems to be a way of allowing taxi drivers/companies to make more money while at the same time not really doing anything to help congestion, bus users or even users of general traffic lanes. Perhaps it is time that we as a city started to have a proper discussion about the role taxis should play in our transport system before just adjusting the status quo.
Auckland transport has released the latest plans for improving Dominion Rd, here’s the press release:
Dominion Rd bus lane and village centres upgrade approved
A major upgrade of Dominion Rd to create peak hour bus lanes along most of the road and upgrade its three village centres has been approved by Auckland Transport.
The $47 million project also includes new cycle routes through quieter roads either side of Dominion Rd. Construction is expected to begin in early 2014, subject to NZTA funding approval.
Dominion Rd is one of the few transport corridors in Auckland where there are more bus passengers than drivers in peak hours. It carries about 2.2 million bus passengers a year, three per cent of the entire region’s public transport trips.
Dominion Rd’s current piecemeal sections of bus lanes will be joined up to create continuous lanes in peak hours between State Highway 20 and View Rd. The bus lanes will also extend through intersections, which they do not at present. On-street parking will be retained at other times.
The bus lane operating hours of 7am – 9am for the northbound lane and 4pm – 6pm for the southbound lane will not be changed as part of the upgrade. However they will be reviewed as part of a planned region-wide review of bus lane hours.
The project will help improve the reliability of buses on Dominion Rd and increase its capacity so it can deal with an expected growth in travellers. A 30 per cent increase in transport trips is predicted along Dominion Rd.
A review of the project allowed Auckland Transport to reduce the potential cost of the project by about $50m. This will be achieved by keeping the bus lane widths at 3m north of Mt Albert Rd, meaning expensive service relocations are not necessary. Between SH20 and Mt Albert Rd, which requires widening to create new bus lanes, they will be 4.5m.
Auckland Transport board member and Albert-Eden Cr Christine Fletcher says at this stage the benefits of widening the bus lanes were not great enough to outweigh the significantly higher cost.
“This upgrade will still deliver big improvements to bus reliability and travel times, as most of those come from having continuous bus lanes. It also means much needed upgrades for village centres and safer routes for cyclists.
“There is huge demand for the funding available for transport projects in Auckland, so the savings from this project will be able to be put to good use elsewhere.”
Albert-Eden Cr Cathy Casey says: “I am delighted that Auckland Transport’s board has listened to the people on Dominion Road and that the village centres of Mt Roskill, Balmoral and Eden Valley are to get their long awaited upgrades including new footpaths, trees, street furniture, pedestrian priority, and lighting improvements. Footpaths along the length of Dominion Rd will also be upgraded.
“It has been a long road to hoe for Auckland Transport but it is worth it to get Dominion Road right!”
The village centres of Mt Roskill, Balmoral and Eden Valley, will get upgrades, including new footpaths, trees, street furniture, pedestrian priority, and lighting improvements. Footpaths along the length of Dominion Rd will also be upgraded.
Albert-Eden Local Board Chair Peter Haynes says the board is pleased that a start to the long-awaited work on Dominion Road is finally within sight.
“The uncertainty caused by delays over the years has held back the development of the road, it has the potential to be one of Auckland’s great thoroughfares.
“We welcome the upgrading in the village centres and of footpaths, pedestrian crossings and refuges between the centres. We are pleased that there will not be wholesale widening of the road, and that the plans to make the road into a highway like Balmoral Road are buried in the past.
“The board will work with Auckland Transport to see that local people are fully consulted on these plans, and to determine safer alternative routes for cyclists.”
Puketapapa Local Board Chair Richard Barter says the board is pleased with the outcome.
“The board acknowledges that the goal for the project is to improve bus services so appreciates the Auckland Transport Board’s support for the streetscape upgrades along Dominion Rd. This will further encourage the use of public transport and will be a boost for local business as the villages along the route will become attractive destinations.
“The decision will create certainty for local residents who have been waiting for many years for the upgrade of the Mt Roskill Village.
A commuter cyclist, Mr Barter says the safe cycle routes planned to run parallel to Dominion Rd will encourage local people to try commuting by bicycle.
Public information days to update the community on the plans will be held on Saturday 17 November in Mt Eden and Wednesday 21 November in Mt Roskill. More information, including a video showing concepts for the upgrade, is at www.aucklandtransport.govt.nz.
Its good that the bus lanes are being extended right up to the intersections but it seems odd that on what is one of the busiest and most successful bus corridors in entire region, a route that carries more people at peak via bus will still only be in operation for four hours a day and that outside of those there will be on street car parking. To be fair, this partly isn’t Auckland Transports fault as the local businesses still seem to think that it is cars that come in and buy things and not people. I do hope that once the street is upgraded that perhaps AT embark on a programme to change both of these aspects. They could remove 5% of the on street parks per year while also extending out the bus lane hours on a gradual basis so that people can get used to it. Personally I would love to see trams put back down Dominion Rd with them in the centre of the road but it will be a slow process to convince the business owners that allowing more people being able to get to the area easily will benefit them.
Here is a video that AT has made showing what it may look like.
And an idea of what Mt Roskill may look like
I do know that some people are annoyed that there are no dedicated cycling facilities being included on the road. While many commuter cyclists are probably still going to use the road, the thinking is that two other routes will be created for more recreational cyclists on the streets that run roughly parallel to Dominion Rd. Fellow blogger Kent offered this little nugget of analysis on the situation:
- Any infrastructure needs to be be built from the cbd out, without gaps- what has been built is a joke
- Dom rd is a uniquely successful PT route.
- Dom road, in many places, has special urban fabric that should’t be further compromised
- Catering to all modes, would jeopardise one, or both of the above
We are going to be doing a separate post that focuses solely on the cycling proposals along with some suggestions so if you are thinking of firing a shot at AT about it, hold off till we get that post up. One question that AT haven’t answered yet though is what they now plan to do with the $50m they have saved but that was budgeted for in the long term plan, that could build a lot of alternative cycling infrastructure in other parts of the city.
Here is a cross section of the road at the Valley Rd and Balmoral shops: