It is frustrating to read that council are considering removing the bus lanes from Remuera Road, or at least along parts of it. Of course bus lanes will create more congestion for users of the road who continue to drive their cars, but in some ways that is half the point – to provide people with an incentive to catch the bus. It is almost impossible for bus travel to be faster than car travel if you don’t have bus lanes. That is because buses need to keep stopping all the time to let passengers on and off. It is pretty common for buses to take twice, or three times, as long to do a trip as it would for someone to do that same trip in their car. As a result, most people continue to drive their cars and Auckland becomes an even more automobile dependent city.
While the majority of Aucklanders who use public transport catch the bus, there are relatively few corridors where a large proportion of people going along that corridor are catching the bus. These include Onewa Road, Dominion Road and the Northern Busway (probably a few others too). The key for all of these corridors is that buses have been provided with a way to bypass general traffic congestion. In the case of Onewa Road there is a transit-lane, which allows for buses and vehicles with three or more occupants. Dominion Road has standard bus lanes along its entire length, while the Northern Busway is a fully grade separated busway. For people travelling along these corridors there is a real incentive to use the bus and be able to break free from Auckland’s general automobile dependency. This has enabled Dominion Road to avoid super-expensive widening (and when that does happen, it will be to allow even faster public transport), it has increased the capacity of the Northern Motorway through the busway, and it has given people who use Onewa Road in the morning a viable alternative to sitting in their cars for 20 minutes going nowhere.
Situations like this are one of the reasons I really do look forward to Auckland having a Super-City in the future (as long as some necessary changes are made). I look forward to having one transportation agency that both runs the bus service and is in charge of creating bus lanes. Perhaps then that agency will see the value in having bus lanes and they will be expanded further throughout Auckland, rather than being undermined where they exist. For now though, ARTA and NZ Bus need to fight to keep their Remuera Road bus lanes.