The Northern Busway has been a big success since it opened in February last year. Even though the busway has now been fully open for 18 months, its patronage is still increasing quite significantly year on year – with June 2009 patronage more than 20% above June 2008 patronage. So it’s got me thinking – is there anywhere else that we could build a busway in Auckland?

A few possible options show up in ARTA plans, including as an option for providing a “rapid transit network” for the part of Auckland east of the Tamaki River. Personally, I think that would be a mistake and any provision out there has to be rail. That is because even if we built a high quality busway between Manukau City and Panmure via Flat Bush, Botany and Pakuranga there would be the huge problem of “what to do with all those buses once we get to Panmure?” The passengers couldn’t just hop onto the train system, as it’s already pretty full between Panmure and the city, while building a busway between Panmure and the city would be nigh on impossible. That’s why I think the solution has to be rail. Another possible busway that has been mentioned is an extension of the Northern Busway to Albany, and eventually to Orewa. The extension to Albany makes a lot of sense – but to Orewa seems crazy. I think NZTA have only really suggested the link through to Orewa because it’s the only public transport project they’re able to get involved in – and they’re quite proud of what they achieved with the Northern Busway.

However, one location where I think a busway would be appropriate, and very useful, would be along the Northwestern Motorway – state highway 16. While we do have the Western Line railway serving much of west Auckland, its catchment is quite separate to that of the northwest motorway. The northwest motorway is one of Auckland’s most congested, with very uneven flows (all into the city in the morning and out of the city in the evening) which I think would make it quite well suited to a busway. The route would follow the route outlined below: which effectively is simply the route of state highway 16. Possible busway stations would align pretty close with current motorway interchanges. More on the stations soon, but here’s the route:busway-route Quite a lot of the route would probably be easier to construct than the Northern Busway was – with the corridor along which SH16 runs being pretty wide in general. The motorway between Pt Chevalier and Te Atatu is going to be widened to 8 lanes in the near future anyway – so the busway could be either built at the same time as that or (shock horror) instead of the motorway widening. Between Westgate and Te Atatu the motorway is proposed to be widened to 6 lanes, so once again the busway could either be built at the same time, or instead of the widening. So no real problems there in terms of feasibility.

On the city side of Pt Chevalier, things might be a bit trickier. There is room along most of the distance between Pt Chevalier and Western Springs, while the motorway between the city and Western Springs has been widened recently, so potentially the busway would need to acquire lanes from the motorway (which could be quite justifiable). In terms of getting from SH16 to Britomart, my prefered route would probably be that outlined below:

cbd-end From the end of SH16 the busway would continue down the right-hand lane of Nelson Street (which would become a bus lane), before turning right at the Cook Street intersection. It would then continue along the left-hand lane of Cook Street (which would also become a bus lane) before turning left into Mayoral Drive, which quickly becomes Albert Street. There could be a stop outside the back of Aotea Centre, providing a good “midtown stop”, before continuing down the bus lanes of Albert Street to terminate at Britomart.

For buses leaving Britomart, effectively the route would be the same up Albert Street, before turning right into Cook Street then left into Hobson Street. I would probably make the right hand lane of this part of Hobson Street into a bus lane, so that buses could bypass queuing traffic at the Pitt Street/Union Street intersection. The busway would probably have to share with general motorway traffic through the central motorway junction until around the Newton Road bridge, where perhaps one lane of the motorway (right hand lane perhaps?) could rise up, cross over the citybound side of the motorway and then continue down the busway proper – which would be located on the northern side of SH16. I think two stops in the CBD would suffice – hopefully we could even have some sort of system available where people could prepay for their rides within a busway station, so that when the bus came along they could simply pile onto the bus through both the front and back doors – improving loading times as nobody would need to directly pay the driver or even swipe their cards before getting on the bus.

In terms of station locations, pretty much all the stations I showed in the first image could be constructed fairly easily – at least easier than it was to build the Northern Busway stations. Let’s start with Western Springs, which would be a fairly small station on the site of what’s currently a petrol station and a carpark – so pretty easy putting it there. The interchange ramps would need to be reorganised so they go under or over the busway, but once again that’s pretty manageable:wsprings
The next station is at Pt Chevalier, and would basically convert a current carpark into a busway station. Once again the station would be relatively small – probably similar in size to either the Smales Farm or Sunnynook stations on the Northern Busway. It’s shown below:ptchev The Pt Chevalier station is very well located right in the heart of Pt Chev shops. Some of the area highlighted as “station” would be needed for the station itself, some allowing local buses to zip in and zip out of the area to transfer passengers to the busway, and some room for people to drop off passengers. I don’t think there’s be much space for park and ride, which is OK for a station this close to the city.

Although my map above shows a Rosebank station, further analysis shows that might be quite hard to provide and probably not really worth it – due to there only really being industry in that area and also the ecological sensitivity of Pollen Island. So we move on to Te Atatu – where there’s a huge space available for an extensive busway station and associated park and ride area:teatatu I imagine the Te Atatu station as being possibly the busiest on the whole busway – with many local buses linking in to the station while at the same time the available space means that quite a lot of park and ride could be provided too.

The next station is near the Lincoln Road interchange, and would be smaller than Te Atatu, but still probably have a decent amount of room available for park and ride:lincoln I know there’s currently an old ship located on the Lincoln station site, but I’m sure that could be shifted somewhere else (I hope so anyway). I think that the station would mostly be useful for park and ride, although some bus services that run along Lincoln Road could also use the station to either join the busway or to drop passengers off – who would go on to catch an equivalent of the Northern Express route that operates on the northern busway.

The next station at Massey would be smaller, and not include any park and ride spaces due to space constraints. I’m not sure whether there would even be room for local bus transfers, or whether it would just be for walk-up passengers like is the case for Sunnynook station on the northern busway:massey The final station would be located at Westgate. I haven’t put together a map of it – as the area is due to change very significantly in the future due to motorway works associated with the Hobsonville Deviation – and also due to major changes to the shopping area that I think Waitakere City are looking to progress. In any case, it would probably be quite a large Park and Ride station – similar to that of Albany on the North Shore (although hopefully not in the middle of nowhere).

In terms of services, I think something quite similar to what runs on the Northern Busway would work well. A “Western Express” service could operate the core spine along the busway – running at 10 minute frequencies throughout the day. This could be supplemented by local feeder buses linking to various station, and also some typical services that could shift onto the busway to speed them up. I know that a lot of current West Auckland buses use the northwest motorway for some of their route, so things could work well.

Anyway, overall I think this is a good idea. NZTA could fund it as well, out of their state highway budget – so the funding could be made available more easily than would be the case for other public transport projects. Thoughts?

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  1. Sounds like a great idea. As for the Westgate terminus there really needs to be two stations. One centrally located to serve the shopping centre/future town centre itself, and another one for a park and ride. The park and ride one can be located a km or two away from the centre so you can have a nice pedestrian friendly town centre. This would offer a much better solution than Albany, and should have been done there as well. Would avoid the situation in Albany where the station is isolated from the centre, and the centre itself is a terrible collection of malls and big-box retail that seem to be poorly connected to each other.
    Also must say that I’m not a fan of too much dependence on large park and rides for the longer term success of public transport. Certainly necessary for the initial development of pt systems in car dependent cities however really need to get the feeder services working really well to connect to the rapid transit. Need to switch the current silly situation where park and ride is free, and feeder services cost money, should be other way around, although only once excellent feeder network is in place.

  2. Is it easier to run it along the Northern side..?

    Riggles proposal has two deviations via tunnel off the motorway, the first under western springs, which I think will need to be done, the terrain there is quite steep and I don’t know how its going to go through the St. Lukes/GNR intersection… The second deviation was under arch hill, it would cause problems to take two lanes for a few hundred metres there too which is where the second deviation left of the motorway via tunnel…

    With all the space on either side at certain points would it make more sense to have one lane on either side with corresponding stations on either side connected by walkways..?

  3. Albert Street woud be the problem. It needs permanent bus lanes or else the buses will take far too much time before they get clear of the inner city crush.

  4. Great idea….

    Something I’ve seen in other cities around the world is putting the bus lane down the middle of the motorway with pedestrian overpasses built to accommodate access to residential areas or park n rides. Could be a way forward especially if the motorway is going to be widened anyway.

    Some sort of metro following the motorway out to Westgate would be an idea… you could use trams aka Melbourne along the city streets which then convert to rail out past CMJ. Now there’s some pie in the sky thinking!

  5. Down the middle of the motorway could be a good idea actually. Regarding Albert Street – I thought its bus lanes were permanent and operated throughout the day?

    Regarding potential to be turned into rail in the future, yeah sure that’s an option and it would be good to future proof (the hill near Massey seems the only major topographical constraint), however I think that this would be fine as a busway for a long time to come. That’s because we already have the Western railway line.

    Regarding Westgate, two stations might make most sense. I’m open to suggestions there as I don’t know how the area will change over then next 5-10 years.

  6. As a former and likely future Massey resident and bus user, I’m heartened by the concept. As of a year ago, there was a sole direct bus to the city from my part of Massey in the mornings (leaving at the delightful 7.05am), and two direct buses back in the evening rush hour. Every other route was some variation on the suburban milk run. And I use direct in the loose sense of the term, since the routes only used the NW motorway between Massey and Pt Chev, and then proceeded to go up Great North Rd etc. into the city.

    Massey remains deeply problematic, however. You’re quite correct that there is very little undeveloped land near the current onramps and offramp. The triangle you have highlighted is a fairly steeply banked marginal strip, most of it located between to the city-bound onramp and the overpass/bridge. Not an easy place to build.

    The other issue is that Massey is quite literally cut in half by the motorway. Sometimes this is reflected in separate names assigned to the two ‘parts’ – “Royal Heights” to the East, and “Massey West” to the West. While your proposed walk-up station would be within moderate walking distance (say, <15 minutes) for about half the residents of Royal Heights, it would be one heck of a hike for almost all residents of Massey West. Many would likely try to drive, and use the Woolworths parking lot (just off the north-eastern corner of your image) as an informal loading/unloading zone. Thus adding to the fairly horrendous congestion on the overpass/bridge (which would also be attracting a few more pedestrians from the West).

    Unless they could be encouraged to catch a transfer bus down to Lincoln Rd.

  7. dc_red, yes you point out some important points with regards to Massey. I don’t think there’d be room for a proper feeder bus transfer station on that site, but certainly I would hope that some local buses would pass through there.

    In terms of service provisions, the Northern Express runs once every 10 minutes from 6am-11pm seven days a week, except for peak hour where I think buses now run once every four minutes. That would certainly be a vast improvement!

  8. I like the busway idea. It is good of you to think of something non-rail for once (yes, rail is important, but the vast bulk of public transport in Auckland is by bus).

    I had toyed before with the idea of a North-west railway, using this route to Point Chevalier, and then going along the west side of Carrington road (through some Unitec land, and demolishing a few houses. Having this section single track could help here) to Mt Albert (the idea being the railway would extend to a future Whenuapai airport, and the Mt Albert link allowing train services to do a airport-airport link with Whenuapai-Manakau via airport services using the Avondale-Southdown line, as well as Whenuapai-city services).

    But the busway has some big advantages. It allows feeder services (one key problem with my railway idea is I liked having it go through Te Atatu to Henderson, and then use the existing railway to Rainui, where a branch would extend north using farmland east of Massey to Whenuapai, but the Te Atatu-Henderson link would be very difficult without demolishing a lot of houses. The busway, with bus lanes on Henederson road would solve this problem) to go all the way to the CBD. And it is cheap. Looking at the costs of the Northern busway, this could be built for as little as $500m (to Te Atatu, plus my proposed buslanes.

    On this issue, if a comercial airport at Whenuapai is built, we really need to look at airport-airport public transport. Quite a few people may have flights to Whenuapai, and a connecting out out of Mangere airport, say Hamilton-Whenuapai, then Mangere-Brisbane) and obviously they won’t use a rental car. The busway would be a good start here (obviously with buses using Waterview and SH20 to airport).

    There is also the fact the west of Auckland is best for public transport, as it has the highest percentage of people working outside its local government area (most in Auckland city and Manakau) in Auckland. So in order to make a good showcase for public transport, we could focus on the west first, as thats where were likely to get the best results.

  9. Going on the issue of west Auckland, I found your post “An odd NZ Herald article” giving the proportions of people who work outside their local government area. For Waitakere City it is 56%. No other local government area has more than 38%.

    This means that for west Auckland comuters:
    1) Their trips are longer (as they have to comute outside Auckland), so thus removing their cars from the road will ease more congestion and pollution than other Aucklanders.
    2) they are A LOT easier to serve by public transport (most of those outside Waitakere will be to one of the employment hubs, such as the CBD, and many fewer will comute in short suburb-suburb connections, like the rest of Auckland, that are tough to provide for by public transport.
    West Auckland is not particularly rich, meaning it may be more sensitive to petrol price increases than other areas. And west Auckland is geographically well suited for public transport, with most people living close to the railway catchment area or your proposed busway (the geographic distribution of Wellington, with most people living in Hutt Valley and Porirua/Kapiti coast requiring only two train lines to get most people is a HUGE factor in why trains work so good for Wellington, especially as a high proportion of people in both areas comute to the CBD).

    This reinforces my point that it is west Auckland where we will be likely to get the best future results for public transport.

  10. I actually think this busway could be even easier than the Northern Busway. There are only a few pinch-points – like around the St Lukes Road overbridge, the Pt Chev interchange (although the future interchange with SH20 could be future-proofed for this busway) and then around Rosebank Road.

    $500m is probably quite a reasonable cost-estimate.

  11. Just to add, current transport plans include the widening of Te Atatu-Massey to 6 lanes once Waterview and the 8 lanning is done, so the busway could be done cheaply along side this (or instead of this) for this section. It also means that we must fight for the busway now if we want it, as in 10 years we may have lost the opportunity to have the lanes added when the road was widend.

  12. Yes Nicholas, I think I’ve only realised this morning that some future-proofing for this link might be necessary in the near future.

    It might be worth emailing NZTA about this…. add that to my to-do-list!

  13. Yeah you said in another post the only major PT project the NZTA had started planning the was extending the Northern Busway to Orewa… Is there any reason they cannot start doing this instead of the expansion..? I.e. continue to Albany but take the money dedicated to the Albany to Orewa section and put it into this idea… I think it’s a much better use of limited funds…

  14. The Lincoln and Te Atatu interchanges would be terribly difficult to get to in the mornings. I’d propose linking Henderson and Te Atatu via another crossing of the Whau estaury (the water between Te Atatu and Rosebank) by extending McLeod Rd or even Hepburn Rd. This would allow a huge number of people living In Henderson, Te Atatu, Glendene, Glen Eden and pretty well all areas West of these suburbs with fantastic access to the busway and the CBD avoiding the impossible to get through lincoln and Te Atatu interchanges.
    All the buses travelling along Great North Rd as well as all the buses passing through Henderson could be linked into an interchange somewhere close to the Glendene roundabout (I’d buy the BP service station and a few surrounding houses). This would have to be more cost effective and sustainable than the truly hideous plans for Te Atatu and Edmonton Rd I’ve seen (WCC want to basically buy up huge numbers of homes along these roads and slice up the suburb with bitumen) and would have massive implications for local traffic flows.

  15. There are plans to link Hepburn Road with Rosebank Road. It’s a likely project some time in the next ten years. I agree that could be a better way to handle things. That is unless Te Atatu Road is widened (which it probably needs to be) and bus lanes added.

  16. Sorry to dig up such a really old post. I think this is a great idea and really hope it goes ahead rather than just shoulder lanes. I have also made a submission to the RLTS in this affect. In relation to the site for the Lincoln Rd station I think the perfect site for a park and ride would be on the south side of the motorway, currently there are masts (radio?) there however I have noticed signs recently looking to lease the rest of the land out around the masts and cable stays. As buildings can’t be built here one of the suggested uses on the sign is for a car park (along with a mini golf course and other things). This would be perfect for a park and ride and would use land that can’t really be used for anything else.

    Also I think that the Royal Rd and Westgate stations should be on the western side of the motorway rather than the north/north-eastern side. This could easily be done by building a bridge across the motorway in one of the two gullies between Lincoln Rd and Royal Rd. Having the station on the western side at Westgate would give it a direct link into the shopping centre (which they also want to extend to the northern side of what is now SH16) whereas the eastern side has houses up to the motorway boundary.

    From Western Springs to town I think shoulder lanes would do, with the exception of the westbound St Lukes Rd off ramp in the afternoons, this part of the motorway generally seems to flow alright. In the long long long term future when it is time to convert the route to rail I would then bore under arch hill, Williamson Ave, Western park and Hopetown St to join the CBD Tunnel just North of the K Rd Station with additional stations around the Grey Lynn Foodtown and in Ponsonby.

    Any news on when the ARC will have the RLTS confirmed to see if are going to change this route?

  17. The hearings for the RLTS are in February, with changes made by March and the final version completely ratified by the ARC by April 2010.

    It doesn’t leave much time for analysing any changes to the RLTS, so I don’t know how many changes are likely to be made.

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