As if the introduction of HOVs on the Northern Busway and the  elimination of bus lanes along Dominion Road wasn’t quite enough to drive public transport supporters crazy, now it seems that North Shore City Council has caught the “T2 lane disease”, and has not only recently resolved to turn two of its existing T3 lanes (lanes only for buses, cyclists and vehicles with three or more occupants) in T2 lanes: Forrest Hill Road and East Coast Road. Furthermore, and worst of all in my opinion, it seems as though the Council went against the advice of their own staff to recommend that Onewa Road’s T3 lane be considered for conversion to a T2 lane.

The agenda item in the June 8th meeting of the council’s Infrastructure and Environment committee makes for somewhat confusing reading. It starts off all well and good by saying that the council is committed to improving public transport and sees that as a top priority (overall North Shore City have probably performed as well as anywhere else in the past few years, if not better on this score): But later in the agenda item we see this: Now I don’t know exactly how many buses travel along these two roads during peak times, and I understand that the number of buses along Forrest Hill Road has decreased (perhaps due to the busway?) Changing a lane from being T3 to T2 is likely to significantly increase the number of vehicles able to use that lane: as being organised enough to car-pool with three people is quite a challenge. This has an up-side, in that more people are able to take advantage of the priority lane, but a down side in that if you are running quite a large number of buses down that lane, the greater number of vehicles will increase the delay experienced by buses.

As I don’t know the number of buses along these two roads, I’m going to give council the benefit of the doubt. But I think it’s absolutely misleading to state that the proposal is going to improve the situation for public transport. It may not make it “too much worse”, but that’s certainly a long way from making it better. In fact, if the Tamaki Drive experience is anything to go by, the biggest losers will be single-occupant drivers in the general lane (not that that’s necessarily a bad thing!)

But what really annoys me is what has happened with regards to Onewa Road. I have quite a lot of experience with Onewa Road, having lived at various points off it for a number of years in the past – and there’s no doubt it’s among the most congested arterial routes in Auckland: but that this has been turned into a good thing through the use of a T3/bus lane and the creation of a truly excellent peak hour (and reasonably decent off-peak) bus service that is exceedingly popular because of the time advantages over driving that it offers. It has both a carrot and a stick when it comes to creating a modeshift public transport: exactly the point of bus lanes, while the T3 aspect I suspect is largely there to help parents get their kids to school (which may not actually be a good thing). The agenda item to the June 8th meeting briefly mentions the Onewa Road T3 lane:

The Onewa Road transit lane must remain as a T3 transit lane if it is to maintain its travel time benefits.

Pretty clear message being sent there. And not surprisingly considering around 31 buses per hour (rough calculation because there is plethora of routes that go down Onewa Road) travel down Onewa Road during the 8am-9am peak. This is getting fairly close to the kind of frequencies that we get along Dominion Road. So what’s the response of the council to this situation? Well, it’s here in the minutes:

My word, first the Northern Busway, then Dominion Road and now possibly Onewa Road too. Are we trying to kill off every decent bus route in Auckland? When will someone put a stop to this madness?  ARTA?

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  1. They’ve smelled blood and try to move in for the kill. Auckland is so addicted to cars, it is like someone trying to shake a 50 year drug habit. Relapses, ugly, ugly relapses all the time.

  2. They’re just trying to make themselves appear useful before they all come up for re-election, I think this plan along with the Dominion Rd one will be thrown out as soon as Auckland Transport comes into effect. The main worry in my opinion is the Northern Busway, as in that case NZTA seems to be the one pushing for it to be converted to a T2/T3.

  3. RTC, the Northern Busway is particularly worrying because the business case for its funding depended upon it being open for HOVs. I’m not sure what the consequences are for not opening it up, (ie. not doing what the business case for its funding was based around) but unfortunately that change seems inevitable.

    As for Onewa Road and Dominion Road, I think that Auckland Transport will kill them off pretty quick.

  4. The busway will look ridiculous if it really is opened up and you have cars zooming through the stations and in and around buses stopped at said stations.

  5. This is a disgrace, we need more EXCLUSIVE bus lanes for longer hours… I can only ask why NZ Bus and ARTA aren’t creating an unholy stink…

    I never thought I’d say this, hurry up Auckland Transport…

  6. Whats interesting is a lot more people who were against the super city and transport CCO are now calling for quickly, Rodney Hide probably thinks its hilarious how all of the councils are making his plans look better by the day.

  7. Perhaps this is due to lobbying by the taxi industry since their demands to be given access to bus lanes was denied.
    After all, taxi driver + single passenger = da da dah T2!

    My major issue with T2 is that it basically makes being driven places by someone else much more attractive. If this is a case of ‘people going the same way anyway’ carpooling then fine, but if its a case of mum dropping off dad at work (or whatever, no sexism flaming please) then it is horribly inefficient as it takes six person-trips overall just to make one ‘useful’ return journey.

  8. Surely common sense will prevail with the busway.. Wait a minute, what am i saying this is Auckland. There will be cars let on it for sure.

  9. Its all about who has the mandate to change the rules. Hurry up Auckland Transport and keep thsoe bus lanes clear…….

  10. The T2 lanes can be changed back into bus lanes quite easily if the will is there. That is about the best that can be said about all this horrible matter.

  11. Auckland could have a tag line to go along with a logo on all its publications, letters etc that reads…
    “Getting on with….so long as it does not affect the free flow of traffic”
    Seriously, almost every project you deal with, even apparently non-transport ones, seem to come down to whether the project will in any way compromise the free flow of traffic.
    This is a fundamental piece of thinking, that is so widespread across governance, that it is undermining attempts to do anything else. Public space projects, housing schemes, retail developments – all have to prove they won’t compromise free flowing traffic. It comes to something when even a rail project is judged on its impact on traffic flows!
    So long as this thinking exists, the city will not improve, and advocates for alternative approaches will continue to bang their heads against the wall in frustration.

  12. @ Al
    It actually goes deeper than that. Ken Baguley over on the AKTNZ site had this to say: ‘For every 50 cents that is paid for a public transport fare someone (be it the tax payer or ratepayer) on average across all PT modes pays another 50 cents so ensuring that all users of our roads get a fair deal is not unreasonable in my view.’

    There is still this belief among right wing politicians that PT users are subsidised by hard working up-standing citizens (and ratepayers).

    This is despite evidence from around the world that with a lower carbon footprint than car users, it is actually PT users who are subsidising private car users when the big picture is considered.

    I know Owen McShane and others will prattle on about some new brave world of automated energy efficient cars. However, the reality is that sales of gas guzzling big cars and SUVs are on the increase. Typically they have 1/3 the energy effiency of a small car. The case to turn the Dominion Road buslane into a T2 lane would be a lot more credible if there were a way to regulate the cars permitted to operate in the T2 lanes to have fuel use figures below a certain cut-off point. Thus late model Beemers, Audis, SUVs, Holdens and other vehicles currently used by the ‘business establishment’ would need to be banned. But small Japanese cars, Hybrids, Minis old and new, and the Tata Nano would be allowed.

  13. Sadly Owen McShane’s standard answer to a lot of these questions is a wonderous tale of fuel efficient/electric cars running on some computerised highway system that will solve all traffic congestion ond pollution once and for all… the same thing people of his inclination have been going on about since the early 1970s, however we are yet to see even the slightest suggestion of such things being put into practice.

  14. “I know Owen McShane and others will prattle on about some new brave world of automated energy efficient cars.”

    I bet Own McShane does NOT drive a fuel-efficient small car (as is available right now). Though I admit I make that quip out of ignorance, I am quite confident he doesn’t.

  15. I find it amusing that someone who lives in Kaiwaka… feels like he can comment on how people feel about urban transportation systems.

    Would you really take public transport advice from a guy that chooses to live on a farm out the back of Kaukapapa, from someone that chooses to isolate themselves from civilisation?!

  16. I don’t actually have a problem with Owen McShane and I’ve generally found him to be quite friendly in my discussions with him on frogblog. What he says about MULs and transport (to a lesser extent) is interesting, and I think his criticism of MULs is half right (in that if you cut of land supply prices will go up). He just neglects to say that the prices could be managed through allowing for intensification.

    The problem is when we see people in power taking him fully seriously.

    1. It would add a lot of complexity to enforcement. You might have to go down the path CA has with clean air decals which would add complication to the process each car must go through. I don’t know if New Zealand has enough HOV lanes to justify it. Perhaps we could let single occupant zero emission vehicles in to encourage their uptake in NZ.

  17. Yes, wouldn’t it be great to instead have seen a story headlined, Remuera Boy Cites Timesaving, Persuades Father To Join Him On The Bus.

  18. The board made it one of their key priorities to have the bus lane removed and AT have already caved, they are planning to convert it to a T3 lane in a “trial”.

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