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?