Auckland Transport has today finally got around to giving us some insight into where things are at on the proposed Dominion Road upgrade. This project has had a pretty long and messy history – coming to a head late last year when the former Auckland City Council wanted to turn the street into a four-lane superhighway when they preferred a T2 lane option over the normal bus lane that staff had suggested.
There’s no doubting that Dominion Road is a “tough nut to crack”. You have a busy road, an extremely popular public transport corridor, a string of businesses continually undermined by planning decisions elsewhere in the city allowing bigger and bigger megamalls and a desire to provide cyclists with better and safer options. All this on a road which has a very constrained width and a complete inability to widen it at various key points.
Here’s what Auckland Transport have said about their preferred way to move forward on improving Dominion Road:
Over the years a number of schemes have been proposed, including 24 hour bus-lanes running to and from the central city (known as a “rapid transit system”). However, following a review by Auckland Transport and consideration of feedback from community consultation, those plans have been scaled back.
Auckland Transport has agreed to extend bus-lanes around the Mt Roskill Village Centre, and Balmoral Village, and in the area Mt Roskill bound through to Valley Rd.
These will operate only at peak times. On-street parking, which was a critical issue for businesses and residents, will be retained, with the bus-lanes utilised for parking off-peak.
Cycleways will be included where room allows. The work will also see significant maintenance of the road surface.
More details will follow as the project design is developed in consultation with business, other stakeholders and the Albert-Eden Local Board.
First things first, one would hope that Auckland Transport might know what ‘rapid transit’ actually is (clue: it’s certainly not what was ever proposed for Dominion Road). But moving on to the substance, it seems that Auckland Transport are definitely shifting towards a “do minimum” approach to upgrading Dominion Road. Aside from the possibility of slightly lengthened operating hours for bus lanes, and hopefully a greater continuity of their operation, it seems that for the most part not much will change except for around the town centres, where an original proposal (which Auckland City Council had moved away from last year) will be revived and the bus lanes ‘taken around the back’ of the village centres.
I have mixed feelings about sending buses behind the shops. At Onehunga the bus station is located behind the main street of shops and it just screams “you are a second rate citizen if you catch the bus, loser!” Very careful design will need to take place to ensure this does not happen at these town centres. I also worry about the detour behind the shops adding delays to bus catchers – effectively delaying them so that cars can travel a bit quicker: not really the message we want to send I wouldn’t think.
As I have explained many times before, ultimately I think modern light-rail is likely to be the solution for Dominion Road: because it can achieve the tricky ‘win-win’ of both providing significant passenger transport capacity while at the same time not destroying the fairly fragile urban fabric of the various town centres along Dominion Road. If we keep that endgame in mind, perhaps not spending a huge amount of money at this stage on a half-ass solution might be a good thing.
However, on the other hand if all the designations are lifted at the completion of what now seems to be a very minor upgrade, perhaps we will have lost our ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to dramatically improve public transport along this corridor. It’s really hard to say at the moment, perhaps some design details will shed light on whether today’s announcement is a step in the right direction or not.