We have come quite a long way in improving Auckland’s public transport system over the last decade, but there are times when you realise that – perhaps sub-consciously more than anything else – there are some who think that public transport still isn’t important and that it’s OK to treat those who catch the train or ride the bus or ferry as second class citizens. It really pisses me off to be honest. Let’s take a look at the latest example:
Buses normally allocated their own lane along one of Auckland’s heaviest commuter routes will have to vie for space with cars during months of post-Christmas roadworks in Fanshawe St.
The city-bound bus lane between the Northern Motorway and Nelson St will be opened to general traffic while the road is narrowed between next week and March to make way for a $415 million electricity supply upgrade for Auckland and Northland.
Although two lanes will remain available to traffic from December 27, commuters from the North Shore will be urged to avoid delays by using the motorway’s Cook St or Grafton Gully exits to reach downtown Auckland.
What’s really frustrating about this proposal is that during peak times, it is the Fanshawe Street bus lane that actually carries the majority of people travelling along the corridor. Let’s take a look at the numbers from the 2012 CBD Screenline Survey:
The first line shows the key point – that along Fanshawe Street in the AM peak 65% of people are using the bus lane, which means that around 17% of people are using each of the other two general traffic lanes. But Transpower’s project means that it’s the poor sods using the bus who miss out on having a really critical bus lane just so the vastly lower number of people driving in their cars don’t have to squeeze down to one lane inbound. This is despite Mike Lee, chair of the Transport Committee, highlighting in a letter to Transpower that this was exactly what he didn’t want to see happen:
To be honest I’m not surprised that Transpower is showing such contempt for public transport passengers. The Northern Busway has been completely stuffed this whole year with the various sections of it being closed repeatedly – once again I can’t see Transpower getting away with closing two lanes of motorway (the equivalent of what’s carried on the Northern Busway at peak times) yet for some reason they can get away with stuffing around bus passengers all year long.
What is disappointing though is that presumably Auckland Transport have approved the closure of the Fanshawe Street bus lane, because at the end of the day it’s their piece of infrastructure. The closure is scheduled to go right through to March, traditionally the busiest month for public transport travel in the whole year, and Auckland Transport will know the impact of this on the attractiveness of public transport for people coming from the North Shore. They will know that the Fanshawe Street bus lane carries nearly twice as many people during the peak period as the other two lanes combined. Yet seemingly they don’t care.
No wonder public transport patronage is falling.