Mount Eden Road is one of our premier isthmus bus corridors, now having a very high frequency. Between 7am and 9am 36 buses depart Three Kings, or nearly one every 3 minutes. Half of all Airbuses also use this corridor giving an extra 3 per hour each way. During the busiest hour there are 22 buses along the corridor, while latest traffic count figures (2006) show there were 1600 cars. With about 50 seats a bus, that means buses carry at least 1100 people, so buses are carrying about 40% of the people in the northern part of Mt Eden Road. Generally in the peak hour these buses are packed with standees, so buses maybe well be carrying half the people in the corridor. Then north of Esplanade Road, Dominion Road buses (except expresses) join Mt Eden Road too, giving an extra 23 buses between 7am and 9am. This suggests the corridor should have full bus lanes the whole way from Three Kings into town. I have already covered the big issues with bus congestion at Newton in a previous post, so I will now focus on the corridor between Mount Albert Road and Newton.

Below is a map of the current bus lanes (green lines), and as you can see they are very erratic (zoom in on the map to see more detail).

View Mt Eden Bus Lanes in a larger map

While the corridor is 5km long, the sections going northbound only have bus lanes for 2km, while southbound there is only 1km of bus lanes. Therefore only 30% of the corridor has bus lanes, which is hopeless considering the frequency of buses along the corridor. Heading southbound there are none south of Balmoral Road, while northbound none south of Duke Street.

Work to move the corridor towards full bus lanes can be separated into quick wins, short term fixes and medium term fixes as in some areas capital works are required.

There are 2 obvious quick wins.

Mt Eden useless bus lane
Common sight around 6pm. Bus lane finished well before rush hour does.

The first quick win is the ridiculously short timing of the southbound buslane leading to Mt Eden shops. This a roughly 200m section starting at Batgar Road, and finishing where the shops start. It is only a buslane from 4.30pm to 5.30pm, then reverts to parking! This means that a bus leaving Britomart at one of the busiest times of 5.10pm would struggle to make it to Mt Eden before the bus lanes finishes! This should immediately be standardised to the usual time of 4pm to 6pm. However for bus lanes in general I would rather see at least 3.30pm to 6.30pm for evening lanes but that’s another discussion. The short operating hours result in crazy situations like this one taken around 6pm, with one car parked the brief bus-lane.

The second quick-win is regarding the clearways that exist through Mt Eden village (black lines in the map below). There is no reason why these should not be buslanes. The southbound clearway also has silly short hours of operation (4.30pm to 5.30pm again) so this should be extended as well. The northbound clearway is the standard 7am to 9am which is fine for the shorter morning peak. This change would help buses get through Mt Eden faster, and in and out of bus stops much easier.

Mt Eden clearways

The short term fixes (3 months to 1 year) are simple extensions of green paint along existing traffic and parking lanes.

Some of the issues encountered with current lengths of bus lanes were highlighted by commentator Steve N in my general bus lane post from February.

 “Mount Eden Road/Three Kings route: install inbound bus lane from Three Kings Terminus to Duke Street, to meet existing bus lane. After 0720ish, traffic backs up past Duke Street, including buses – completely negating 5 min frequency.”

So this suggests a northbound bus lane would really aide reliability and speed of the services the whole way north to the city. There is enough width within the kerbs for bus lanes to be added on both sides of the road from Mt Eden village to Three Kings. This bus lane would be very easy to install, as could be done with morning and afternoon parking restrictions and a coat of paint. In some areas the median may need to be narrowed or removed to fit bus lanes on both sides of the road. The only complication is the zebra crossing near Duke Street which may need to be removed. Zebra crossings are not seen to be safe roads with 2 lanes of traffic in one direction. So the only cost would be signalization of these pedestrian crossing, which AT have indicated costs around $100,000. 

Mt Eden bus congestion2
Common sight in the morning. Buses stuck in traffic as no bus lanes.

North of Mt Eden village things are a little trickier as the road is more windy and there are more intersections and pedestrian crossings to deal with. This means lanes need to be wider to accommodate vehicles. Northbound bus lanes can be easily added at least as far as Percy St (where southbound bus lanes start), just by narrowing the median. This looks to be the same for the section between Normamby Road and Mt Eden station. However some areas will require more complex works over the medium term.

The Normanby Road intersection is likely to require the biggest work. There are various islands and turning bays that narrow the road width here, so some capital works are inevitable. I suggest this intersection is in need of major upgrades for pedestrians too. Depsite this being opposite a playground (top right) and the northern entrance to Mt Eden, there are no pedestrian crossings at all. Coupled with the turning lanes, wide curving road and high speeds, this is a very dangerous spot for people crossing the road. I can see it being very difficult for cars to turn in and out Normanby Road at peak times too. Fixing the safety issues is likely to require signalization to add a safe pedestrian crossing point, so signalizing the whole intersection in conjunction with other work and kerbs and islands is likely to be the solution. Careful phasing to give limited priority to Normanby Road will ensure this intersection does not congest Mt Eden Road.

Normanby Road intersection
Intersection of Mt Eden Road with Normanby Road and Puka St

On closer inspection some other areas will also require capital works, such as kerb realignment, especially at intersections such as Boston Road and Esplanade Road. When capital works are done this is a great time to add cycling infrastructure to the corridor as well. Unfortunately like Dominion Road it appears to be difficult to fit quality separated lanes in the corridor as well as bus lanes without major rebuilding works.

So to sum up the volume of buses on Mt Eden Road means it is in need of full length bus priority. Some of the improvements can be done very quickly, however others will need varying levels of capital works. Either way improvements on this corridor can be done for a fraction of the $66 million being spent on the parallel Dominion Road corridor. Auckland Transport needs to come up with a staged implementation plan, showing how Mt Eden Road can move from 30% bus lanes to full length bus lanes over the next 5 years. I would suggest we could could see a big improvement in under a year, and more expensive parts programmed in after that.

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  1. Huge gain, tiny costs.

    A new sign: that would be less than $200, surely. As for the retailers, they’ll have to realise that thousands more pass their shops by bus than will ever pass by car, and that if they do drive they can pop into the extensive off-street parking provided.

    Do it.

  2. As someone who catches the bus on Mt Eden Rd every morning, I’d like to also suggest that in the medium term there should be double decker buses. Every morning people are left stranded at bus stops by buses that are completely full.

    1. Double-decker needs special route-clearances. There are probably too many trees to put this on Mt Eden Rd routes.

      1. I understand Mt Eden is actually up first for double deckers, supposedly by end of the year! This may be because Mt Eden is specified overheight route so fewer issues to fix.

        1. Great to hear. Hopefully all areas which proposed for lanes are sufficient height – I’m thinking of a tree-lined stretch on the citybound side near the crater between the Village and Normanby.

    2. Why double deckers instead of bendy buses? The best bus I ever caught was a bendy in London with two sets of big double opening doors on the side. Makes getting on and off much easier – double decker just makes it harder and slower.

    3. I’d respectfully disagree that double deckers are the answer. The loading/unloading is going to take longer than the single deckers, so the end to end time on the route is going to take even longer than its current snail’s pace. At least 1/3 of passengers alight at the stop near the University on Symonds Street and it already takes an age. I can’t imagine how long it’s going to take when some of them also have to get down from the top deck.

      I maintain the issue is not capacity on the route, but the irregularity of the buses due to the lack of bus lanes. If you add the extra bus lane I suggested (and remove some stops) I suspect the current capacity is sufficient. I’d rather have smaller buses running more often arriving faster, than bigger buses arriving slower.

      And if double deckers are implemented, please oh please make them AT Hop only. Alternatively may I have permission to sit in the front seat with a cattle prod to “persuade” cash users of their folly.

  3. The usual time that bus lanes are in effect from 7am – 9am and 4pm – 6pm could surely be extended to 3 hours. Is 2 hours sufficient? How about 7am – 10am and 4pm – 7pm?

  4. Another issue is the lack of buslanes at actual intersections e.g. Balmoral Rd/Mt Eden Rd – these end slightly before and intersection and resume slightly after, with the left lane at the intersections available for all traffic to use. As you can imagine, other vehicles use this opportunity to try and jump the queue, entering the left lane to cross the intersection before causing a bottleneck where the two lanes have to remerge. Buses are caught in the same bottleneck. Apart from delays to the buses, this also causes the buses to ‘bunch’, so that we have 4-5 buses arriving at the same time and long gaps between arrivals of the ‘bunches’.

  5. Thanks for writing the post, and I’ve got cited for the first time 🙂

    Around the time of my original posting, Puketapapa Local Board was consulting on building housing the old quarry. Given we’ll be expecting thousands more people to be utilising Mt Eden Road, I asked Julie Fairey if she could request AT to review the buslanes. Apparently Gen Zero had asked the same question around that time. Julie did send my request to her Council colleague he was the AT liasion, but I never heard anything further.

    The route desperately needs the bus stop review. When I was bored one day, I measured the distance between each stop. Many of them are way below 400m apart. From memory I believe most were around 300m, the smallest being 150m I think.

  6. The biggest problem I can see with creating Northbound bus lanes through Mount Eden village will be coming up with a strategy to cope with the high traffic levels turning right into Stokes road. Perhaps a no right turn during bus lane hours would work, although I imagine there would be numerous complaints from trying to implement this from people who drop their kids off at Auckland Grammar and Epsom Girls Grammar. It may however redirect this traffic along Balmoral road and up Gillies which is more suited for high volume (and often high speed) traffic than Owens road is.

    1. Yeh I can see this being a problem. Guessing thats why Mt Eden village are clear ways not bus lanes at the moment. Will have to be looked at carefully. Bus lanes would add to general traffic queuing, but speed the large amount on buses through the area so have to weigh this up. Though some may have to face horror of using Outer Link or other public transport instead! Reminds me I didn’t add the Outer Link bus numbers for the section between Balmoral and Valley Road.

    2. I’ve always wondered if they could block Essex road (there is access via newnham ln) and install a new set of signals at the cnr of ngauruhoe street and Mt Eden Road (which would also be great for pedestrians). If timed right the extra lights shouldn’t cause congestion. Blocking Essex road would get rid of one cycle from the stokes road lights – you could use this time to have a longer right turn arrow into Stokes road. Also could have a small bit of green space in the blocked part of Essex road.

  7. Auckland City looked at this back in 2008? including meeting with a number of property owners along the route. Surely worth dusting off the drawings and having another go

    1. Most of these shopping centers already have large council off-street carparks, that would be in effect subsidized because of no economic return to council. No need at all unless have 24 hour bus lanes. Peak only bus lanes on Mt Eden Road probably fine for the next few years anyway, though 7am to 9am and 3pm to 7pm would be much better.

    2. No, as always it illustrates that too many people drive in Auckland and that we massively over provide road space for cars even on roads where the majority of people arent in cars.

      How would you do it in your utopian “self sufficient” society where everyone drives and parking is free? You have some very confused ideas.

      1. I thought we were talking about Mt Eden Road, not my own personal preference.

        This blog has previously called for on-street parking use to be maximised in order to reduce the need for off-street parking. Obviously the opposite is true of Mt Eden Rd, this post highlights that.

        1. You honestly can’t tell the difference between using Mt Eden Rd carparks for bus lanes, and using quiet cul de sac parking for residents?

        2. Isn’t that my point? What part of “this post highlights the need for off-street parking along busy PT corridors” did you not initially understand?

        3. Probably the bit where you are saying that we need offstreet parking on rich PT corridors where there is the least need for any parking at all.

          You are entering Phil terittory by throwing true statements together with awful logic?

        4. Your point is clear. It’s just unfortunate (for all of us) that it’s so clearly based on poor logic.

    3. Geoff your “logic” seems to be as follows:

      Observation: Demand exists for free onstreet parking.
      Conclusion: We need to provide offstreet parking

      To show how silly this logic is:
      Observation: Demand exists for free icecream
      Conclusion: We need to provide offstreet sorbet machines

      More generally, your policy conclusion *does not* follow logically/obviously from your observation/premise. Mainly because there’s many other ways to respond to observed demand for a free good/service.

  8. “Then north of Esplanade Road, Dominion Road buses (except expresses) join Mt Eden Road too, giving an extra 23 buses between 7am and 9am. This suggests the corridor should have full bus lanes the whole way from Three Kings into town”
    Surely at some stage common sense will prevail and all Dominion road buses will go via the New North Road flyover or Ian McKinnon and Queen Street.

  9. Ha! A mini 4:30-5:30 bus lane; so funny. Timed precisely to miss both the after-school rush and the post work one. Genius. Triple layers of ineffectiveness: thing is only 200m, it operates briefly, and at a stupid time. The result of full blooded consultation with local residents and retailers by expert officials I bet.

    1. I leave work at 1600, and even at that time the buses are usually full. Inevitably we hit the Mt Eden village bus lane at 1625, so we miss the “golden hour”.

      The bus lane around the mountain itself has a longer duration so we get to sail past a few queued cars, just like those bus shelter ads promise. But just before the village it has a whopping great deep drain in it, so every day the left wheels plummet into the drain with an enormous crash and jolting of teeth – and then we run out of bus lane….

      1. Yes I know the exact spot you mean. There is a need to upgrade the footpath and kerbing there just like they have done with other parts of the route just last year (speaking of which I will have to give AT props for that as some great improvements were made to ride quality in those upgraded sections – specifically the northbound lane from Duke Street to just past Crystal Palace, but of course it begs the question as to why all of Mt Eden Rd can’t be like that).

  10. Luke,

    This is a great post. I agree with the main thrust of it.

    The only point I’d question on the side is this: “Unfortunately like Dominion Road it appears to be difficult to fit quality separated lanes in the corridor as well as bus lanes without major rebuilding works.”

    I’d suggest clarifying it in a couple of ways:

    1) Like Dominion Rd, it will be difficult to fit quality separated cycle lanes along the full corridor in parallel with bus lanes. Or,
    2) Like Dominion Rd, it will be difficult to fit duplex general travel lanes along the full corridor in parallel with bus lanes and cycle tracks.

    The first option is interesting because it doesn’t rule out on-street separated cycleways entirely. It may be feasible to install them without major capital works in at least some places, where they can help neighbourhoods connect to a transit node, or to a local centre. This could be more valuable than building an impressively long line on a map, because it benefits park-and-ride multi-modal and short local trips.

    The second option reflects a transport hierarchy that prefers public transport and cycling over private motoring. All access can be retained (let’s hypothetically say with one ways), but not over-prioritised. I refer to Enrique Penalosa for the rest of this argument.

    1. Those are excellent points. Did think a bit about the wording of that section, but your words are better than mine. Didn’t want to make post any more complex but in some sections Kent L has suggested having bus only signals, so can get away with 2 traffic lanes, with lots of space for cycling while still being able to give priority to buses. Only works in short sections though, as soon as have a bus stop have issues. Could be good solution in Mt Eden village itself, to connect Stokes and Valley Roads which would be main E-W cycling connections. Would like to see many of these E-W connections in the area. That’s yet another issue with Dominion Road back street cycle routes, totally misses these useful links to Mt Eden and so on despite being so close.

      1. Maybe we move the bus stops to where it is feasible to make room for them and run cycle paths around the footpath side of the actual stop?

      2. Right, the E-W links internal to the neighbourhood are crucial, like Stokes and Valley. They ought to form a grid that fills the space between the three arterials (Sandringham, Dominion, Mt Eden), reaching as many front doors as feasible. Where they do emerge onto the arterial via E-W streets, they should first focus on connecting to major bus stops and local centres. With some creativity, they might not even need to land directly on the arterial itself, e.g. if rear lane access can formally established around shopping strips, etc. Where that’s not possible, then perhaps bus lights and short bus/ped shared paths could be acceptable. I’m hesitant to trade off bus capacity though; I see conversion to a future light rail line could release space for comfortable bike tracks, and for that to happen a complete bus lane should become operational now.

  11. The main problem with Mt Eden is that there are top many stops and that busstops arent always respected. Somehow people find it ok to stop and park in the bustops or right next to it making it impossible for the bus to drive in. Every morning the buses have the same issues. or had I havent lived there for 2.5 years…

    the other issue is frequency during peak times. I usually walked up from my Queen Street office and caught the bus on Symond street. The stop next that usually students use that are next to the two student apartment towers and a church (opposite the maori house). Half the time the bus drove past us. Filled to the brim.

    Time table during peak hours is hit and miss. No point following it…
    For those that go further than Three kings there are heaps of bus stops without a shelter. Hayr road for example, usually a few people jumps on the bus there, its in an uphill street. They tend to be soaked when it rains and with this being Auckland thats a few times per week. Build busstops FFS. Make the busjourney pleasant but that starts from the busstop.

    As another person has said there are to many busstops. reduce them. A person can walk 500 meters to the busstop.

    1. Bus lanes will help with frequency, as allow much better utilization of existing buses. As for capacity need to run bigger buses, double deckers will help a lot.
      AT HOP data should be used to help figure out places where bus shelter is needed.

  12. I know this is about Mt Eden Rd, but what about Manukau Rd? It foesn’t have any bus lanes at all as far as I know.

  13. Totally agree. Doesn’t quite have the same bus frequency as Mt Eden, but still one every 5 minutes and congestion issues so needs bus lanes. Had intended to be subject of future post.

    1. Great post Luke. Could I ask you to work your magic on Newmarket as it’s a major bottleneck for buses?

  14. Full time bus lanes each way would be a huge improvement. Buses are more reliable to dodge on a bike than half-asleep numpties in cars randomly pulling out. Bin the right turn into Stokes Rd and the ridiculous Boston Rd intersection.

  15. One of the beautiful things about Mt Eden Rd, is the lack of the “Traffic Engineers solution for everything”, traffic lights! The road flows and pedestrians don’t appear to get killed each week, despite the lack of crossings for large sections. Great article, lots of easy wins for all, but is there a role to challenge the assumptions about light controlled intersections. You can add a few minutes onto commute times if we end up with lights at every ped crossing Is that a win/win?

    1. In heavy peak traffic, additional traffic lights for pedestrian crossings shouldn’t slow overall car commute times at all. If traffic’s crawling along well under the limit, you stop at a light, then you start again, briefly speed up to 50 km/h, then just join the back of the queue where you left off.

      In peak time, roads aren’t really about movement at all. You’re essentially just queueing for the next bottleneck, a few kilometres away.

  16. Great post Luke.

    In my opinion there are three fairly obvious quick wins for PT in Auckland:
    1. Incremental expansion in bus lane extent (spatial and temporal);
    2. Consolidation of bus stops on major corridors; and
    3. Reduced duplication –> increased frequency/legibility.

    And I’m optimistic that with a bit of encouragement from ATB and some hard work from AT we’ll likely see good progress on all three fronts over the next few years.

  17. Great article. My only suggestion is that the bit through the village really ought to have 24/7 bus lanes, straight away. It’s always busy – even on a Sunday afternoon – and it often takes several cycles before a bus can get through it.

    I frequently take the 27x buses into town from one of the stops nearer Symonds Street, and they are almost always late. Looking at the arrivals board, it’ll say one is arriving, and then it’ll go back up to 2 – 5 minutes again. I assume this is when they get stuck in the village and the ETA calculation gets screwed up. Again, this is not just a peak thing. Evening and weekends too.

  18. I use the 275/227 buses along MT Eden road and I get on/off at the current one-stage mark at Fairview road. Everyday when getting off the bus at Fairview road, myself and many others make a dangerous road crossing to get Fairview Road. There is a pedestrian crossing with lights a 100m down the road, but there are some serious desire lines here. I was wandering if you have any thoughts on moving the pedestrian crossing lights from 100m down the road up to the Fairview intersection. This could provide a safe crossing for bus users and could make it easier to turn right out of Fairview road which has very short sight lines.

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