The reality of the massive impact the construction of City Rail Link will have is becoming ever more apparent as we get closer the start of works in November. Auckland Transport have already started installing new bus lanes on a number of roads to enable buses to avoid potential congestion caused by the works and now they’re detailing the changes to bus routes themselves.
Any bus route that travels on Albert St north of Victoria St will be affected. This means most of the bus routes that access the city centre from the North Shore, West Auckland and some of the routes on the isthmus are being changed. The changes take place from 18 October – which happens to be the same day the new network for the Hibiscus Coast rolls out.
For some unknown reason AT haven’t produced new versions of the route maps so it’s difficult to show the changes – AT you should really do this – however, they have produced maps showing where stops for individual services are moved to, an example is below.
From what I can gather the key changes are:
- Most North Shore buses that currently use Albert St – all the NZ Bus and Ritchies buses will instead travel straight down Wellesley St, on to Halsey St and then Fanshawe St
- Birkenhead buses will still use Albert St but only for a shorter section
- Buses from the West and services such as the 030 will loop turn around at Victoria St and then head back out west via at least part of Hobson St.
- The Inner Link will still use Victoria St but shift to Queen St between Customs St and Victoria St
- Some citybound buses from the shore will use a new stop outside the new Fonterra building instead of outside the Air NZ building
To me the big impact of all this is it effectively splits the PT provision in the city centre into two separate largely unconnected hubs. At Britomart we have the trains, northern express and a few other services that cross the city while 500-800m south there are the services for most of the North Shore, West Auckland again along with a handful of others. I say unconnected as it would normally be faster walking along Queen St than catch a City Link bus between the two.
This change presents me personally with a dilemma around how I get to work. I travel through the city on my way to work in Takapuna and currently catch the train to Britomart then will often walk to Albert St to transfer to a bus that goes directly to Takapuna. With the changes that are happening I see myself as having three main options
- Walk the ~800m between Britomart and Wellesley St and then catch a bus to the Takapuna – another factor is that these buses run about every 15 minutes. (red below)
- Catch the Northern Express from next to Britomart to Akoranga and walk about 1.6km to work from there. During the peaks the NEX runs every 10 minutes counter peak. (purple below)
- A combination of the two above, catch a Northern Express bus to Fanshawe St then transfer to a Takapuna bus. The risk here is in introducing yet another transfer to the journey.
Of the first two options it is either an easy transfer to a more frequent service but with a longer walk vs a shorter walk but a less frequent service. I guess also a forth option is I could do the NEX option and leave a bike at Akoranga to ride between there and Takapuna.
That fourth option also highlights perhaps something else AT should think about and would allow them to finally put into practice some of the ideas we’ve heard about at many Auckland Conversations – quick, cheap and temporary facilities. Basically Queen St between Britomart and Wellesley St is flat and very easy riding. AT could easily take at least one lane and turn it into a cycleway. At each end a fleet of bikes could be waiting allowing people transferring between these two hubs to jump on one and ride safely between them, effectively a rudimentary bike share (they could even worth with Nextbike on it). That would not only remove some of the negativity of the changes but also make the transfers more fun and might help towards other goals such as getting more people on bikes.
A shot from a reader of the new bus lanes on Hobson St that have gone in.
Lastly these changes are just the ones needed for the works that will get the tunnel to Wyndham St. More changes including changing these ones will obviously be needed again when it comes time to build the rest of the project. Hopefully the government will come the party on this project soon because while the disruption will be painful, if they drag out a CRL decision it will be akin to pulling off a plaster slowly and spread the pain out over a longer period of time.