This is a guest post from Wellington contributor Andy C who has previously written about the capital’s laneways.

Last year I wrote a post about Wellington’s so called Bus Rapid Transport system. In the comments a reader wrote how they would like to see more bus lanes in Wellington and gave some suggestions. So this post looks at one of those suggestions in a little more detail.

As some may know, the Wellington City Council has just finished consultation on improving the shared cycle path along the Old Hutt Road – a 3km long stretch of road. They are also asking about introducing peak hour T2 lanes there.

That consultation covers the area in the red circle below and calls for a wider shared cycle and walking path on the right hand side of the road. It also asks about introducing T2 lanes during peak hours.

Andy - BusBike Consultation

According to their consultation documents this is one of the most used cycle paths in Wellington (around 400 southbound cyclists hour at peak compared with around 2,000 southbound vehicles with 2,500 people in them an hour at peak). And at peak time it has 40 – 45 buses an hour run along it. To give you an idea of how congested it can get, the northbound bus time for this 3km stretch ranges from a fast 5 minutes, to a very slow 26 minutes.

According to the consultation documents; ‘buses carry a comparable number of people as motor vehicles along the corridor even though the number of buses is a very small fraction of the number of motor vehicles.’

Based on that, I personally submitted on making the proposed T2 lanes full time bus lanes for two hours at peak. Firstly because they are already moving almost as many people as the cars, and secondly because adding bus priority in this way should act as an incentive to get more people out of cars and into the congestion-free options.

Sadly the Council documents say the current level of vehicle traffic is too much for only one lane. I find this odd given that we are about to get a whole new northbound traffic lane on the urban motorway that exactly replicates this stretch of road. But it seems we will keep adding traffic lanes and not bus priority down here as part of the Wellington way…

Anyway, having taken the bus this way quite a bit lately I’ve actually come to the conclusion that the easiest way of improving bus times along the road is not necessarily what they are consulting on, but is the stretch circled in yellow on my map – Thorndon Quay.

The photo below was taken at 5.30pm on a Thursday evening recently, and as you can see, with only one lane for traffic things can get pretty congested. In fact, some evenings I can walk faster than the traffic along here, and when I cycle there is no comparison at all.

Andy - Bus Lane Missing

As you can see, there are a huge number of empty angle parks along the street. I estimate that the street ranges between 20 and 30m wide along its whole stretch. So to put it simply: if people are not using the car parks at peak time then surely we can use this road space for another use that will help all commuters – peak hour bus lanes.

From the railway station to the overbridge from Aotea Quay is 1.8km. Imagine peak hour bus lanes the full length of that road (with the exception of the intersection with Tinakori Rd where buses would probably have to merge with traffic for 30m or so). And then see what it does to patronage and timeliness.

Now I’m not traffic engineer, but when you have huge unused road space as we do here, and buses struck in general traffic, then the solution seems pretty simple. So come on Wellington City Council – take the plunge and run a three month trial and measure the time savings. I bet you’ll be surprised by how much this will improve bus times.

So what do you think? Is this a realistic plan? And where else you think we can easily introduce more bus lanes in Wellington?

Addendum: The morning after I wrote this, the local paper ran a front page piece using some fairly emotive language, claiming that Wellington’s next big cycleway fight is brewing on Hutt Rd, and it’s already drawing comparisons to the Island Bay saga. I found myself struggling to take the article too seriously when one of the people quoted was worried about it [the road] becoming congested once it was reduced to a single lane (fact: the road is remaining the same size with four traffic lanes) and another wanted a path on the along the edge of Wellington Harbour instead (fact: the Council have already explained this option will be six-times more expensive and will not easily connect to the other paths around here). So if that is the nature of the debate on a road where almost no one lives, then maybe my bus lane suggestion won’t be welcomed by many…

Editorial note: Since sending this to me a few days ago a review of Wellington’s cycleways has now been announced. Seriously Wellington, sort your priorities out. If Auckland can implement cycleways and bus lanes then you’ve got no excuse.

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    1. And yet biking is growing rapidly in Wellington and mode share is already high by NZ standards. Intrastructure needs to match desire and we’ll see a real explosion.

  1. You should ignore all the doozie comments that continually appear beneath the Dominion Post articles. They are often down-voted in mass by the idiots who are members of the ‘Get Rid of the Island Bay Cycleway’ facebook group. It’s far too difficult to take them seriously, and too difficult for them to understand any logic behind the fundamentals and economics of cycling infrastructure.

    1. And what’s worse – it’s empty angle parking on an arterial! And before anyone accuses me of finding the best angle to take a photo that only shows empty parks, I can assure you the other side of the street was no better that evening either. Nor is it on most evenings.

      1. Indeed it is empty parking. I spent a few years walking or getting the bus along this route from Johnsonville to the city and back, and often sat in traffic or watched in disbelief as cars and buses queued while the parking sat empty. The shops are not even open at peak time and there is other parking available.

    2. But that is Thordon Quay. In the weekends the parking is full of people buying DIY stuff and curtains and house things. Adding a traffic lane isn’t going to help if the bottleneck is a down stream intersection. I say leave it alone. If you want to ride a bike along here in the peak you can easily.

      1. We haven’t seen the proposals yet, but I would think that the prospect of their including an additional traffic lane on Thorndon (not Thordon) Quay are approximately zero. Why would you?

        1. Meant to add that on the other hand bus lanes along Thorndon Quay make an awful lot of sense, providing a bottleneck-free link between the Golden Mile and Hutt Rd. (BTW, there’s no Old in that street name.)

        2. Sorry I was short of n’s today. Yes a bus lane would work but you would have to take out all the parking that does get used when the businesses are trading hard. That area rejuvenated through retailers not having to provide their own parking. Lots of the shops sell stuff you wouldn’t get on a bus. Take away the parking and many would move out. They provide a great alternative to the big box DIY stores. I got wide Wellington profile weatherboards at a timber yard there at 60% of the cost at the big chain stores. In Auckland the smaller shops charge like a wounded bull, in Wellington they seem to have a better business model, for the customer at least.

          1. They’re trading that hard before 9am, or between 4 and 6 (normal Wellington bus lane times)? And you could still get parallel parks in with bus lanes there – look at the width that the angle parks (on both sides of the road) take up.

          2. Just to be clear mfwic – I’m not talking about taking the parking away at all. However at peak times, 7.30 till 9am southbound and 4.30 – 7pm northbound make those parks into bus lanes. At all other times – use them for parking, because you are right – on the weekend those parks are heavily used. In short, I’m a fan of using public road space for moving the most people, and in this case, over 2,000 people in buses at peak time make more sense than a few dozen car parks.

  2. The GWRC/WCC/NZTA Ngauranga to Airport Corridor Plan included bus lanes along Hutt Rd, but that seems to have got lost (along with the Basin Reserve upgrade being for the benefit of pedestrians, cyclists and bus passengers, full stop – no mention of cars from the airport until NZTA hijacked it, with the results that we’ve seen).

    Bus lanes along Hutt Rd are particularly important because it’s part of GWRC’s North-South (bus) Corridor between Johnsonville and Island Bay, with a planned 8-12 buses an hour off-peak (currently 6-8). The new southern and eastern networks are heavily dependent on interchanges, so unreliable presentation at the northern end of the Golden Mile will have knock-on effects throughout the network, rather than just on the individual route. So the southern end of Hutt Rd will have to follow!

  3. get rid of the angle parking along on one side of hutt road and extend the cycleway into town from its silly termination point at the paint shop.

    1. Two lanes will be available for vehicle use at all times, but at peak times the left lane will be T2, at off-peak times some of the left lane will be available for parking.

    1. Thanks James – looking forward to that next consultation. Although to be honest, the option of routing the cycleway via Aotea Quay seems less usable to me. When I look at it, the most direct route with the most local connections is via Thordon Quay…

  4. Consultation closed his morning and apparently with big support for the cycleway changes. This is despite the pot stirring of the local media and the small but vocal group of cycleway opponents including a number of mayoral candidates

  5. T2 lanes are awful policy.
    They cause more problems than they solve.
    Bus lanes will clear up a lane more efficiently. There’s no guarantee the T2 lane won’t become congested and then the buses are stuffed too. And from the point of view of a single occupancy vehicle driver they punish behaviour such as not knowing anyone living nearby who isn’t going to the same destination at the same time. The T2 lane in Mana was a complete failure. I can’t see why this would be any different.

  6. Thorndon Quay is complete rubbish to cycle with those angle parks of death. Go parallel parking, protected cycle lanes and peak bus lane / clearways. Solved.

    1. +1 from me too Simon. It’s dangerous to cycle along there with cars reversing out (I only go there on Saturdays, and the carparks are all full then), and a clear, simple 2-way cycleway on the east side of the road would work well.

    2. “Angle parks of death”? That’s what I thought until I got doored by a parallel-parked car. First time in 50 years of cycling and caught me completely unawares. I thought my sixth-sense for pre-empting this was infallible. Not so!

      So yeah, “Go parallel-parking” (i.e. GO AWAY)!. I now believe parallel-parking is the greater evil unless there is plenty of protected room for cyclists out of the path of overtaking traffic and out of the DDZ (Dreaded Door Zone).

      1. Thorndon Quay is wide enough that there would be enough room for cycle lanes alongside parallel-parked cars, both out of the Dreaded Door Zone and out of the zone-of-conflict with overtaking traffic. But on many Wellington roads, parallel parking is a major hazard for cyclists.

  7. An update: the T2 (and cycle) lanes have been paused, pending southbound motorway widening, sorting out the current on-footpath parking and better access to the Interislander terminal. But the city council has noted that the new (trolleybusless) bus network due in early 2018 does require bus priority on this route, which will be part of the high-frequency North-South Corridor between Johnsonville and Island Bay.

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