We often talk about the big projects, networks, as well as game changing best practice regulations. For a while I have wanted to create a small campaign about the small things, low hanging fruit where for cheaply i.e. not for hundreds of millions of dollars, we can achieve with a “Small Step” a “Great Leap” for the people the project and area it effects. This post is about Bus Lanes.

Bus Lane
Bus Lane

Mention bus lanes and you may get different reactions from different people, some might say leave muh parking alone, others might say they’re always full of empty buses, open up the lanes to cars, others say they are great. The truth is Bus Lanes are great, they help move a higher amount of people using the same space, they make PT services faster & thus encourage more people to use the Bus, but alas are we at Best Practice when it comes to our Bus Lanes

The main critique of bus lanes from PT users is always the hours they operate, and to be fair to them they are usually right. This is especially the case at Mt Eden where between Batger and Oaklands where in the evening peak, the bus lanes last for just 1 hour. Elsewhere, most bus lanes tend to be around 7-9am & 4-6pm and only in the peak direction. The question is, are these hours enough?

In my view, the mornings could do with being a bit longer, but the afternoons definitely should be, they need to be at least 3-7pm. Why is this? Because people finish at vastly different times compared to when they start in the mornings, school kids for example share the morning peak services with work commuters, however they mostly don’t share the evening services as they finish around 3pm. Work commuters tend to head home at vastly different times for a variety of reasons, especially the workaholics but those who head out after work for dinner/drinks or just hitting the gym. This means buses after 6pm are still normally quite busy moving a lot of people and could do with longer bus lane hours to move those people efficiently.

In my humble opinion Peak Direction Bus Lanes should be at least 7 – 9.30 & 3 – 7.

Bus/Transit Lane Times Sign
Bus/Transit Times Sign

The other issue with times is Bus Lanes tends to fall into two categories 24/7, or peak direction only. While that covers a lot of routes, some are not that simple, for example take Great South Road where there is lots of counter peak movement, people who work/study south but live elsewhere, they need to get back to Newmarket/CBD to transfer onto the next service that will take them home. Some routes don’t fall into the simple peak category & investigations should happen into what those routes are, and having the Bus Lanes running both ways in the peaks.

The other major complaint is they are not continuous, that there are gaps in the Bus Lanes that cause issues, not having gaps is important, could you imagine having gaps in the Footpaths, it is important to the extent possible we eliminate all gaps that are feasible.

The last complaint is the major gap in priority for our crosstown network, as you can see from the New Network Bus Lanes Existing/Proposed/Under Investigation there is really zero crosstown bus lanes, crosstown frequencies are to increase & AT wants us to use these services, so lets back them up with the Bus Lanes to make them competitive with driving.

Central New Network Bus Lanes
Central New Network Bus Lanes

At the end of the day, what is holding up extending bus lane time extensions, as it often is it’s parking, often for a very few people, in my opinion AT shouldn’t be providing free parking at the expense of others, if you own a car store it on your residence, I don’t store my cupboard on the road, in fact it’s considered illegal dumping if I do, for areas by shops, we know study after study shows Shop Owners massively overestimate customers who come by car, and that better transit/cycling actually increases the amount of customers so let’s get on with it, let’s make our Bus Lanes better.

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  1. This is a very timely post for me as I have been increasingly frustrated by the terribly slow bus services that Aucklanders have to use – and which could often be vastly improved by better use of bus lanes. I live in Avondale and it routinely takes nearly an hour to get to work or home on the bus, despite being barely 12 kilometres from the CBD. The bus lanes along New North Road are woefully inadequate and by the time most people are finishing work and on the bus, the lanes have returned to general traffic use. It is even worse if you travel through Great North Road because the traffic crawls along and aside from the bus lanes in Grey Lynn, the area is almost entirely for cars. Does anyone know if AT plan on extending the operation of bus lanes – with the upcoming New Network it seems important that AT can actually deliver services that run frequently and quickly.

    1. What’s wrong with simply double laning ALL arterial routes, no parking 24×7, with no lanes marked as bus only or the totally empty T3 that pop up. Works in Sydney and other major cities. Allows all traffic to move efficiently. No need for wasting green paint. Win win all round.

      1. Whats wrong is traffic goes to a standstill and buses can’t move either. It’s only what we already tried on every road in Auckland that has bus lanes on it after we worked out that didn’t work. Do you want to wind things back to the 1980s and savagely slash the productivity of our roads?

        FYI Sydney has a huge network of bus lanes, not sure what you are on about.

      2. Richard, it’s hard to take you seriously if you think traffic moves efficiently in Sydney. All the dual carriageways do is speed cars along to the queue at the next set of lights, at the same time making the communities they pass through less appealing.

      3. And those wasted footpaths too, make them road space, walkers can share the lanes with cars.
        And what about all that space wasted by buildings – demolish the lot and make all of Auckland one big road.

      4. ‘all other major cities have dual lane arterials and no bus lanes’

        I mean wow what a statement why it sure is hard to think of any major cities with buslanes, except oh wait Sydney? London? Bangkok?…

        I appreciate your efforts to keep us all amused.

  2. Extending bus lane times from 7am-7pm would be greatly more beneficial. And get rid of clearways as well, the lot of them – every time I travel down New North Road there is a vehicle parked in the clearway creating huge disruptions. Auckland does far too much pandering to people who think it’s their right to park 50m walk of where they want to visit, at the expensive of other road users especially bus passengers who are trying to their destination with few unnecessary holdups.

  3. Bus lanes 7-7 on all arterial roads. Most are wide enough to allow for it. That would be an ideal end goal.

    Baby steps though, all arterial roads should have bus lanes both ways for at least 3 hours in the am and pm peaks.

  4. The problem is traffic engineers are still, in this day and age, trying to achieve free flowing traffic.

    They wont contemplate removing lane space for cars if this will cause congestion,as if solving traffic congestion for sole occupant cars is even possible,or the point of the exercise.

    If they just had a simple template with bus lanes ending and starting 50m either side of signalised intersections they could just get on with it.

    Get rid of the pointless traffic modelling on PT projects!

      1. “Yes who even cares if it works or not. If it fits with your ideology then just do it.”
        Is this a statement of your philosophy?

        1. 15 years ago I was asked to look at some shortish bus lanes that went in without any modelling. The idea was to get buses through a busy intersection. Problem was the reduction in the number of approach lanes for general traffic made the queue of cars so incredibly long that buses were delayed more than before just waiting to get to the bus lanes. The solution was either build much longer bus lanes at a high cost or just take them out. Either way reduced overall travel time per person. Just doing something because you believe in it emotionally can sometimes be really really stupid.

          1. Agreed. People need to think further than simple knee jerks. Congestion of any kind is counterproductive.

    1. Its starting to change with the younger generation of engineers who are now thinking of ‘number of people moved’, rather than ‘number of vehicles moved’.

      1. It started to change over 20 years ago. The Great North Road bus lanes were the first in Auckland. They were justified on the basis of reducing overall delay to people. That isn’t a new idea. What is important is that the proposal actually does reduce overall delay. Sometimes you do that with a T2 or a T3, But whatever you come up with it is important to have a rational basis for it, not just some twit making stuff up as they go along.

        1. I was talking about the attitude of engineers, the early stages were just conforming to what they proceeded was ‘popular ideas’ when installing short bus-lanes not connected as a network. However even 20years ago the belief of transport engineers was everyone drives so it’s not going to make a difference, without considering that everyone drives because we made that the only attractive option.

          More recently young transport engineers know that we can influence travel patterns and trends by building effective attractive infrastructure which allows us to use transport corridors more efficiently moving more people in less space, the calculations are no longer based on number of vehicles but number of people moved within the time period. Of course you try show those calculations to your senior engineer who has to sign off on the designs, the older generation of transport engineers are still cemented in the number of vehicles moved rather than people.

          In my experience the younger generation of engineers do propose more multi modal transit type principals with facts, figures, statistics and rational well researched reasoning behind their designs only to be turned down by the senior engineer who’s justification is ‘NZ’ers want to drive, not sit in a crammed bus or train’. Now with the limited amount of fully constructed bus-lanes, cycle-lanes etc up and running there is evidence that this works in the NZ environment and is starting to get more traction from our transport engineers. However its really up to the planners to push this through in the initial design phase as the first step.

        2. Having a rational basis is critical, but selling the rational basis is very hard. There are many people (the National candidate for Mt Roskill among them) who argue that there would be improved traffic flow if only we could open up Bus Lanes to other vehicles – changing them to T2 or T3 lanes, for example.

          The Bus Lane analytical tools used by AT demonstrate that this is often a fallacy – and common sense also leads to the same conclusion. Think of what happens on the motorway when traffic is suddenly confined to one lane when it’s been moving along on two lanes for a distance. The whole road slows down, often to a complete standstill, while vehicles merge. This is what can be expected every 300-400 metres when a bus lane is converted to a T2 or T3. Every time the bus stops to pick up passengers, the following traffic will try to squeeze into the general traffic lane, and congestion is the outcome. Conversely, adding a bus lane where none exist currently not only takes buses out of the general traffic lane but also eliminates the need for buses to pull into the general traffic lane after each bus stop, eliminating those “merge” manoeuvres and speeding up the general traffic lane.

          My experience in trying to sell this idea to committed car users is less-than-brilliant, however. Perhaps AT needs to run a PR campaign extolling the benefits of bus lanes for ALL vehicle users, using real-life “before-and-after” data to show that they’re a good thing and that canny motorists (and motoring organisations) should strongly support them because they are actually in their own best interests.

    2. All traffic needs to move efficiently. More thought needed if you think one bus lane with nothing in it and another lane stationary is in some way beneficial. ALL of Auckland must be able to move or you simply end up with a decaying city. The anticar mentality on this site shows incredibly shallow thinking.

        1. Mwfic – the modelling adds significant delay to any project.

          And the models are configured to ensure minimum delay to buses are they?

          And anyway, if we had a proper network of bus lanes then congestion from cars would have reduced impact on performance of bus lanes.

          1. Realist – ?
            Models can be as simple or complex as you make them. If someone specifies microsim then add 3 years. Sidra add 1/2 a day.
            Models aren’t configured to require any preconceived outcome. That is the point of them.
            Clearly you are the ‘build it and they will come’ type of of thinker. There are a lot of those about.

          2. Build it and they will come has been demonstrated by history. Build a motorway and it will induce demand. Build a new western line and increase frequencies. They came.

            Whats your point?

          3. mwfic, you say that supply does not create demand. But as new roads are built they invariably fill up with more cars. Does that mean you believe that everyone is born with an inherent natural urge to drive places in a car? It is just how we are wired? Even these tribes in the jungle that have been isolated from the outside world, they have a vision of being able to drive around if only someone would build them roads? Seems suspect to me.

            If it really was the case that building roads is simply a case of meeting some predefined static level of demand, then there presumably must be cities where they have managed to build enough roads to meet the demand, and now have idyllic free-flowing roads throughout the day, where once they had gridlock. It would be great if you could give us those examples and put us right.

          4. “Clearly you are the ‘build it and they will come’ type of of thinker. There are a lot of those about.”

            There is a lot of these about, I think it’s because so far with public transport projects, cycling projects and private vehcile projects have all shown that when you build it they come! Especially the recent public transport projects which have ended up with at full capacity buses and trains.

      1. You need to look at the Northern Busway which perfectly shows how taking two lanes dedicated to just buses has been able to move more people during peak than 4 all vehcile lanes, increasing the entire corridor capacity. Another example would be the buslanes down Mt Eden road which also means this corridor is moving more people in a constrained transport corridor (and these buslane are not even constant throughout).

        So using your own example, you are effectively moving more people throughout the city with the buslanes, without these buslanes you are holding everyone up to the point you have a decaying city.

  5. There are a number of bus lane reviews underway or about to start – including Mount Eden Road. This will involve increased and more consistent hours of operation as well as removing some of the gaps in the existing lanes. It is not very helpful for some to talk of simply removing all car parking on arterial roads through our strip shopping centres – we do not want to undermine our suburban strip shopping centres which have already suffered significant hollowing out through the advent of malls and big-box retail and where many of the remaining retailers are barely surviving. There are opportunities to replace at least some of the arterial kerb-side car parking on nearby side streets or where necessary on rear lots behind the shops. This is the quid pro quo that I am advocating in the hope that shop keepers and owners can be proposed to accept rather than oppose the proposed changes.

    1. Yeah but who wants to reverse into a park in Mt Eden road while its busy anyway? Better side street parking is the best way forward for everyone.

    2. I hear (and respect) what you’re trying to achieve Graeme.

      However before assuming that’s the fix to keep local businesses trading, lets make sure that there’s proper analysis of how customers get to those businesses. Similar analysis in other places tends to repeatedly show that business owners assume that the majority of customers arrive by car, when that’s often not the case. Anyone who shops/ trades/ drinks /eats in those places regularly knows that a pretty big proportion of people arrive on foot and bike from the immediate area and by bus or train from further afield.

      Yes, parking & service deliveries are absolutely a critical element, but we shouldn’t assume that it’s the key travel feature that defines the success of a Main Street business.

    3. “already suffered significant hollowing out through the advent of malls and big-box retail and where many of the remaining retailers are barely surviving” Suburban centers need to adapt to attract people back, getting cars parking on side streets or behind shops away from street frontage is a perfect way creating a nicer environment were people actually want to go. Also this will make the bus service more popular and regular which would bring even more people into the area. I know this isn’t the same as its in the city, but when shared streets were introduced hospitality and retail increased, 200-400% increases in business reported. Removing cars doesn’t mean losing business, in-fact it can increase business when it improves the surrounding environment.

  6. There are a lot of roads throughout the Auckland region that only need to be widened by about 1 m and they would be then wide enough to have a bus lane in each direction and a general traffic lane. Many of these roads could also fit in a cycle lane in each direction as well with 2m rather than 1m widening. So many of these roads have a good 3m+ buffer on each side of the road that is just grass in most cases.

    Some roads could even retain parking (Constellation Drive currently has parking__2m narrow lane__general traffic land__flush median__general traffic lane__very wide T3 lane (and vice versa in the morning/evening).
    By adding 1m to the width of the road and making each general lane 20cm narrower, the flush median 20cm narrower that would allow for permanent parking on one side of the road, 24/7 T3 lane on each side, general traffic lane on each side and a flush median. Cyclists (while they wouldn’t get their own cycle lane) would use the T3 lane and cars should be able to get around them easily since the general traffic cars can move into the flush median and buses/T3 cars can get around them). Plenty of space to do this – no land purchase needed and while it will still be Constipation Drive it would be less so (particularly for buses that can’t currently fit down the narrow lane).

    1. The funny thing about Constellation Drive was they put the T2’s in the wrong direction. Ideology again. They went in with the busway and someone just assumed everyone would want to travel to the CBD in the morning and back in the evening. But at the time they opened them the peak person flow was in the opposite direction, towards Apollo Dr in the morning. They have recently put in a clearway to deal with that but needs a clearway or T2 towards the motorway from 3pm on.

  7. T3 lanes are good until nobody monitors them. And this is the pattern at Onewa Road with virtually no monitoring in the evening peak and partial monitoring in the morning..

  8. http://imgur.com/B0rtsPu I sincerely hope we don’t get anything less than this on Mount Eden road, with bus lanes active for the hours Harriet proposed. (apologies for the MS paint job)

    It’s a loss of 5 car parks southbound and 6 northbound – not even statistically significant. In a city of over a million people (or even 100,000) you can’t expect to get a park on the street right outside a shop on an arterial.

    It’s maddening when your southbound bus gets to the village at 17:31 and gets stuck in the jam (which usually goes on until about 1930). I usually get out up the road and walk, overtaking the cars and stuck buses.

  9. I think I made this point on an earlier post, and I’ll repeat it here:

    Maps which show the geographical extent of bus lanes are a load of poppycock. Such maps universally fail to show the span of hours of the underlying bus lanes, which actually is the more important thing from a users perspective.

    For example, unless you’re someone who travels in a narrow time window in the morning and afternoon then bus lanes on Mt Eden Rd do nothing for you. This is where things fall down. It’s tragic, for example, that AT are claiming bus lanes on Mt Eden Rd, when they operate in *one* direction for *one* hour per day.

    The tragedy is compounded by the fact that buses run linked trips in two directions, such that buses which are delayed in one direction of travel are then more likely to be delayed in the other. Bus lanes that enable a lot of buses to get to the city faster are not much use unless we can then turn those buses around and get them out of the city in a reasonable manner. Which with uni-directional bus lanes is often not something that is easy to do.

    So, my suggestion would be that AT measure bus lanes not in terms of kilometres, but kilometres x span of hours. And they simply need to extend the span of hours on all bus lanes, and in both directions.

  10. Upper Symonds Citybound bus lanes should seriously be 24×7, parking is separated from it so doesn’t make any sense that its time limited.

    Also the ones on the NW motorway (SH16) – specifically the causeway part are time limited which doesn’t make any sense either.

  11. “15 years ago I was asked to look at some shortish bus lanes that went in without any modelling. The idea was to get buses through a busy intersection. Problem was the reduction in the number of approach lanes for general traffic made the queue of cars so incredibly long that buses were delayed more than before just waiting to get to the bus lanes”
    And this may well be true in the short term, but humans are rational and many will adjust their behaviour to deal with the new norm and for some that will be avoiding the increased traffic by looking for options.
    I have lived in Auckland on and off for 30 years and the constant is that we have spent money on roads at varying rates and the rate of congestion has constantly increased. My logic is that we need to do things differently because more of the same has not worked.
    The financial situation that many Aucklanders find themselves in suggests that the only possible fix is to vastly improve our public transport options. With that comes at least two very valuable benefits: reduced pollution levels and greater exercise for the populace.

  12. If bus lanes don’t revert to on street parking, may as well be 24 hr ones if u ask me. Consistent simpler signs more compliance and work good if a special event is on allowing buses a rapid throughput. If it doesn’t make sense then probably not enough PT routes on after peak times. Any examples where this wouldn’t be true?

  13. I think the city should adopt a ‘roads of citywide significance’ policy and recognise that some roads are are needed for throughput. This would mean longer (timewise) clearways and/or buslanes (some fulltime ie 6am – midnight) and separated cycleways.
    This means some residential and commercial premises might lose their on-street car parking but sobeit.

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