Earlier this year the NZTA released their interim alternative to Light Rail the Advance Bus Solution. We felt the report had a large number of flaws for the QueenSt-Dominion Road-Airport corridor it was proposed along. These were outlined in Matt’s post on the ABS Study and included:
- A bus a minute on Queen St
- Not explaining where North Shore/Mt Eden Buses go
- Having express buses overtake by passing onto the other side of the road, even with a bus a minute frequencies
- How they planned to loop and recover large articulated buses around Lower Albert/Commerce
However were there some elements of ABS Study which could be applied on other routes such as the Eastern Busway (AMETI), Pakuranga Rd or the Henderson – Constellation BRT. One example that came to my mind from the study that could be used on these corridors was median running alignments – running the buses in the middle of the road rather than at the edge. Median running running is often superior to kerbside alignments due to fewer conflicts, especially no conflicts with left-hand turns.
Rail systems get around this with doors on both sides (allowing more space efficient island platforms) but it is not so easy for traditional buses with doors only on the left. One of the potentially useful solutions proposed in the ABS were a new design of buses like Boston Healthlines services which do have doors on both sides allowing both island & kerbside stops. Perhaps something similar could be tried here.
The study also showed modern buses designed with the feel/accessibility of an light rail vehicle. They have slightly higher capacity than a standard bus (110 passengers odd compared to 60), different seating arrangements, more/larger doors & single deck to decrease dwell times, as well as being bi-directional making re-staging much easier. One example is the Van Hool ExquiCity Buses made in Belgium. These buses allow you to pick from a large choice of differing power types from Battery, Inductive Charging, Conductive Charging, Diesel-Hybrid, Fuel Cell, Trolley, or CNG-Hybrid which are much better for public amenity as well as for the environment.
Another idea from the ABS study which could translate well on these BRT routes is off door boarding, with stops being more like stations. Off door boarding is highly feasible and would be similar to the train, with tag points at the station or you could tag on at any door. This, alongside single decker buses with larger/more doors could drastically cut dwell times for services and ultimately speeding them up. The Webster Ave Trial in New York city led to impressive improvements, according to NACTO:
Comparing service from a year before installation to a year after, bus travel times through the corridor dropped 19% to 23% for rapid buses. A Bx41 SBS trip during the PM peak fell to 40 minutes, compared to 52 minutes on the previously operated Bx41 Limited. The local bus also saw benefits, with trip times reduced by 11 to 17%
as well as San Francisco
San Francisco shows the specific benefit of all-door boarding. At busy stops, a 38% reduction in entry/exit time was found for buses: 1.5 seconds per customer, in a system with 100 boardings per bus in the peak hour. Transit travel speeds increased 2% on average after implementation. Coupled with improved enforcement, fare evasion dropped from 9.5% to 7.9%, reducing estimated fare loss nearly $2 million.
The NACTO – Transit Street Design guide highly recommends the implementation of all door boarding. Another great use of off-board is it allows the bus to be designed like an rail vehicle, where the bus driver compartment can be designed separately providing extra safety as well as piece of mind for the driver.
So while the ABS has some impractical ideas in regards to the specific route the report focused on, there were some great ideas that could be useful across the wider bus network and especially some of the other busway routes.
So what do think would you catch one of these buses potentially electric cruising past the traffic on the median lanes of Pakuranga Rd, or not?