We learnt last week about the council’s updated vision for the city centre. From the Linear Park, though to a better waterfront there’s certainly a lot to like about it. But there a few aspects of the plans that really concern me and they mainly relate to how public transport is being handled in the city centre. In short, will this plan really deliver world class public transport for Auckland?
At the heart of this concern is what Auckland Transport have labelled the ‘crossover’. On paper and at altitude, it appears to be a straightforward and elegant solution to many of the issues of city centre access. However, that falls apart somewhat when you look at the details and think about real world use cases. As a reminder, this is the crossover plan, not shown on here is the City Rail Link, light rail or other buses such as the City Link.
- Buses from the east of the city centre (such as Gt South, Manukau, and Remuera roads) will turn down Grafton Rd and onto Wellesley St before terminating at the Southern end of Wynyard Quarter. AT are looking at a new bus interchange station in Grafton Gully to allow connections to Symonds St buses.
- Isthmus buses will travel down Symonds St and terminate at a new bus interchange on Quay St, as will buses from Tamaki Dr.
- Buses from the Northwest will use Albert St and terminate in Lower Albert St.
- North Shore buses will terminate at either Lower Albert St (NEX1 and Onewa Rd services) or in the new interchange at Grafton Gully.
People understandably would, where possible, prefer a one-seat ride from their home to their destination. That is after all one of the main appeals of the car – until everyone else is trying to do the same thing at the same time. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to make every bus serve every part of town in an efficient manner which means that inevitability people will need to walk for some of their journey and some may need to transfer to reach their destination.
Whether people will be prepared transfer, or stick to their car, often comes down to two key things, how frequent the services are and how physically easy is it to make that transfer. For the purposes of this, I’m going to assume the frequency issue isn’t a problem and that these routes are likely to have buses on them running every few minutes at worst. That leaves how physically easy those transfers are and where I have an issue.
There are two main locations I want to talk about:
- in and around Britomart
- the proposed new Grafton Gully interchange.
AT plan to build a bus interchange on Quay St with a roundabout at Commerce St to turn the buses around. This appears to be to enable all of the Britomart precinct to become shared spaces. There are two main issues with the interchange being here.
- by being on Quay St, buses are as far away from as much of the city as possible, including;
- the various different PT services are so spread out across the waterfront area that transferring between them is difficult.
It’s the second point I’m focusing on here.
The images show that some buses could be stopping between Commerce St and Britomart Pl. That’s relatively easy if someone was wanting to transfer to a train at Britomart but is less than ideal if wanting to transfer to a North Shore or Northwest bus on Lower Albert St, or to Light Rail on Queen St. In the worst-case scenario, someone could have up to a 500m walk to transfer between services. Apart from being outright annoying, for some who are mobility impaired, that will be physically difficult too.
Another issue with this proposal unrelated to the practicality of transferring is to do with the outcome for Quay St as a whole. The idea of a waterfront promenade has long been the aim for Quay St and the proposal delivers it between Lower Albert and Commerce streets. However, the bus interchange acts like a bookend, forever preventing that from spreading further down the waterfront. It also means those great buildings along that section of Quay St, like the Northern Steamship building, will be blocked behind canopies and idling buses, the hospitality businesses unable to spread out with tables and chairs on to a wide people focused space. The only reason to linger in the area will be to wait for your bus.
Very little is known about what is proposed for the bus interchange at Grafton Gully. What we do know is that the Universities don’t like the idea of buses using the slip lanes from Wellesley St up to Symonds St which has helped push this idea to the surface. Simon Wilson over at The Spinoff says
Up at the universities they’ll build a big new station just past the Symonds Street underpass. The University of Auckland will put a “gateway building” over it, much as Manukau Institute of Technology sits over the Manukau Railway Station.
Based on the map and comments above, it suggests that Auckland Transport have moved away from the idea of having the bus station directly under the underpass, possibly for space issues. As such the station will be now be east of Symonds St and right next to the motorway and where the cycleway is located right now, although given the height differences the interchange may be above it. However, the closest stop for an incoming isthmus buses is south of Wellesley St. This means that there would be an approximately 200m walk to transfer buses, possibly longer and includes the need to cross the busy Symonds St. Certainly not as bad as the Quay St interchange but not ideal either.
It’s also worth pointing out that a station at this location, likely building over the cycleway, sounds very expensive, certainly a lot just to avoid using a slip lane. I hope the Universities are paying for this then.
This was the previous plan for interchange with a station in the underpass itself.
There are always trade-offs to be made when fixing a city, there’s limited space to do everything we want to but at this stage, I’m not convinced we’ve got the optimal solution just yet.