A reality of a project like the City Rail Link is disruption. This disruption creates challenges but it can also provide interesting opportunities too.
One of the challenges has been that Albert St has long been one of Auckland’s most significant bus corridors. To enable CRL construction there have already been two sets of changes to the routes and stops of buses that use Albert St. The first in late 2015 and the second about 5-6 months later in 2016. Some of those changes had significant impacts on users and was partially responsible for a period of low growth in bus ridership. Now the next stage of the project, which includes the Aotea Station, is getting closer and that means AT is consulting on the need some buses need to move again (consultation closes 20-Oct). AT say:
Albert Street will be reduced to a single through lane in each direction between Victoria Street West and Wellesley Street West. It will not be possible to maintain existing bus stops during this phase of CRL enabling works.
The Western bus services that currently use Albert Street between Wellesley Street West and Victoria Street West need to be relocated.
The plan for dealing with this is below
The new routes proposed due to the CRL changes will have all these buses travelling one more block along Karangahape Road and then turning left down Queen Street. The route will then split with some bus services turning left on to Mayoral Drive (affected services: Great North Road 18, Titirangi 195, 171, 171X, 209 and Glen Eden & Ranui 151X) and the remainder continuing along Queen Street and turning left on to Victoria Street West (affected services: Te Atatu 132, 132X, 133, 133X, 134 and Westgate 110,125X,129).
These changes will be effective from January 2018.
More information will be provided at the time to ensure that people know where and when to catch their bus – there will not be any impact on the frequency of services.
I’ve got a few concerns with what’s proposed.
Bus stops less convenient
One of the reasons the earlier changes had a notable impact on the use of some buses is that it reduced level of coverage some routes had of the city centre. Where previously some of these buses travelled all the way to Britomart, they were then terminated at Victoria St resulting in a longer walk for some or for others changing how they travelled. For some buses, particularly those on Route 2 above, this pushes buses further south in the CBD, once again making it harder for users. It’s also not clear exactly where the buses terminate and where passengers would have to go to board the bus at the start of its route.
In saying this, I do appreciate that there are very few options for AT in how they re-route buses
Lack of bus priority
If all western buses are going to be heading further along Karangahape Rd and down Queen St then they’re going to need appropriate priority. Something for which there is no mention in on ATs website about. Victoria St could do with this too. The closest thing is this mention about Karangahape Rd.
We will be undertaking a separate consultation process to discuss the impacts and proposed changes on Karangahape Road between Pitt Street and Queen Street. This is being worked on in conjunction with the Karangahape Road Enhancements Project that is being rolled out next year. We will be consulting on this in October.
Bus priority on all of these streets is essential and needs to go in at the same time as the bus stop changes.
One of the more notable outcomes of the current CRL works has been the general lack of impact they’ve had. There might be a gaping hole in Albert St right now but ATs monitoring shows that vehicles on many city streets are actually travelling faster than they were before the works started.
This creates huge opportunities for AT and the council to think differently about how we use the space we have. As the project progresses, some of the space that was previously taken up for construction is being returned to its former state. The next for this is likely to be the Customers St intersection which could see more lanes reinstated as early as this weekend. It’s a huge shame AT look set waste this opportunity.