Back in December last year, newly elected Mayor Phil Goff looked to assert some authority over Auckland Transport through a Letter of Expectation. It included clear expectations about the need for more bus lanes with comments such as:

We invite you to broaden your perspective beyond transport models and engage with Council, its plans, and the other CCOs. This will require a courageous balancing of movement and place, and bold commitment to reallocating road space towards public transport and active modes

and

Auckland’s growth means the efficiency of our existing transport network needs to be constantly improved. The bus network is the backbone of public transport, and this needs to be recognised in your priority setting. We invite you to consider expanding bus lane networks, extending bus lane operating hours and removing or modifying on-street parking. We recognise that while it is important that Auckland Transport makes evidence based decisions, these can be challenging as conflicts arise between perceived local needs and network priority. A stronger focus on effective communication, consultation, and problem solving is needed. We would welcome a discussion on how we could support you in this.

Auckland Transport’s Statement of Intent, an annual document stating what the organisation will do over the coming three years, listed the following as part of their 2017/18 workplan.

Bus lane improvements of 15kms including Park Road, Sandringham Road, Stoddard Road, Manukau Station Road, FSN Route 33 Great South Road north and south of Manukau.

Over the years we’ve often found that those in charge of implementing projects haven’t appeared to read their own organisations various strategies and plans. Unfortunately, bus lanes appear to be the latest victim of this with the latest report to the AT Board it making comments about a few of the projects listed above. Let’s break these two comments down.

Manukau Station Rd

The new Manukau bus station is due to open early next year and when it does will be one of the busier bus interchanges in all of Auckland.

As the map below highlights one frequent route, six local routes and likely a number of other buses not shown (e.g. intercity) all pass through the station. These provide connections to Manukau but also to trains and other buses. This makes it even more critical that buses are able to run efficiently and reliably as being caught in traffic could mean the difference between a 5 minute or a 25 minute transfer. By my count, all of the routes shown above account for a minimum of 16 buses per hour in each direction but likely a lot more at peak times. Just the uncertainty that such an issue could occur is enough to help prevent many people from using PT. Bus lanes can help significantly address those efficiency and reliability issues and hence why Manukau Station Rd was singled out to get them.

However AT now say this:

Proposed bus lanes for Manukau Station Road are at risk due to predicted increase in delays and queuing for general traffic. The lanes will not be delivered in time for the opening of Manukau Bus Station. Project scope is to be reviewed by AT Metro as the current proposal is not supported by all internal stakeholders.

This is outrageous and if AT can’t even get bus lanes implemented to feed one of their busiest bus stations then they’ve got serious problems. What’s more, it’s not even complaints from the public that are opposing them but people within the organisation who are more concerned with moving a tin boxes than moving people. I suspect this is also once again a case of relying far to heavily on flawed modelling. As we’re seeing first hand in the city centre, the removal of traffic lanes hasn’t led to carmegeddon like predicted and for most roads travel, times have actually improved.

Route 33 bus priority

Route 33 is travels from Papakura through to Otahuhu Station primarily along Gt South Rd and passing through the Manukau Station above. The report says this about it

Additional delay for Route 33 bus priority lane project due to internal stakeholders disagreeing with the previously agreed scope. The project may not proceed to construction in 17/18 FY. Discussions are ongoing with Walking and Cycling and Traffic Engineering to resolve differences.

Route 33 is long and there’s not a lot of detail above so It’s much harder to know just where the issues are. However I can’t help but get the impression that this is a case of the poor neglected kids of the transport world  (PT + Active) squabbling over who gets the measly scraps left by the traffic engineers.

Both of these situations simply aren’t good enough and someone from the leadership team at Auckland Transport needs to step up and get these bus lanes implemented. If they’re struggling to do them, particularly the Manukau Station Rd one, then what hope do they expect to have of implementing other new bus lanes.

Note: Following on from my post the other day about the Northwest busway, in the report AT say that consultation is expected to start after a new government is confirmed.

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56 comments

  1. LGOIMA came back on bus lanes for the Great South Road. While my LGOIMA didnt query north of Manukau I did get south of Manukau for the 33 and Great South Road.
    Construction due to start next year after it was meant to be done this year.

  2. Excellent public transport infrastructure is vital in South Auckland, given that isolation associated with poverty is so prevalent there.

    1. Yes. As Harriet says, this is absolute disregard for the strategic direction. This is the opportunity for an internal purge.

        1. Is there any point in tracing back to the teams involved so the heads of those teams can be questioned – by councillors or local board members, for example?

        2. +1 for the purge. This is out of hand and a lot of AT is not changing to what the residents of this city actually want. They are pandering to a few. Get with the program or find a job somewhere that wants a Robert Moses roading system.

          1. And here is a quote from their (AT) vision and mission statement, “Prioritise rapid, high-frequency public transport”. This is the first one for goodness sake. Does that not imply that this comes above everything else? As others have said the strategic implementation is inept. (I was going to say, seems inept, but there are too many examples for there to be doubt.Also looking at Manukau, why did they decide to build the Ronwood carpark if the priority is as just described? If AT can’t prioritise public transport usage to the metropolitan centres where will they maximise it to.
            And they still persist with this folly!. A 450 place car park is planned for Takapuna. How does that sit alongside the mission statement? How does it help the poor transport connection with Devonport less than 7km away.
            Did I say inept? Incompetent is another word that comes to mind.
            I am worried Patrick that your association with this organisation is damaging your brand.

  3. The lion’s share of AT funding comes from AC

    Does anybody know why the Mayor as the primary funder cannot simply state “You will” to AT?

    1. Because Rodney Hide set it up this way. He gave us the benefit of his vast knowledge of how best to provide public services which resulted in a stupid amalgamation and some daft arms length CCO’s . Thanks Rodney where ever the f**k you are!

      1. +1 leadership and vision disaster.
        AT are a perfect example. More roads, more money for roading contractors, more PPP. All of these are Hyde’s wet dreams…

      2. Are you saying the council should decide the transport priorities? Give me a break! Every three years the direction would completely change.
        It would be like the government controlling the NZTA (that doesn’t happen right?)

        1. I can see that political swaying to and fro would be unhelpful to progress in transport infrastructure. But at present it seems we have NZTA defying requirements for independence from government in order to promote roads, and AT asserting its independence from council in order to promote roads. So even political swaying to and fro seems preferable to more decades of roads-first.

  4. The need for bus lanes south of Manukau was highlighted yesterday morning. At approx. 7-40am a train hit a vehicle at a level crossing near the Takanini station, which inevitably meant that floods of people starting hoping on the 33 bus on Great South Road to ‘trainsfer’ (did i just invent that?) at Manukau to get to the city.
    I hopped on a jam packed full bus (60 odd people) and we sat in general traffic with cars with 1 per person on Great South Road, slowly daudling along to Manukau.

    Please AT, get your A into G and get this sorted, reliable, frequent buses will be used in the southern area, but not if they are slow, un-reliable and infrequent (current situation).

  5. And AT, wherever you do deign to put in bus and cycling lanes you need to enforce them.

    St Lukes Interchange is a chaotic debacle. Buses are held up in general traffic. Yesterday a cyclist knocked on the window of a car blocking the bus lane and asked why they thought they could be there. Apparently they were allowed there for 500m (not 50m) before going straight ahead (not turning). Wrong, on two accounts.

    But as the passenger said, “What the fuck is it to you?”

    1. +1 AT could make much more revenue wise from enforcing priority lanes than NZTA does from Waterview. Then they might actually work.
      And don’t get me started on red light runners
      If AT would privatize enforcement I would be in tomorrow.

    2. Enough of this bullshit.

      Time for an AT app that takes a photo, records the GPS location and time, uploads the photo for registration plate recognition, and issues tickets automatically.

      If enforcement actually occurred, people would change their behaviour. And if some rule or other involves lots of people getting tickets, well then it’s time to modify or abandon the rule if it no longer applies or isn’t working.

      Delivery trucks are notorious for blocking not only cycle lanes but also whole vehicle lanes. Just park, put the hazard lights on, and the attitude is fuck you until I’m good and ready to leave.

      Well, imagine: no more…just snap a photo and they get hit with a $200 ticket. No knocking on windows. No aggravation from drivers (other than the obvious when they get their mail).

      With cycle lanes going in in many Auckland suburbs we’re going to see issues develop with people parking across cycle lanes as they view the public verges and driveways as “their parking”.

      Come on AT. Let’s transcend your pre-retirement, old white man syndrome! Get some new blood into the management and get some vision going!

      1. While I broadly agree with what you are saying, my company probably get 10 parking tickets/day. The nature of our business means we need to park for a long time in relatively close proximity to our clients. This is not simply a case of parking and forgetting we are back and to the vehicles constantly. The issue we face is the lack of loading zones. There’s not enough and they are almost always filled with private cars or tradies who park there all day and could usually have parked somewhere else.

        there is a process with AT to get a parking exemption. Guess what it takes weeks (even when we are going to be working for AT) and is more expensive than copping the fine.

        So we look upon it as a business expense. However staff are warned and will be dismissed (for repeat offending) if they park in a transit lane, across a cycle lane or blocking buses.

        Not ideal and I’d really like an alternative but haven’t been able to find one

        1. Kevin: would loading zones solve this for you anyway? How long can you stay in a loading zone? It sounds to me like you need a different solution.

      2. +1 to this. It is so far overdue. The abuse of transit and cycle lanes is bonkers in New Zealand (Hamilton is even worse than Auckland, somehow). How on earth the council expect to enforce this in a city this large without the public’s help is beyond me.

      3. > With cycle lanes going in in many Auckland suburbs we’re going to see issues develop with people parking across cycle lanes as they view the public verges and driveways as “their parking”.

        The Westmere (Old Mill/Garnet roads) westbound cyclelane is going to be chronically blocked by cars parked in driveways

      4. With transit lanes, put enforcement cameras on buses. Anyone who parks in the bus lane will be pinged.

        But it’s also another case of “what do you expect people to do then”, as Kevin says. This is quite obvious if you live in the CBD. People park on loading zones with impunity. On-street parking is generally 100% occupied within a radius several blocks, despite what AT may be telling itself. Once I spent half an hour in a tradie’s car to make sure it wasn’t towed (I thought it was parked legally, but there’s a lot of ambiguous and obsolete road markings on Hobson Street so who knows).

        With cycle lanes, maybe we could allow parking to the right of cycle lanes (similar to how you can now park to the right of a footpath).

        1. We should remove more on street car parking and replace it with loading zones. Then charge to use loading zones. That way there is a motivation to use loading zones as little as possible, and there are more loading zones available.

      5. Legislation does not allow evidence from a third party to be used to issue an infringement. Infringements can only be issued by authorised officers, who saw the illegal activity themselves, or approved calibrated equipment such as speed cameras.

          1. Agree, I believe this happens in a number of cities around the world. I think compliance would improve quite dramatically if the next bus could be about to film you parked in the bus lane.

        1. Does that mean we should be campaigning for a legislation change to improve the lives of lots of people by making commute times more predictable for more people?

          1. Probably not, this legislation covers a lot more than bus lane infringements – it includes police, parking, fisheries and biosecurity for example.

            Infringements bypass the usual requirement of innocence until proven guilty and thus the courts, it assumes an authorised officer or piece of equipment can be trusted to make a correct decision and be aware of context.

            I don’t think we want to go down the route of having authorised officers view a video shot on a private camera, potentially without context and issuing fines. I doubt any government would be interested in this.

          2. It looks like one of those issues where technology and the expectation of how it can be used has moved past the original intent of the legislation, or probably more correctly, if the technology available now was available when the law was drafted, would it be drafted in the same manner.

          3. It’s not so much a technology issue as a legal check and balance. Basically to skip the requirement for innocence until proved guilty it needs to have a reasonable level of rigour. I just could never see a party wanting to get behind a legislation change let alone it getting through select committee.

            Better to have AT officers ready to respond quickly when people call things in. They are already reasonably good with parking, but a quicker response time would be needed to catch people using cycle lanes as loading zones.

        2. Authorising you to act as an officer of AT could be part of the HOP card contract.and the recording of infringements might require several so-empowered officers input.

          1. There is a reasonable amount of training involved in being an authorised officer for any organisation, we’re not going to be putting passengers through training.

          2. SB – there is a precedent, we have Honourary Fisheries officers with full powers at the moment, however they are rostered on at Boat Ramps, rather than going about their day-to-day routine and catching someone if they happen to.

          3. That’s good to know. I’d happily volunteer to act as a parking warden in my spare time/ on my way anywhere. I walked past a small truck with a trailer parked along the footpath at a pedestrian crossing that completely blocked the footpath and crossing on the way to work toady.

            I don’t believe that the driver would have been there if he knew that any person walking past may be able to ticket him.

  6. Yes the completion of the motorways through Manukau means the arterials are supposed to be relieved of the longer distance vehicle task, and should immediately be able to be repurposed for both more varied and more efficient use. As clearly shown below (HT to Ben for the image):

      1. +1, Manukau Station Road is a regionally significant bus corridor. It’s a collector road for cars. How on earth can AT prioritise cars over buses here?

      2. I wonder if closing all or several entrances to and from Manukau Station Rd to general traffic to the shopping centre parking would make it work. Look on Google maps at typical weekday (even midday) traffic at 5:05pm, it’s red all around the car centric nightmare there. I wonder how much is due to traffic trying to exit the carparks and get onto or across the motorway https://goo.gl/maps/oQxq6ZpipPL2

          1. Yep manukau station road blocks up due to cars trying to access the motorway, access Redoubt Road (to avoid the motor way) and access Great South Road.

          2. Yes all the above & as per 01anthony, but if say the east most entry/exit to Putney Way was closed, wonder if that would simplify and streamline motions through there & make bus lanes work better anyway. Think would mainly affect non peak flow times as it will all backup for accessing motorway/Redoubt/Gt South anyway then.

    1. And hopefully once a new government is formed we will get a welcome change-of-direction from the top.
      Otherwise it will just be more-of-the-same.

  7. Is this perhaps something ATs new CEO could solve?

    Like harriet mentions above it seems odd that internal stakeholders can substitute their values (reducing car congestion) in place of a clear strategic objective (improving speed and reliability of public transport).

    That they can to me seems like a failure of leadership. Nothing wrong with reducing car congestion, but only once you’ve clearly delivered on other strategic objectives.

  8. The two bus lanes they have added in Mt Roskill (May road and Dominion road) almost feel like they have been done for the sake of it rather than need.
    In both cases they have put a continuous bus lane heading into the city, and no lane heading out of the city. In both cases the traffic is worse heading out of the city. In the case of May road the new bus lane has meant the opposite direction has one less lane and even more congestion than it used to.
    What would have made sense is to have bus lanes near the intersections where there actually is congestion. But I think they are just chucking in the lanes to meet a quota rather than to fix real problems.

    1. Why would it be worse heading out if when nothing changed going out as you say or have they moved the median over? Where exactly on Dominion Rd do you mean?

  9. +1 for a purge in Automobile Transport (that’s the initialism isn’t it?). How can they under spend on bus lanes? The infrastructure is already there, it just needs a bit of planning and paint!

  10. Perhaps lanes of congestion holding up everyone including those in cars and those in buses will help feed the fallacy that we need to “solve” the congestion by building more roads. If bus lanes and improved public transport make mobility easy for many people, there will be a call to extend it to other places in South Auckland, and public support for Mill Rd wouldn’t be so easy to drum up.

  11. How are bus lanes going to improve what has become a failed network model that has been applied which has downgraded the bus services by forcing passengers to transfer between a local route and a network route, this flawed model has been widely panned by passengers in Christchurch and Dunedin, in Christchurch patronage is falling year by year. How convenient can it be to have to transfer to another bus after a short trip of a couple of km?

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