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
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.