In part one of this series, I used the case example of Khyber Pass Rd to show how we could be much smarter about bus priority than simple kerbside bus lanes, I also mentioned how taking the approach of quantity over quality has large opportunity costs beyond just effectiveness and cost. In this post, I will show how being smart about bus priority leaves space for much-desired placemaking in Town Centres as well as balanced the specific needs of these centres.
Centres are hard to push bus lanes through due to concerns about amenity as well as parking. The current battle over bus lane operation through Mt Eden town centre is the epitome of this in Auckland.
Any Mt Eden Rd bus user will know for the most part the route is pretty good; you have great frequency and span of services, the service is for the most part pretty quick except at Mt Eden town centre where even off-peak can be a nightmare.
The question is, however, what if pushing bus lanes through town centres is not even the best option? Can we achieve a win-win for both bus users and the town centre?
What if instead of in many town centres pushing bus lanes through the middle of them we instead used traffic lights to created tiered priority through the centre. Both general traffic and buses would stack before the town centre then an advance B phase given to buses to allow them through the town centre first.
This would give buses priority through Town Centres without requiring the second lane. The second lane could be kept for parking or be used to provide space for cycling, walking, loading zones, allowing space for shops to put chairs/tables out or general placemaking. Other places that come to mind as being suitable for this style of bus lanes are Sandringham, Kingsland (New North Road), Grey Lynn (Great North Road) and Epsom (Manukau Road) town centres.
At the end of the day do we even really want to be pushing general through traffic in our town centres? Wouldn’t it be much smarter to focus on people trying to actually access the centre itself? Is delaying through general through traffic something to really be concerned about?
This logic also applies to 24/7 bus lanes, which now exist in parts of the city centre. They sound great in theory, but rarely would they ever be needed along large sections of the corridor. For example, has 24/7 bus priority on Symonds Street (especially towards the Anzac Ave end) really made the place better? The lack of loading zones it has created has led to illegal parking on the footpath becoming commonplace across the day and weekends.