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 part two I showed how this can benefit town centres, in this post, I will show how being smart about bus priority leaves space for much-needed safe cycling infrastructure.

Great South Road between Newmarket and Ellerslie is an important bus corridor, but with the New Network now live in both the East and South the number of buses have significantly decreased. The major route left serving the corridor is the 70 that runs from Botany to Britomart. This bus runs every 10 minutes during the day, and peaks at around 10 buses per hour in the morning and evening peaks. Therefore peak volumes are lower than isthmus corridors like Dominion & Mount Eden Road. The bus also parallels the railway line so is used more for local trips. The corridor could also be great for cycling if upgraded as it would fill in a really big void in the current cycling network that exists between Newmarket and Otahuhu.

Unfortunately, as corridor space is scarce it is unlikely that the corridor could have both continuous kerbside bus lanes as well as protected cycle lanes, but if we think smartly about bus priority we should be able to solve the issue.

The issues for this corridor are congestion hotpots at Market Rd, Greenlane (especially the approach citybound approach), Main Highway intersections and some off-lane bus stops.

  • The Main Highway issue can be mainly be fixed because the bus lane is in the wrong place. Buses city-bound only turn right onto Great South Road but the bus lane is kerbside even though there are no stops or parking on this section. By making the kerbside bus lane a median one buses won’t be stuck into the combined right/left stack but given priority onto the dedicated right turn stack. The phasing is also a little messy as well for this section with buses usually unable to pass through the lights without hitting one or two red lights, which surely could be fixed with an improved signal phasing.

    Main Highway Intersection
  • The offline stops are created de facto when bus lanes are not in operation and the lane reverts back to parking. This issue is fixed when the parking is largely removed and replaced with cycle infrastructure including best practice floating bus stops.

Greenlane Intersection

Greenlane Intersection

During the peak, the Greenlane section is bearable because a little priority has been put in place with kerbside bus lanes towards the intersection approach. Though the times for this lanes have to be even longer as this section is often busy due to the proximity to Greenlane motorway interchange which if anyone has used is inefficient and causes a mess.

It would be better if the current left turn stacking lane was made a peak bus priority pocket with its own advance B phase, this would allow the bus not only to not be affected by left turning traffic but the advance would give the bus time to merge back into the general Great South Road lane on the other side without undue hindrance.

One of the key elements to providing good priority for buses at intersections is to provide enough bus lane approach that it just exceeds where you expect the general traffic tailback to be.

Market Rd

The issue with Market Rd intersection is a little harder because of its nature as a small town centre. In the case, the solution is potentially similar to the Mt Eden Town Centre solution in post two with a B advance phase to give priority to buses through the town centre leaving the space spare for cycle infrastructure.

By focusing the bus priority at the key spots where it is necessary on this corridor, Great South Road won’t actually need full-length kerbside bus lanes on both sides of the street. Therefore, the midblock sections of the corridor will be able to have full length separated cycle lanes in each direction without having to shift kerbs which can be prohibitively expensive. Therefore the budget can be saved to allow full separated intersections to be built along the route. This will create a great north-south cycle route, which much better local access and at a lower cost than the southern motorway cycleway that has often been proposed to serve this corridor.

By being smart about bus priority we can provide both great outcomes for bus users while leaving space for fantastic safe cycle improvements win-win.

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  1. It should be investigated, but it can be tricky to install bus priority using B lights at these sites.
    You need to locate the poles and then hope drivers understand and then hope they comply. And you only need it at certain times of the day and need to coordinate properly with the traffic lights and so forth and only for the bus at the start of line. It all gets complicated quite quickly which may or may not make a huge difference. The more complicated you make it, the less likely it is going to work as intended.

    I think the main benefit would be helping buses change lanes, but maybe not to get through the lights sooner. Depends on the location and what problem you are trying to solve I guess.

  2. “Therefore the budget can be saved to allow full separated intersections to be built along the route.”

    That sounds good – is there room? What sort of thing do you mean? Cycle bridges?

  3. I agree cycle infra on this route would be good, not least because it forms part of my daily commute. However, not sure we can’t have PT and cycle paths. The road is very wide, in the order of 6 lanes wide most of the way.

      1. Yeah, loving the good ideas. Would be great if AT had a team focusing on good bang for buck improvements like these.

  4. Looking at the CFN this route will become part of the rapid transit network at some stage so I guess we need to plan for it having a full busway/bus lanes at some stage anyway.

  5. On the odd occasion that I visit my parents by bike in One Tree Hill / Maungakiekie, I either return via a route that feels uncomfortable to even a seasoned cyclist like myself, Great South Road, or wind through the park and zig zag across ending up on the other side of Mt Eden on my way to Te Ara i Whiti. It is the choice between near death but fast and rather pleasant but tiki tourish. I generally opt for the slow option because trying to join green spaces is a lot of fun. My father calls this area a cycling black hole, and clearly there are some people that cycle through there, so why does the inner west get so much attention, and the inner south nothing? I have nothing against improving cycle facilities anywhere, but neglecting so many areas can only mean that more money needs to be allocated so that all Aucklanders can benefit from the infrastructure. Hopefully when the train is true rapid transport, a parallel bus service will be unnecessary, although with a train strike on I shouldn’t be mentioning such things. Also given that the LRT idea is to rebuild what once was (OK, it isn’t, but it should be), this bus route should be aligned with the future trams, i.e. reducing car space. At some point there will be a grand realisation that public transport and bicycling are the only “wheeled” transports that will function in a populous city. Let us bring that forward by pulling the road out from underneath the Henry Ford disciples?

  6. In all the writings I have seen on cycleways, I have seen nothing on a rather obvious piece of real estate for a cycleway into the city from the south, the old Parnell railway tunnel. Being built for trains, it is on an easy grade, and would take cyclists from Newmarket and south right onto the Beach Road cycle lanes.

    1. I also cannot understand the lack of excitement regarding this. A cycle tunnel! Karangahake Gorge in central Auckland. And the obvious commuting benefits. Too easy

  7. This is my neck of the woods, one that I’d love to see more cycle lanes in. For now though, if we focus on buses and Main Highway…

    I disagree with the idea of shunting buses to the right-hand lane, as they do sometimes get caught three deep at the lights. It’s not practical to allow three buses through on priority, only for them to fight through traffic in time for the next stop (just after Matai Rd).

    There aren’t that many cars that turn left from Main Hwy into Campbell Rd and many of those that do, tend to do so from the right-hand lane and cut across those who where using the lanes properly (grrr, pet peeve). Also remember that there is a bus lane from before Walpole St to almost the intersection – Why can’t the bus lane be extended all the way to the intersection? Cars turning left into Great South from Main Hwy are few and far between, with many just cutting through the service station.

    My suggestion would be to make the Main Hwy left-hand lane bus only during (extended) busway hours, with a bus priority light. Minimal impact on other vehicular road users and easy enough curves to get two buses mostly across before general traffic.

    As for cyclists, Main Hwy is going to be tricky without sharing the footpath…

  8. That Parnell Tunnel has been there since the 1860s, but isn’t the one the trains use now. Going up the hill it is on your left and gained some prominence when emergency power lines were strung through it during the big blackout a few years ago. I don’t know whether or not it is still used for power lines, but there should be plenty of room for a cycle/pedestrian way, complete with lighting.

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