A few days ago I discussed the budget blowout for Auckland Transport’s Midtown Bus Solution, the root cause of which was a stupid compromise made by Auckland Transport to the unreasonable demands of the University a few years ago which prevents the obvious solution of linking buses from Wellesley Street to Symonds Street via a useful little slip lane that is hardly used. While this issue may take a while to work out, the need for a major improvement to Midtown buses becomes clearer every day, with what’s now known as the Wellesley St “Bus Sausage”:
The classic Wellesley Street bus sausage pic.twitter.com/WoOhA83QAM
— Liz Allen (@hellolizallen) February 12, 2018
Over time a number of major projects will help address the city centre’s bus congestion problems. These include City Rail Link, Light Rail, and (in the shorter term) building the Midtown Bus Corridor. At the heart of the Midtown Bus Corridor is a “bus boulevard” on Wellesley St, including the removal of general traffic between Albert and Mayoral Drive.
I was thinking, however, why do we need to wait for the much needed fancy upgrade of Wellesley St to deliver parts of the future bus boulevard? Why can’t we deliver the most important parts quickly with some tactical urbanism? We can look overseas to see some options here, with the most obvious recent candidate being the hugely successful King St Pilot in Toronto, of which many great articles can be found in this Sunday Reading post.
For those who don’t know, the King St Pilot was a small tactical urbanism project which with a few small changes for around $1.5 million, created a corridor that gave priority to streetcars and limited through traffic between Bathurst Street and Jarvis Street which is the busiest surface transit route in the city.
CBC has reported the huge success of the pilot with
A 16 percent overall increase in ridership on King streetcars.
A travel time improvement of four to five minutes during the evening commute in both directions.
Travel times for cars on most downtown streets since the pilot started have, on average, increased by less than a minute.
The King Street pilot shows us we don’t have to wait for the CRL works or funding to deliver great transit, we can start right now. We could deliver the Wellesley St Bus Boulevard with a couple of signs, some paint, and bus lane cameras.
By prohibiting general traffic on Wellesley St between Albert Street and Mayoral Drive, while banning turns off Queen into Wellesley St, this would give us the Wellesley Street Bus Pilot where for little cost we can create a fantastic midtown bus corridor in the interim until the full street upgrade can be delivered.
Put simply, we simply can’t wait for years to make bus improvements in the city centre. We are at crisis point now and need to do something in the very near future to keep the buses moving.