This post continues my series on how we can make big improvements to bus journeys through relatively small changes.

  • In part one I looked at Khyber Pass and the need for us to be more flexible in providing better bus lanes.
  • In part two I looked at how better bus priority measures can help improve the quality of our town centres.
  • In part three I looked at Great South Road between Newmarket and Ellerslie
  • In part four I looked at some of the changes we need to make to Link Bus services

In part 5 of this series, we are going to have a look at Transit Lanes/Bus Lane issues. Last year I wrote a post on how AT decides whether to have a T2/3 or Bus Lane

Special Lane Flowchart

While in theory this process looks fairly sound, I do have a number of issues that might affect how some of the analysis is done. These include:

  • It relies on modelling which we know from multiple experiences drastically underpredicts PT demand.
  • Modelling also often done a poor job in simulating some of the micro-corridor effects or what happens in reality such as cars merging in/out as much as they do to avoid stopped buses or misuse of transit lanes.
  • This thinking relies on the productivity of a corridor being solely based on people moved per hour. Another thing that should be considered is flow on effects on operational expenditure – the quicker a bus can complete a full route, the fewer buses and drivers are needed to maintain a set frequency.
  • Enforcement of the lanes is also much easier when Bus Lanes compared to transit lanes as can be done like as currently been trialled on Fanshawe easily by a camera.
  • It’s also not really fair to claim the process is that rigid or objective either when bus priority improvements are dropped whenever certain types of stakeholders complain.

This last point is useful to linger on a bit, especially when you think about Auckland’s longest running T3 lane – Onewa Road. I suspect if the above analysis was undertaken today, Onewa Road would be one of the best candidates in the whole city for a full bus lane. However, politically such a transition seems extremely difficult – people have got used to being able to use the T3 lane and have built their lives around it. There is likely to be substantial opposition to changing it (not that this means Auckland Transport shouldn’t push for such a change if the analysis backs it up). The lesson from Onewa Road is that while a T2->T3->bus lane transition process might make analytical sense, it’s unlikely to work in practice, which means fully jumping to a proper bus lane from the get go might be the best idea for routes with high predicted future demand (even if that demand doesn’t yet exist).

Another major issue is Bus Lane hours. I have two main issues with these:

  • They are still generally far too short. Most lanes should operate 7-10am and 3-7pm, with others operating longer when required.
  • They are still too peak-direction focused. As public transport use in Auckland grows, the importance of providing quality counter-peak services will grow too. Furthermore, a faster “return run” for a bus will help lower operating costs that can be reinvested into better services.
Bus Lane
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45 comments

  1. Think this is a good point that “This thinking relies on the productivity of a corridor being solely based on people moved per hour”.
    Also what does “LOS” stand for in the flow chart diagram?

  2. What about on the NW motorway, where there are now a lot more “Express” services. There’s ample unused carriageway width between Waterview and Nelson St, and why so many breaks in the shoulder lanes between Waterview and Lincoln ?

    1. I’ve observed the bus flying pass in the shoulder lane, only for my car to catch it at the next interchange. Rinse and repeat.

      Until the NW gets a busway or light railway, there isn’t a congestion free alternative

      1. Absolutely agree, the NW Mwy buslanes are token at best, they start and finish at obsurd distances from the on/off-ramps. Only the drivers who continue onto the red asphalt (illegal – so very few do it) and cross over the ramp make any decent headway. Even then many dont even use them for fair of getting stuck and being unable to crossover especially those going to Lincoln offramp (110/129) or Westgate offramp (125X). The 132/132X/134 also have difficulty as they have to cross-over stationary traffic lanes at te atatu offramp.

        They could improve the design to aid in these matters but who do you talk to? Impossible to get anything done with AT and NZTA should really be hearing it from AT (as they contract the services) but then AT will probably say “oh we didnt hear any complaints from the operators” or something… just the usual hot potato garbage and lack of ownership we have come to expect from AT.

      2. Youll notice there is room for those lanes to continue through the interchanges but NZTA dont allow it for reasons probably buried in a design manual rather than looking at what is possible.

  3. I agree that going straight for a bus lane (rather than having an “intermediate solution” of a T2 or T3) in some of these situations might be better (and easier) from Auckland Transport’s point of view. However, there’s an important balance to be struck between what’s best for AT and what the local community feels. In some of these situations local opposition is intense, and if the numbers (and in particular, the productivity analysis) do not stack up, then it’s very hard to argue the necessity of a bus lane now. And to go ahead without the technical justification opens a potential Pandora’s box of other initiatives also being justified by non-technical criteria – pork-barrel politics in the making. And also it does AT’s reputation no good at all – it would be cited as just another example of an out-of-control mega-bureaucracy riding roughshod over “the little people”.

    These initiatives have been “sold” to the community on the basis that they are assessed annually, and that if these assessments consistently (ie not just once) show that a more productive use of the road and more appropriate level of service could be achieved by changing a T3 to either (say) a T2 or a bus lane then there is an expectation that the designation would be changed.

    No one seriously expects that a T3 would go “backward” to a T2, but in the interests of transparency and openness it’s important that the community has confidence that this is possible, at least. And if traffic on the road DID decline markedly for whatever reason, then it’s not in AT’s interests to have a road operating at less-than-optimum efficiency either.

    Of course, if we just wanted to install bus lanes everywhere for political reasons, then we should throw away the analytical tools and be up-front about the fact that these is essentially political decisions. But in that scenario, be very prepared that there will be a strong and quite legitimate political fight-back in every case. In that scenario, a productivity analysis etc is irrelevant, even if it would show the lane was needed.

    For my money, avoiding the politicisation of the decision process to the greatest extent possible is the only practical way forward. And that means sticking to the analytical tools as a justification which can clearly and objectively demonstrate the benefits in moving people down the road. And it means AT putting more time and energy into working with the community to explain why these choices have to be made – not forgetting that the rationale of the productivity analysis is that it produces outcomes that are literally “for the greater good”.

    1. The problem is you need to make a whole lot of assumptions when making such an analysis which is often wrong as pointed out. I agree analysis is good but the results should be presented as a range of possible outcomes. The deterministic approach gives the results the impression of accuracy which is unwarranted.

    2. MatthewByrne, here’s how what the public wants can be an absolute failure for society generally.

      Auckland Council is about to vote to build two parking building in Takapuna. It has passed the consultation stage, so presumably for most of those who participated it’s what they want. Everything that they will get is exactly the opposite of what an independent consultant report says is good for Takapuna.

      The project is proceeding even though AT has not measured demand as they are required to.

      The project will deliver congestion and the consultant says the road corridors won’t cope. The projects are hellishly expensive and are unlikely to produce an acceptable commercial return. No assessment has been made on how it will affect public transport, but as it is situated on the bus route it won’t be helpful. The buildings will take a significant amount of empty land that is a great opportunity for housing development. Of course there will be pollution, more cars and probably more accidents.

      On the other side of the ledger is cheap parking.

      Please explain to me how the likely outcome contributes in any way to a better society?

      1. If this is aimed at me, then I agree 100% with you. I’m arguing that (in respect of bus/transit lanes) that AT’s primary decision tool is and should be a technical analysis of what makes the road most efficient, and I’m arguing against decision making on such technical issues being taken on a political basis. As I think you are in respect of parking buildings in Takapuna where the technical analysis appears to be quite lacking.

        Having said that, public opinion can’t be ignored or run roughshod over. What’s lacking is a sophisticated effort to ensure that the public are informed in a way that they can understand the benefits of (say) a more productive use of the road, or a shift away from car parking and toward PT in a major regional node. There’s no proactive effort by AT to “sell” the merits of lower-impact transport solutions, just an expectation that people will adopt them if they’re forced to.

        Basic human psychology means that they’re setting themselves up for an ongoing series of local political wars on pretty much the same issues over and over again. People like to choose what to do, not feel forced into it, and I think AT can use more carrot and less stick to get better buy-in for progressive outcomes. And part of a more sophisticated approach is to be up-front and transparent with the public, which means telling it like it is, not how any particular opinion sector wants it to be. Once the public (and politicians) get the idea that something is being hidden from them, trust and confidence breaks down immediately.

  4. It may not be perfect, but congrats AT on having a rules based approach rather than ‘consultation’. Consultation involves asking businesses or ‘locals’ how they want to use a publicly owned asset as if it were their own.

    1. Problem is they do that too. But agreed it’s good they have this sort of approach. They need to do the same for speed limits and cycling infrastructure.

    2. Is that less or more preferable to citing a positive or negative amount of feedback, which is in many cases driven by lobby groups and pro-forma one-click submissions?

  5. T3 lanes generally work excellently and strike a good balance between the needs of the general community and of PT users. There aren’t many people that actually use a T3 because majority of vehicles are of course SOV or DOV rather than TOV. People that car-pool should be encouraged as each of these is taking 2 other cars off the road. T3 also helps with the acceptance of these HOV lanes as removing a general traffic lane for a bus only lane would possibly be unacceptable to many in the community whereas a T3 is more palatable and doesn’t interfere with bus operations (due to the low numbers of TOV). It of course makes better use of existing infrastructure (empty bus lanes don’t look great to the general public – versus having the odd TOV going past as well as buses makes it seem busier. Yes even an empty looking buslane is probably moving more people than the general traffic lane). So long as TOV aren’t impacting on bus operations there should be no reason why we can’t have T3 lanes.
    All these efforts should be directed into getting more T3/bus lanes not wasted on arguing whether a T3 lane should be bus only…. is a PT own-goal.

    1. Absolutely – but compliance is a major issue when looking at Onewa Rd. If only vehicles carrying 3+ went down the T3, all would be fine. Unfortunately, unless there is an AT officer posted at the top, middle and bottom of Onewa Rd, the level of infringement is very high, which means delays for buses in the T3 as well as frustrations for other motorists when the infringing motorists weave their way in and out of the T3.
      AT have been asked to maintain a high level of enforcement but they are not able to provide it.
      I personally would not be surprised if a review of the T3 led to Onewa Rd becoming a bus lane.

      1. If only there was this thing called technology…
        There are cameras up all over Auckland – Speed, Red light, CCTV etc there is no reason why they couldn’t permanently have some cameras up on Onewa Road. Would probably cost a whole lot less than having an AT officer on site anyway.

          1. Is just a technology question… certainly possible they just need to get the right cameras. Remember they tend to pay for themselves in terms of fines.

        1. My wife often uses T3 lanes with her in front and two very young kids in car seats in the back. One is facing backwards. It would be hard for a camera to pick them up…
          Easy if it was a bus lane: car = ticket

          1. If the problem of enforcement of bus lanes is due to insufficient staff engage a contractor. Hike the penalty and give the contractor 20% of the revenue. I suspect there would be no shortage of applicants given the level of infringement on Onewa.

            I wonder if this is part of the green economy that this party is referring to? If it isn’t it should be. Any effort to reduce pollution and carbon emissions has to be good.

      2. The same goes for the T3 lanes on Remuera Road. There is usually an officer posted just before St Marks road in the morning, but up until then everyone drives in it. I’ve never ever seen an officer on the other side of the road in the afternoon. I’ve seen people be towed if they’re parked there, but no cameras monitoring driving in the lane.

    2. T3 and T2 lanes suffer from several problems (enforcability is a big one).
      In addition if a bus lanes starts life as a T2 or T3 lane it may never be able to “grow up” into a proper bus lane. And will remain an under-performing T2 ot T3 lane.

      T2/T3 lanes suffer from another, not so obvious [to some], big problem.

      When there is one or more TOVs [3 or more per vehicle] (or DOV(s) [2 or more per vehicle] for a T2) behind a bus or buses, and those buses stop to drop off or pick up passengers as they are wont to do.

      The impatient drivers of the T2/T3 lane vehicles behind the bus, invariably try to get past the buses – they do this by the only option they have – to try an muscle into the general traffic lane next door to pass the bus then move back into the T2/T3 lane once past the bus – until they come upon the NEXT bus up ahead which is also stopped then its rinse and repeat.

      This is usually a big cause of the disruption and traffic mayhem you get on T2/3 lanes. Frustrates general lane users no end and is just really being arrogant and self-important on the T3 users.

      Happens all the time on Remuera Road.

      So why bother with any T2 or T3 lane to privilege those few legitimate users of these lanes?

      And, before anyone says otherwise – it is a few.

      Last time I saw the analysis of T3 vehicles (non-buses) in the T3 lanes on Remuera road it was in the order of 43 TOVs per hour used it in addition to the 2 dozen buses, over the peak AM hour period. 43 TOVs = less than 1 per minute.

      Now, thats 2 or maybe 3 buses full worth of people those 43 TOVs were moving – counting the driver as a not just a driver.

      So you have to wonder how much “more” throughput are the T2 or T3 users really adding to the corridor?

      And the presence of non buses in a “bus lane” whether T2/3 or otherwise only encourages others to use them as well. Which makes enforcement hard as you have to see in the windows to know if its a legitimate T2 or T3 lane user.
      A bus lane is dead easy to enforce – its a bus or it is not a bus, no need to peak in the windows to work out who should be there.

      Oh and in case you are wondering, 2 dozen buses in a peak AM hour is more than enough under AT rules for full on bus lanes to be put in.

      So why isn’t a busy arterial and important PT corridor like Remuera Road full time bus lanes?

      Well, AT caves to the local board on this issue every time – the local board don’t like bus lanes. [or more likely, their ratepayers don’t like seeing “empty” lanes they can’t drive in while they are stuck in traffic]. And remains implacably opposed to them.

      And AT helps out, by fudging the bus loading numbers in their productivity calculations so that they always show that the existing T3 lane is a little bit more “productive” than pure bus lanes would be.

      They do this by counting the buses in the wrong places on the route and ensuring they only “assume” (thats right, assume, not count) the buses as having at best 25 people per bus on average in the peak period.

      At that level, you’d need 30+ buses an hour to make a bus lane productive enough over a T3 lane. But of course, you’d never get that many buses per hour in the first place unless it was a bus lane.

      So the T3 lane becomes a glass ceiling the poor old bus service can never break.

      1. Not really. Even if T3 drivers pull out to pass a bus most of the time the traffic in the general traffic lane isn’t moving fast so it doesn’t cause a big issue like merging does on a motorway for example. As soon as they are past the bus they are back into the T3 lane and the car behind moves back up so doesn’t affect their journey in the slightest. Doesn’t affect the bus as they are still out of the general traffic.

    1. oh dear that is a seriously looking bike-lash article. Didn’t realise the Karangahape Rd Business Association had withdrawn support of the project.

    2. Do these business associations not see the writing on the wall? Is it so hard to adapt? Soon the only viable transport options will be bike and PT. I have no trouble carrying what I buy on either of these modes. Do they really believe that bikes are to blame for a downturn in business? Have they heard of the internet, of obscene house prices, of low wages, of no time nor money to do anything? Any business association that complains about my preferred method of commercial distraction will lose my modest custom. Survival of the fittest is not an extinct notion. On yer damn bike!

  6. It is a human nature if somebody coming to take away something from me for ‘public good’ with no compensation or remorse. I would oppose. That is what happening at the moment for the shop owners.

    AT ‘listen and ignore’ approach can backfire. When the stakeholders regroup and fight back, AT chickens out and panic.

    That shows a lack of political and problem solving skill from AT.

    What should be happening is AT need to compensate the affected. For example if the shops lost a few off-street car parks, AT should work with council to build rear customer parkings behind the shops to compensate for the loss of on-street parking.

    Alternatively if an individual shop just happens to block (such as a lone convenience shop in Onewa road). AT should pay the relocation fee/lease termination fee for that convince stores and find a better space for the shops to relocate and rezone that space for free. (Such as a corner site with off-street parking on the side street)

    AT just need to solve the needs of the affected stakeholders in a more constructive way.

    1. When you say AT should compensate, you mean other ratepayers should compensate. There are plenty of ratepayers that would have a problem with their rate money being used to subsidise a business because of that businesses flawed business model (freeloading on ratepayers teat). Another view would be that if your business needs parking to operate buy/rent a premise with parking, stop trying to get the public to provide it for you for free.

    2. That’s ridiculous. So you should get a new rate payer subsidy just because you have previously been subsidised at the expense of the ‘public good’?
      “if an individual shop just happens to block” – they should just be ignored. Tell the diggers to run them over.

      1. The problem is, AT depends on the support of those stakeholders. If they oppose, no progress can be made, dead lock would happen, and continue the status of quo.

        1. If only the group “children who want to ride safely” were given this power instead. If you don’t think giving this set of society privilege over others is just a random choice, would you like to articulate why? I don’t think it’s random, and I know it’s wrong.

          1. I agreed the current resource consenting process doesn’t give correct weighting to different stakeholders.

            A minority group with unreasonable demands can stop the resource consent process.

            However there is a difference unreasonable demands or real demands.

          2. What do you think AT should do next, Kelvin, to help the process along with both buslane and cyclelane projects?

    3. On the upside for those shop owners: I think when it comes to convenience for popping in, walking > bicycle > frequent bus¹ > driving > infrequent bus.

      ¹ assuming it stops in the town centre. Be careful what you wish for when lobbying to move bus stops outside the ‘village’.

  7. I would also like to suggest that in addition to bus lanes having much longer hours of operation they should also be flexible, i.e. AT should be able to declare that they will operate during large special events.

    After all, they have the ability to simply close a road (eg Grafton Bridge on the weekend just past for the lantern festival).

    I was bemused on Saturday night to see Parnell Road at a standstill, with packed buses (including a number labelled “Bus full”) unable to move because of a handful of cars blocking the bus lane between St Stephen’s Ave and Sarawia Street – so maybe 10-15 stationary cars blocking hundreds of people in buses.

    Meanwhile on the other side of the domain no buses at all because Grafton Bridge is closed to buses.

    Not to mention:
    – no trains last night after the event finished at 10.30;
    – the dire unlit connection to/from Parnell Station;
    – or the fact that the section of Domain Drive nearest to Parnell Road was open to cars, forcing people onto the “footpath” [non-existent on the northern side and entirely filled up with parked cars].

    Why doesn’t AT react to the fact that literally hundreds of thousands of people are trying to move around the city at such times?

  8. I am not sure the hours are peak based as much as based on the dogma that people want to travel to the CBD in the morning and away from it in the afternoon. Constellation Drive was set up to operate like that despite traffic counts showing the reverse was true. The major morning destination is Apollo Drive. Just last year they finally got rid of morning peak parking on the northern side and opened it as a general lane (it ought to be T2). They still have parking on the southern side in the afternoon which creates a weird traffic jamb where some drive in the spare bit of the wide kerbside lane and some dont. Again it should be T2.
    These decisions should be based on counts rather than models and certainly not based on the biased opinions of AT staff.

  9. Wheres the transit or bus lanes on great north rd between Waterview and Avondale town centre? I saw proposal for this in 2012. The 18/195/151X/171X/172X all get massively held up along this section…

  10. The T3 experiment was foisted on us under the last term of Auckland City Council (John Banks was Mayor and appointed Ken Baguley as Chair of Transport despite him admitting to having no prior knowledge of transport planning; Ken continued as Transport spokesmen for the Orakei Local Board in its first 2 terms). Most of Auckland’s bus priority measures were (and still are) on the isthmus (the old ACC area) and were working reasonably well until 2008 when Ken Bagueley moved to convert the existing bus lanes (which were bus-only during the peak hours) to T2 or T3. Although in a minority, the City Vision Councillors were able to convince the C&R majority that this would be a retrograde step as it would increase the journey times of ALL users of the affected arterials (buses would be obstructed by cars sharing their lanes, and users of the general vehicle lane would be slowed by disruptive TOV vehicles lurchng out of the T3 lane whenever a bus stopped in “their” lane. So only Remuera Road (in Ken’s patch) was approved as a T3 lane on a trial basis and the other 2 dozen or so bus-priority lanes across the City were left as bus-only during their hours of operation (the only exception being 2-wheeled and emergency vehicles). In recent years AT has converted a handful of others to T3 lanes (e.g. Manukau Road) on what I regard as spurious grounds. I think that it is time for a review of the efficacy of T3 lanes in terms of compliance, enforceability and the impact on bus travel times.

  11. The Onewa T3 should be 24 hours a day… the morning traffic crawl is kicked off by people merging right out of the T3 and into the other lane at 6:30 (well, mostly a**holes staying in the T3 a little too long then zooming down and merging right at the last minute). If the T3 was 24hrs then that wouldn’t happen and the flow would be both smoother and less rewarding of a**holery.

    Even better… could the T3 be the central lanes so there’s no debate about using them to merge in/out of side streets (or to go slightly more than 50m out one side street and into the next)? I guess this would be a problem with the busway merge at the bottom but otherwise it’d be great.

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