Yesterday was the first true test of the new bus network for the North Shore. Things seemed to go fairly smoothly in the morning peak, but in the afternoon peak a huge bus bottleneck at Constellation Station created all sorts of chaos:
Constellation Bus Station at 5.30ish today pic.twitter.com/Hrf9A8PeNX
— Gysbert Holl (@berty_boy_nz) October 1, 2018
It’s not a major surprise that Constellation Station has turned into a major bottleneck. Looking at the new network map, it is a key interchange point between busway buses and local services – meaning a large number of buses converge here:
Yet there’s not a huge amount of space at Constellation Station for all of these buses. Compared to the other busway stations that act as interchanges it’s the smallest, in most part because it’s missing an online Northbound platform, something that won’t be delivered until the busway is extended.
The station is like a huge gyratory meaning most buses have to loop around the station. This diagram I threw together highlights how it all works. The only buses that don’t have this issue is southbound busway buses
Even worse is now in the evening peak the NX1 and NX2 need to loop back around again.
All of this puts a lot of bus movements through a few points
In the medium term, the Northern Busway extension and proposed Rosedale station will take pressure off Constellation and provide a useful extra connection between local services and busway services. But that project is a few years away. It’s also unclear at this stage if the bus congestion will then just be transferred to Albany Station.
So I wonder whether in the very short term Auckland Transport might need to repurpose some of the nearby Park and Ride spaces for laying over buses, or for stops for local buses. Perhaps a roundabout or two, would help local buses avoid some of the looping around and therefore help reduce conflicting bus movements. Auckland Transport are going to need to do something and fast.
Of course in the longer run as usage continues to grow, what we’re seeing at Constellation Station will eventually spread along the busway multiple stations reach their capacity limits.. This is what happens regularly in Brisbane:
This is why planning for an upgrade to the Northern Busway needs to proceed urgently. Ultimately there will just be too many buses using the busway for it to function effectively.