One of the more interesting things we learnt from this week was that the Britomart East Bus Interchange, unofficially known as the “bus ballsack”, had been cancelled and staff sent back to the drawing board. The plan would have seen a bus interchange and roundabout built on Quay St between Commerce St and Gore St. We first learnt about the project back in September 2017 as part of the wider downtown plans.

There were numerous issues with the plan, including:

  • People wanting to transfer to a Northern Express or other Lower Albert St bus could potentially have an over 500m walk to do so.
  • By having the bus interchange on Quay St, it gives the buses that use it the same disadvantages that ferries have, that half of their catchment is water.
  • The roundabout essentially takes up all of the space currently on Quay St between the buildings and the red fence. This would likely have had major and serious implications for the popular Quay St cycleway.
  • It’s hard to see just how reliable buses are going to be given they’re going to have to be competing for access to the roundabout with cars.

The most detail we have about the project being cancelled comes from the City Centre Advisory Board agenda for later today.

  1. To ensure that Auckland Council and Auckland Transport are delivering on an outcome that is best for Auckland, the Britomart East bus interchange project was put on hold in November 2018 to review and update the fundamental outcomes associated with this project.
  2. As a result of this review, and through discussion between Auckland Transport and Auckland Council, it has been agreed that the proposal for a bus interchange on Quay Street between Commerce Street and Britomart Place is not in line with the aspirations and vision for the downtown waterfront area as set out in the City Centre Masterplan and would not deliver an outcome that is best for Auckland.
  3. As such, future option identification and assessment work for bus facilities in the Britomart East area will discount options that include bus stops in Quay Street between Commerce Street and Britomart Place and also the installation of a roundabout at the Quay Street and Commerce Street intersection. Options including bus stops or bus layover on Quay Street between Britomart Place and Tangihua Street will however still be considered. It should be noted that bus movements may still be required on Quay Street between Commerce Street and Britomart Place.
  4. This is seen as a positive outcome and acknowledges the importance of connecting the city with the waterfront through good quality public realm outcomes.
  5. The Britomart East bus interchange project team are now working through the development of long list options which will be assessed through the business case process. This will take into account the importance of connections to other modes and the quality of the public realm connecting them

This raises the question of what to do about these buses downtown. But instead of going all the way back to the beginning, perhaps AT could just dust off one of their existing plans where they already solved this exact issue. The plan was from 2014 and was called the City East West Transport Study (CEWT). As the name suggests, it looked at how to deal with the east-west transport corridors within the city centre. The full report is here (44MB).

Essentially, CEWT focused certain modes on specific corridors. In particular, buses would be focused on Customs St and Wellesley St.

The study even had some indicative space allocations, suggesting at least dedicated lanes on Customs St, as per below.

However, a lot has changed since CEWT was first released. For example:

  • The city centre population has grown much stronger than anticipated meaning many more pedestrians on the streets.
  • Major projects like the City Rail Link are actually happening and others like Light Rail are on the cards. These will also deliver a lot more people to the city.
  • Bikes and more recently scooters have become a much bigger part of life in the city thanks to the (incomplete) urban cycleways programme that delivered projects like the Quay St cycleway
  • The political support for radically changing streets and reducing car use has grown with last year the council unanimously adopting the Access for Everyone strategy.

The Access for Everyone part is particularly notable as it will divide the city up into various sectors and cars will not be able to travel directly between them. The images so far suggest this will include Customs St.

If cars can’t travel through Customs St, that suggests at the very least they’ll need to be blocked at least from Commerce St to Albert St. That suddenly creates an ideal location for this suggested new bus interchange. Alternatively, buses could use Gore and Commerce St but we’d probably want to reduce the number of buses in the downtown area if we were to do that.

And reducing buses in the area wouldn’t have been as much of a problem had Auckland Transport not folded on another key part outcome of the CEWT study, sending most buses along Wellesley St where a full busway would be on the blocks either side of Queen St. This would have seen buses use the up-hill ramp from Wellesley St to Symonds St so they could then turn south but that plan was canned after opposition from the University, who also opposed other city centre improvements.

Perhaps it’s time to revisit this and sort out the city centre buses properly.

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  1. I’ve heard the idea of the downtown parking building being used. I’m not sure on the logistics of floor heights, but it was in relation to future charging needs also. There would be a lot of buses on that block tangling with Light Rail if that were the case though.

    I’ve never thought the distance for transfer was an issue. The area around Amsterdam Central Station is large and you walk long distances to switch modes. That’s just the reality of fitting transit into dense urban areas.

    Remember that once the city rail link is done, Aotea will be the busiest station.
    Light Rail will link the ferry to Wellesley STreet bus routes, as well as customs.

    A transfer point at city works depot makes as much sense to me, NX2, newmarket, wynyard quarter, Aotea station, light rail. Using Nelson Street as a bus boulevard would connect a lot of services. Same for the proposed university layover on Symonds.

    The final piece would be a decent transfer at Kr’d/Queen/symonds area.

    The waters edge is not where everything is, and as noted has a bad catchment.

      1. I saw hundred of old people making the transfer daily in amsterdam, as well as physically disabled and children. This absurd notion that old people can kilometres in malls but cant walk ‘outside’ is a bit reductionist.

        We need to be inclusive, but what you’re asking for is door to door services or transfer stations that are physically impossible

        1. If we can design into the system more efficient (read: shorter, faster) transfers, it speeds up the system as a whole.

        2. Yes. Safer, too. You’re not going to encourage parents to let their kids take a multi-leg journey somewhere if they know the traffic danger as they transfer is too high. An efficient network involves transfers. And they must be short, pleasant, safe and quick. And ideally, full of other amenity, too:

          I noticed that 5 out of 6 people on the 66 transferred to a GNR bus last one day last week, and all of them did something in between buses, too. (Library, topping up cards were two errands – but there were others, too.)

  2. How is dividing the CBD into eight separate car zones where traffic has to go back out the same way it came in a good thing? It goes against every aspect of good transport planning. It fragments, slows and complicates an existing coherent network, that will significantly increase traffic congestion by doubling or quadrupling every car movement. Instead of two stops on a through journey, it’ll be inward/stop/outward, inward again/stop/outward again.

    Was it dreamt up by someone with shares in oil?

    1. I’d say a lot of car movements will just disappear, people are not going to drive to K Rd then drive around to the University, the will just walk or catch a bus.

      TBH I’m not sure how many would drive between these places now, with the hassle of CBD traffic and having to find a park in two separate locations.

      1. Jezza, yes. The one thing the people (experts) I discussed this with in Copenhagen always said; ‘we are the same as you, we are lazy, we will choose whatever way is made the easiest’. Their point is that CPH is now a 50%+ cycling city by design, they made that the easiest way to move around the city, so people, being largely rational, choose it more often than not.

        We spent the the 1960s on undoing the tram/walking city and maximising the driving one, in order to get everyone to choose driving at all occasions, even though we knew this couldn’t work… Now, at last, belatedly, we are finally admitting that this is madness, a geometric impossibility, and environmental disaster, and an aesthetic mess, and with a new generation of technical experts are redesigning the city for the better.

      2. I think we have to be careful with this eight-zone idea. A lot of people have to drive into the city for events like movies, concerts etc. simply because it’s impossible to get back home otherwise. It would be a poor outcome to force people to drive around in circles navigating various road blocks while looking for their destination or a parking building.

        Like everyone I want to see traffic reduced but to me this is an over-complex solution that will confuse and potentially create more problems than it solves, especially at night.

        An alternative solution might be to take cars completely off the majority of CBD streets, leaving the wider streets like Wellesley St and Albert St available for transit purposes.

        1. That is effectively the plan, take cars off parts of the majority of CBD streets, removing the through traffic, but leave local traffic access in place. There are very few blocks in the city where there aren’t parking buildings, apartment basements or loading docks to access.

          In any case why would you drive around in circles navigating road blocks? Wouldn’t you just drive straight to the parking building, the straight out again afterwards. The first step for 90% of traffic is to use the right motorway exit to start with. That’s the idea.

    2. It discourages cars in the centre – a good thing.
      It slows cars in the centre – a good thing.
      It enables placemaking in the most densely populated part of the city where most people are on foot most of the time – a good thing.

    3. The point is to slow and complicate the spatially greedy, polluting, dangerous; just plain inefficient, single occupant car mode on city centre streets, in order to prioritise the most valuable, spatially frugal, economically crucial, just plain glorious walking mode and add the place quality it requires.

      And to encourage mode shift to Active and Transit so these streets can be used better. Also to privilege service and delivery and other high value vehicle on the remaining tarmac (and electrify them).

      That, dear Geoff, is absolutely top shelf urban transport planning. Devised by top shelf transport planners. That’s how to help thriving cities thrive.

    4. Nah, it was dreamt up by someone that unlike yourself doesn’t dream of 1970’s Auckland and diriving around the CBD to do your retail shopping, parking up outside each shop.

    5. Took me <10mins to get from Wellesley Street to Grey Lynn on a bike for a meeting. It would be at leas 20min+ if this trip was in a car – Including get to the car and getting out the parking building. Why are we driving in the city again?

    6. Geoff, each time you have a day arriving into the city centre by bus or bike, and walking or cycling to meetings, shops, events, organisations in the Auckland city centre, what is your experience? Do you find there’s enough amenity and enough priority given to you, or do you feel unsafe, crowded, given too little priority at the lights, and having to put up with noise and fumes from traffic? Does it get you down day by day? Do you worry about your children as they navigate the streets too?

      1. Heidi, I only visited the CBD once a month for a meeting, and always by train to Grafton then walk to the library (it’s faster than going via Britomart). Otherwise the CBD wasn’t relevant to me as I lived in Swanson. But I’m just referring to the tens of thousands of cars that do go there each day.

        Now living in Taumarunui, where every house in my street has a QV under $100k (my own is $79k). An entire quarter acre section with 3bdm house for about the price of the space occupied by a toilet in an Auckland CBD apartment!

        1. Cars don’t go anywhere. People use their cars to go places. It’s an important distinction.

    7. 1) It gets rid of circulating traffic looking for parking spaces. (need to provide parking building in each cell)
      2) Gets rid of through traffic
      3) Must be supported by bi-directional circulating CBD shuttles – need ease of travel between cells
      4) The public amenity gains are substantial
      5) The decongestion & emissions benefits are substantial
      6) Roads can be narrowed and/or exclusive traffic signal phasing used.

    8. A city is made for people, transport serves people. 60,000+ city centre residents (and increasing) will certainly find it is a wonderful thing. A4E and its zones will be fantastic for residents, and city life for all in general – enabling neighbourhoods, cleaner air, and safer streets for residents (and businesses) to use in other ways than inefficiently moving and storing vehicles. The city centre will boom in healthier and more people friendly ways. What’s good for residents is good for the city

  3. 2019 and the mess/who cares/throw a dart at a board design that AT provide for bus termination and departure is still being discussed. No wonder cars rule.

    If they are ever to sort this shambles out, then ALL buses need to be around Britomart and the ferries otherwise the same old disjointed random arrangement for our sad main mode of PT will exist.

    Quay St is surely out, its to be reduced to single lane meaning you simply cannot have bus stops there anyway and making it a bus terminal flies in the face of whatever AC is trying to achieve down there anyway.

    I agree, Customs Street will do for beginners but surely a proper bus terminal to interconnect with the entire PT network is needed in that location.

    1. Waspman, you are right. There needs to be close connections for ferry, train and bus and they need to be all weather so that they are attractive to use all the time.
      I suspect Amsterdam is not the model.

    2. I agree with you. Wellington had or lessor extent a central bus/train/ridesharing interchange, Hamilton has a central bus/ridesharing interchange and Christchurch has a central bus interchange.

      Wasn’t there a above and/or under ground bus/rail in the original Britomart designs?

      1. The original scheme for Britomart had trains and buses shoehorned into level two of a five level underground carpark… which was to be built by demolishing all of the buildings in the Britomart precinct and making a huge hole in the ground to build skyscrapers on top of.

        Needless to say it didn’t pass muster on cost, risk and impact grounds.

  4. I’d be interested to see how a Bus interchange + limited parking + apartments or commerical building would work at the Downtown Parking. Its a BIG area..

  5. There are various designs for bus interchanges around the network in my view Manukau saw tooth is the best specially the covered waiting area. Mangere town center with its two roundabouts and off street bus stop works okay but can be confusing to customers as buses come in on a queue and gradually move forward as other buses depart . Otahuhu is good too with its parking spaces for buses between jobs. Surprisingly Botany Town Center which is probably the most space constrained works alright too with a roundabout and set stops for the various services but I believe bus storage is quite some distant away. So if we haven’t got room for a saw tooth or a bus only roundabout like Otahuhu then maybe something simple like Botany. However there would be a need for bus parking reasonably close.

    1. I did see one passenger on the 313 get on the wrong bus – he probably wanted to go the other direction.

      A sawtooth bus station is not good for thru buses. Only good as a regional terminal where buses might wait for a period. But even the regional bus stations I’ve seen in Europe do not often have the sawtooth design.

      1. I assume you are talking about Mangere Town center with 313 buses going in both directions its easy to do with 380 as well.
        Okay the saw tooth design and through buses. I am thinking about Bath in Southern England when I got off the train and walked to their saw tooth bus station it was so nice to just walk down the various bays till I got to the one I needed in other towns using the buses for a stranger is much more difficult.

      2. A sawtooth design does work for Thru buses. Christchurch has a sawtooth design and Most buses going through the interchange are thru buses.

        Two entrances and exits(Tuam Street & Litchfield Street) and 4 platform areas divided roughly into direction of travel. First 4 bays are for buses heading east of Fitzgerald ave, Next 4 are for heading south of Moorhouse ave (The 60 Bus to wigram is an exception), Next 4 are for heading west of Deans ave(plus the 60 Bus to wigram), then the last 4 for heading north of Bealey ave.

        Most times the buses are able to arrive and go within 1 minute and can usually leave within 15 seconds of closing the bus doors.

        The only cause of delays is sometimes the doors don’t open straight away in the exchange and the opposite where they don’t close when the bus shuts their doors.

  6. Take the project off AT and give it to NZTA. Otherwise it is going to continue to get kicked around by stakeholders and start, as it has twice now. The way to do that is to change the designation of Beach-Customs-Fanshawe into NZTA road and make it a national problem to solve – away from the perpetual local tradeoffs. The big corridor mode shifts are increasingly looking too hard for AT (not really a criticism; there’s a fair bit on). That would also bundle the light rail route issues and options into one agency. If Light Rail looks bad now, at least it’s with one government agency that can evaluate the options and push through a specific procurement plan. Same applies here. Everyone hates buses – so give the issue to the agency impervious to hate.

    1. Turning it over to a national transport planning authority would only be rational only if that authority was considerably more functional then the NZTA is at the moment. AT has undoubted weaknesses for sure, but some of its silos have been quite effective. Hop card works, could be better, but Wellington is still waiting for integrated ticketing, thanks to the combined efforts of it’s Councils and the NZTA. Our new bus network works, cycleways are being built, even if not fast enough, and it is AT that are proposing speed limit reductions, with no e lead, or even obvious support from the NZTA.

    2. Both organisations are hopefully going through some much-needed change. I wouldn’t give NZTA the job of making me a cup of tea right at the moment.

      Philosophically, the streets are public realm – getting the balance right between place and movement, and between the different modes, is primarily a Council issue. AT are coming up to speed, slowly, on what that means, and how they can positively contribute.

      NZTA have turned our local roads into pseudo-motorway infrastructure; I don’t think their understanding of Auckland’s CBD is what we need. They have a different role.

      1. NZTA have let one part of their function – road delivery – dominate everything else. Needs a big reset.

        1. They don’t even do that well – look at the PIR’s and the carbon emissions.

          Lots of change needed philosophically, technically, and in how things are evaluated and funded.

        2. Your right into abbreviations Heidi whats a PIR. Also yesterday we had a GPS. Sorry struggling to keep up.

        3. Sorry, Royce. Yesterday I did give the full name first (The Government Policy Statement on Transport) but it’s good feedback to know that this wasn’t enough.

          A PIR is a Post-Implementation Review. Here’s a post about them:

          “They perform three functions, to see how the outcomes compare what was expected before the project was built, explain any variation in those measures and identify lessons that can be learned to improve other projects.”

  7. How will this affect the concurrent plan to shift New North Road buses from Victoria Street to the bottom of Symonds / Anzac Ave? Will that be reconsidered too? It seemed to only be necessary because the buses would terminate at Quay St.

    Will they also change their mind that the proposed Grafton Gully interchange is a shit idea too?

  8. It will be interesting what they come up with. It was a bit of a hobby horse of mine a while back trying to figure what you could actually do without some huge expensive underground station & major supporting road & city changes to make it work.

    It’s actually quite hard to find something that works well without some fairly significant compromise in at least one area if you ask me. On top of that we probably need more buses that come here to be made more frequent, for example the 321 Hospital one but area currently constrained because of lack of space & turning facility.

    One idea is for all the buses that would of turned at the Britomart East Bus Interchange to instead make there way west to Customs St West. This road should be made two way in front of the Downtown Carpark. In fact this would probably need to be closed with all the bus movements. Also removing the Hobson St flyover maybe a good idea at this time.

    General traffic would be severely restricted through Customs & I’m not sure if you could turn most of all the buses at peak from north, west & east south in this area. Ideas to make some turning facility is to use the Downtown Carpark area at ground level, even if just for most of them. North & West ones could use the current plan of looping around the next streets out.

    Replace the parking building is what I mean with a development on top. You may be able to have some layover in here as well. As I type this there are 626 spare spaces there. Failing that you would have to find some other place to turn them which could get ugly or pretty squishy. It’s in the City Centre Masterplan as a future possibility so why not do this sooner rather than later?

  9. A huge interchange at Britomart becomes less important with the CRL, where we can have smaller interchanges at each of the city stations. That way we can have all the busses connecting into the rail network at some station in the city.

    1. I raised this in the very first comment – we’re missing the woods for the trees here.

      Why are we still obsessing about Britomart? Aotea is going to be the busier station, so lets get people midtown and improve the catchments rather than squishing them all down on the waterfront.

      The ferry numbers are marginal in the grand scheme, so designing the whole system to integrate with them is an odd choice when they are a short light rail trip to the buses

      1. Yes it’s a bit tricky with land at a premium in the most central & buses so inefficient. Underground is normally the only real solution. City Works is ~630 m to Queen St valley, up and over a hill but northern buses could just pass by the depot & turn, work it in with a turning facility past the University/Grafton area or whatever. ~250 m to Aotea Station. Pretty much all others could terminate/layover & turn in the City Works area. This is combining two ideas, doesn’t have to be one of the other.

        1. Western buses perhaps half or all go to the bottom of Albert along with half/most of the NX as per current plans, we can mix and match a bit so as to not have one too bigger “station”.
          If most things all pass through or pretty near Queen/Wellesley intersection dropping and picking up but not terminating then we are good to go.

        2. +1, everyone talks about a station imagining a structure where buses park up. The station could just be shelters on both sides of the street that buses pass through,

    1. The downsides would be the conflict between providing enough bus lanes and bus bays to work well for buses vs. widening footpaths for pedestrian capacity (and bus passengers) and having a better urban realm vs. lanes for traffic capacity.

      You certainly can’t do all three well, and I’d be surprised if you could even do two well and one poorly. It might be one well and two poorly that fits.

      Also you still need to turn, terminate, layover, position etc… if not on Customs itself, then somewhere nearby. That’s no mean feat.

      1. Plenty of room I reckon, one lane of general traffic each way, with little or not turning for them. Quay St will still have local access too. Turn most buses in that Downtown Car Park area, could be that perhaps only electric buses are permitted so as to not have exhaust extraction issue, so more of a longer range concept. Stage the use of it route by route as they become electrified.

  10. That article give quite a slant that the developers Cooper and Company made this happen (reevaluating options) but I’m not sure this really is the main or only reason. Officially it was as per this post: “As a result of this review, and through discussion between Auckland Transport and Auckland Council, it has been agreed that the proposal for a bus interchange on Quay Street between Commerce Street and Britomart Place is not in line with the aspirations and vision for the downtown waterfront area as set out in the City Centre Masterplan and would not deliver an outcome that is best for Auckland.”

  11. Given the number of buses it’s obvious that they need to be shared, as now, between “Downtown” and “Midtown” – which also happen to be the two city-centre CRL stations. It’s time surely for another hard look at Midtown buses, which ended up being shafted by the University vice-chancellor and the VHHL leeches in Wynyard Quarter. Aotea Station has exits onto Victoria and Wellesley St and needs to be working efficiently without sacrificing the opportunity for linear parks on both streets.

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