Sometimes, even small and what should be uncontroversial changes to our streets are opposed for no apparent reason. A great example of this is Birkenhead Ave on the North Shore where Auckland Transport are currently proposing to install a new, 400m long T3 lane on the street with AT saying:
Birkenhead Avenue is a key regional arterial road linking Beach Haven and Glenfield to the Northern Motorway via Onewa Road. The road is a key bus route used by approximately 25 buses per hour in the morning peak on a typical weekday, with 17 services in the southbound direction. Southbound morning peak bus services on this route experience poor travel time reliability due to heavy congestion and traffic queues impeding the left turn movement from Birkenhead Avenue onto Onewa Road.
The need for a southbound T3 lane along Birkenhead Avenue has been identified to enable more consistent travel times for bus passengers and to improve travel time reliability along the route. The transit lane will also provide an incentive for more carpooling which results in higher vehicle occupancy and greater people movement. The mid-block signalised crossing is proposed to better serve users of the recreation grounds and to provide improved connectivity between the bus stops.
Seventeen buses in the morning peak is about one every seven minutes. The most common of these will be the 95 frequent route.
And here’s a bit more detail on exactly what’s proposed.
We are proposing to install a new, 400m southbound T3 lane operating between 6:30am-10am, Monday to Friday on Birkenhead Avenue between Recreation Drive and Onewa Road in Birkenhead. In addition, we are proposing to install a new signalised mid-block pedestrian crossing on Birkenhead Ave located north of Waratah Street. This will replace the existing pedestrian refuge island further to the north.
The lane configuration on approach to the Onewa Road intersection will be altered to support the transit lane and broken yellow lines will be installed along the western kerb as there won’t be sufficient road width available to accommodate on-street parking.
This can be seen on the map below (more detailed versions are on the AT page for the consultation)
It all looks pretty straightforward and even includes a signalised pedestrian crossing instead of people having to dodge cars to use the ‘pedestrian refuge’
So it’s strange then that the proposal has sparked National Party MP Dan Bidois to launch a petition calling for it to be stopped.
His facebook page includes these videos.
Now I get that changing the layout of streets can sometimes be controversial to locals, particularly introducing bus or transit lanes where they replace a general traffic lane. But here’s the thing with this proposal, the transit lane isn’t replacing any existing general traffic lanes, it’s being added in addition to what’s there currently simply by reallocating some of the existing road space. This can be seen in the image below looking north from Zion Rd.
Everyone who currently drives won’t be any worse off by adding this lane and if you happen to carpool, you’d be better off. What’s not to like? As for Bidois’ contention that there’s no congestion, this photo provided to me seems to suggest there is at least some, this is also backed up by looking at Google’s traffic data showing traffic does slow down in the morning peak.
I suspect that AT are being used as a convenient whipping boy by Bidois, perhaps trying to increase his profile.
Is this the most important bus or transit lane in Auckland, probably not but it certainly looks like an easy one that can be done with no downsides. So, if you’ve got a few minutes spare, and especially if you use buses in this part of town, jump on over to the consultation and give some quick feedback in support.