At first glance, Indianapolis, a city best known for a car race, doesn’t have a lot that Auckland could learn from with regards to transport. Sitting on the plans of the mid-west, largely unconstrained by geography, the city of just over 2 million has sprawled in all directions to cover an area almost three times that of Auckland. Correspondingly, it’s transport system is almost entirely focused around the car and its public transport system is one of the least used in the entire US. This is highlighted in the numbers – in the year to June, there were fewer than 9 million trips on Indy’s buses.
But that could be about to change.
On Sunday they launched the first of three planned Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) routes, the 20km Red Line which runs North-South through the city. They’re also reorganising their bus routes with the help of Human Transit’s Jarrett Walker in a change much like Auckland made.
The term BRT is used to cover a wide range of bus priority systems. From the huge metro-capacity like systems in some South American cities, to our Northern Busway while in some cities it has been used to refer to what essentially amounts to standard bus lanes. What makes this particular version of BRT interesting is it sits somewhere between bus lanes and a dedicated busway and could be useful for a number of routes across Auckland and with features Auckland Transport should be considering with their Connected Communities programme.
Here are some of the key features:
- The corridor includes running down the centre of some streets in priority lanes which gets them away from issues with most turning traffic – left turns (right turns for us) are limited to only some locations.
- Fully electric articulated buses are used and have doors on both sides – articulated buses allow for much faster boarding/alighting than double deckers. But that’s not all that’s done to improve speeds;
- There are just 28 stations over that 20km. This is further aided by:
- Off-board fare collection
- All-door boarding
- Level boarding
- Along with bus lanes, they have also employed signal prioritisation.
- Capped fares both daily and weekly.
All of this should help to speed buses up. An example of the stations that have been built is shown below – I think they look great
But one thing that stood out to me from seeing some images/video on social media is how they’ve dealt some sections. As mentioned earlier, this is a step below a full busway like we have on the North Shore and I’m guessing it was too difficult to remove parking. So they’ve put in a bi-directional bus lane. This can be seen in the video below
The Red Line approaching 42nd. Wait for the crowd shot at the end. pic.twitter.com/0d2kjabMFr
— Scott Russell (@GoIndyGo) September 1, 2019
And in this one from a platform.
What makes these interesting to me is the potential for the concept to be used here where we need some bus priority but we may not want the cost and significant impact of widening roads to achieve it. This could be especially useful on frequent routes that run along two-lane roads with large central medians – such as on frequent routes that don’t go to/from the city centre. It would also tie in with Auckland Transport’s aspiration to have all buses on the frequent network having whole-of-route priority and for priority on many of the lower-frequency connector routes.
The concept of running bi-directional lanes is also not foreign to AT now. The Panmure bridge has dynamic lanes for a long time and AT installed them on Whangaparoa Rd last year. Just yesterday they announced they’d be installing one on Redoubt Rd in Manukau.
I’ll be keeping an eye on out to see how this goes.