Improving access in the Southwest but also including connections all the way up to Botany is one of the key areas our transport agencies are focusing on right now through a programme called the Southwest Gateway. There are already some early works for this with a significant upgrade of Puninui Station already underway and there are other works to come such as priority lanes on SH20B.
These early improvements are due to be completed by 2021 but they are also part of two longer term projects. These are:
- Airport to Botany Rapid Transit – a busway from the Airport to Botany via Manukau
- 20 Connect – upgrades of SH20, SH20A and SH20B
A year ago the NZTA and Auckland Transport consulted on these and they’ve finally come back with the results but also more detail on the projects and a new round of consultation along with more detail on the early improvements so let’s look at those. There’s also this new video about the programme.
Early Improvements by 2021
As mentioned, the Puhinui Station upgrade is underway and work on priority lanes along Puhinui Rd and SH20B will start soon. That will enable a bus to run from Manukau to the airport via the Puhinui station on a direct and frequent route, replacing the current 380 service. There is now an indication of what impact that will have on the wider bus network.
- The Manukau to Airport service will be called the AirportLink using the orange theme of the current 380. They say it will be 10-12 minutes from Puhinui to the Airport.
- The 380 name will be retained and still run from the airport through to Onehunga but notably not diverting to Mangere Town Centre.
- A new frequent route, the 36, will run from Onehunga to Manukau via Mangere and Papatoetoe. This looks like it picks up the Manukau to Papatoetoe leg of the current 380, replaces (or duplicates) the Papatoetoe to Mangere leg of the 31 route and adds the connection to Onehunga.
Overall these seem like relatively good changes.
I also like that they’re showing this graphic of travel times and costs to get around. Once the early improvements are up and running this should be advertised, especially at the airport.
To keep those times consistent the priority lanes being looked at also include Puhinui Rd and Lambie Dr. These will only be at peak times though, running 6-10am and 3-7pm on weekdays in both directions. They say they won’t run them 24/7 in part to retain and increase on-street parking raising questions about how serious they really are about prioritising public transport.
There are also improvements to walking and cycling planned including a shared path on Puhinui Rd and a protected cycleway on Lambie Dr.
SH20B will include priority lanes along a shared path and road safety improvements such as median barriers, and speed limit reductions.
Airport to Botany Rapid Transit
After the early improvements in 2021 the plan is to start a staged delivery of a busway to Botany. In the previous consultation it was preferred that the route go via Manukau Station Rd to interchange with the Manukau bus station, as opposed to via Ronwood Ave for a slightly more direct journey. The consultation also asked about whether the busway should go via SH20B or bizarrely detour all the way up Mangere and use SH20A. The only surprise was that only 80% preferred the SH20B option, it should have been even higher.
Not mentioned in the documentation, Puhinui station will be further upgraded with a new bus bridge over the rail line to avoid short diversion via Bridge St but also put bus/train users right at the door to the train station for even easier transfers.
On Ti Irirangi Dr the busway will head up the wide central median and it is expected the travel time from the Airport all the way to Botany will be 36-40 minutes. This would be likely be competitive with driving at peak times. At Botany the busway will connect to the Eastern Busway, the first stage of which from Panmure to Pakuranga is under construction. All up the busway from the airport will be about 18km in length but interestingly the map above suggests the A2B busway could be extended further north.
And here’s what it could look like with it being used by “fast, electric modern vehicles”. The buses shown in the are Vanhool’s ExquiCity buses which can be up to 24m long and are already in use in a number of cities around the world. Particularly on the airport route where some people will have luggage, articulated buses like these will be much better than double deckers. There is also advantages to having more doors per bus.
There is no timeframe given for when the post 2021 works will happen by.
The final piece of the Southwest Gateway puzzle is 20Connect which aims to upgrade the state highways. This will include widening SH20 and upgrading SH20B to 4-lane expressway standard with a separate corridor for rapid transit. Two new ‘motorway to motorway’ ramps are planned too with southbound ramps from SH20A and SH20B to SH20. The ramps are described as being needed for:
- SH20A to SH20 – to get heavy vehicles off local roads (presumably those using Kirkbride/Massey Rd to access the motorway)
- SH20B to SH20 – to enable the rapid transit buses to run more smoothly through the motorway interchange.
In addition they say walking and cycling facilities will be added to SH20.
The new round of consultation is open until Sunday 8 December and there will be a number of open days between now and then starting with Saturday (see link for details).