Making significant progress on getting rapid transit to the North West should be one of the key objectives of our transport agencies this year.
In early December I wrote about Auckland Transport’s plans for a ‘pop-up’ busway to get things kicked off. This would follow a similar process to what happened with the Northern Busway where it originally opened with just the Albany and Constellation stations and buses used shoulder lanes until the busway that we have today opened in 2008. As I said in that post, the will be in the detail of exactly what was proposed. Positively, almost immediately following their board meeting, AT published the paper discussing it.
AT and the NZTA are proposing to deliver a full rapid transit corridor staged over three five year intervals. Let’s look at these.
Step 1: Short-term (1-5 years)
The first step is fairly small and the proposal is to deliver just two interim bus interchanges, at Westgate and Te Atatu, along with some extensions to bus shoulder lanes. This would presumably be the minimum needed to reorganise bus routes in the area to support a trunk route along the motorway using the shoulder lanes.
The proposed interchange at Westgate appears to be on the land just north of the mall (bounded by Barbour Rd, Gunton Dr, Maki St and Tawhia Dr) while the Te Atatu interchange actually appears to be two stations, one on either side of the motorway and presumably local buses would stop at each.
All up this stage is expected to cost $20-40 million however it is noted that is dependant on land negotiation at Westgate and further refinements to the project. They also say that there is currently no funding for it in the 2018-2028 Regional Land Transport Programme and so reprioritisation of that and its successor, the 2021-31 RLTP, will be needed. But perhaps this could also be an ideal candidate for the governments upcoming infrastructure announcement – it appears Mayor Phil Goff has also asked for it to be included in that fund.
Before we can get anything delivered the paper notes it first needs to go through another business case. It is expected that recommendations from that business case will be reported to the board in early 2020 for approval.
- Attachment 2 outlines the concept of a staged approach to developing the infrastructure and operational improvements required to support patronage growth ahead of any rapid transit intervention. To support this, it will be necessary to update current and future passenger demands, determine preferred bus interchange locations and concept designs, land requirements, bus network service changes, estimates of capital and operating costs as well as further work to optimise bus priority on the North Western Motorway. It is planned to carry out this work through an early-deliverables Single Stage Business Case (SSBC).
- At this stage it is expected that the SSBC will also need to assess localised pedestrian access and safety improvements at the proposed Te Atatu Road interchange (associated with the potential use of non-operational land within NZTA’s corridor), and the location options for improvements at Westgate
- Additional unplanned funding from AT and NZTA will be required to deliver the improvements outlined in Attachment 2. This is estimated to be in the order of $20 – $40 million in the coming three years and will be confirmed through the SSBC.
I imagine some of the work on extending the bus lanes around the interchanges could be similar to what the NZTA did on the North Shore at Onewa Rd.
Step 2: Medium Term (5-10 years)
The paper says they will also start work to investigate more substantive changes to enable rapid transit on the corridor to be delivered in the second five year interval. The proposal envisions a full busway, future proofed for light rail, on the southern side of SH16 between Te Atatu Rd and Brigham Creek Rd. The map shows five stations in total with the addition of ones at Lincoln Rd, Royal Rd and Brigham Creek Rd. The interim Te Atatu and Westgate stations would get their permanent solution at this time. The Brigham Creek station is noted as also having a Park & Ride.
The paper noting the below specifically about this step.
- Given the likely time required to complete a business case, progress to route protection and complete necessary property acquisition for the future rapid transit solution, NZTA and AT will commence investigating further developments to support the future bus rapid transit intervention , alongside the early-deliverables SSBC.
- The scope of this future bus rapid transit corridor work will include further development of the earlier delivered interchange facilities at Westgate and Te Atatu to include rapid transit access, identify and design preferred bus interchange locations, identify land and accessibility requirements for Lincoln Road, Royal Road and Brigham Creek Road interchanges (including park and ride), segregated busway development, bus network changes and estimates of capital and operating costs.
- It will be critical to co-ordinate with NZTA teams working on light rail delivery due to the significant interdependencies between the projects.
AT expect to provide the recommendations into these investigations to the board for approval in mid-late 2020.
This would put the Northwest in a very similar situation to what the Northern Busway is today.
It is expected that a staged busway such as this would increase the throughput from all modes of the NW motorway at Waterview from 11,000 per hour to 16,000 per hour. So basically a 50% increase in capacity for just two lanes. It’s crazy that it was never included in the widening that’s only just been completed.
Step 3: Long Term (10-15 years)
There’s specific no detail given in this paper about the third interval but this is when it expects light rail would be delivered. This would presumably involve delivering it along SH16 from the city to Te Atatu and then converting the busway built in step 2.
Finally it appears the traffic engineers/planners are already eyeing up the opportunity dedicated rapid transit may provide them with this comment in the paper.
In addition, in sections where a separated busway was to be built an opportunity would arise to re-purpose the existing bus shoulder lanes on SH16. This could provide for high occupancy vehicle lanes, freight lanes or other purposes that may improve the throughput and effectiveness of the state highway.
I’m looking forward to seeing that early deliverables business case and hearing more about the project soon, including hopefully that it is included in the infrastructure spend-up.