A couple of weeks ago Waka Kotahi NZTA and Auckland Transport gave a brief update on the outcome from consultation late last year of their Southern Gateway Programme, the most prominent aspect of which will eventually be the Airport to Botany Rapid Transit route (A2B).

The first parts of the route are already underway with the upgrade of the Puhinui Interchange and the widening of SH20B to include transit lanes east of the Pukaki Creek Bridge and are intended to enable a new frequent bus service from Manukau to the Airport via Puhinui and will be known as the Airport Link and be operated with a dedicated fleet of electric buses.

The two most interesting outcomes from the consultation are:

1. The proposed bus lanes on Puhinui Rd and Lambie Dr

We asked people what they thought about the proposed operating hours for the bus lanes on Puhinui Road and Lambie Drive, 6-10am and 3-7pm Monday to Friday. Of the 202 responses, 65% of people wanted the bus lanes to operate for longer hours.

After reviewing this feedback, the preferred bus lane operating hours have been extended to 6am-7pm, seven days a week. This will provide greater all-day reliability for bus services and allow for consistent customer journeys.

We also asked for feedback on proposed changes to walking and cycling facilities in the area. Many responses expressed concern with plans to remove 1.2km of unprotected on-road cycle lanes on Puhinui Road east of the station. These lanes need to be removed to provide space for bus priority lanes. This will allow for a new direct bus service between the airport, Puhinui and Manukau.

Fully separated cycle facilities on Puhinui Road are planned as part of the future Airport to Botany Rapid Transit Project. We are also looking at cycling improvements between the Airport Oaks, Māngere and Māngere Bridge, and more information on these improvements will be available later this year.

It’s great that there was the support for extending the bus lane operating hours and that they’ve listened to this. The route is meant to be part of the Rapid Transit Network, and was absurd for them to even suggest that parked cars would have priority over over it – they were even proposing increasing on street parking.

The outcome for bikes is far less than ideal though, especially as it may be many years before we see progress on the rest of the A2B project.

2. The support for a change in speed limits on SH20B.

We want to introduce a consistent and reduced speed limit of 60km/hr. This will help make it safer for all users once the improvements are complete. Of the 194 responses to our survey, 86% of people supported a consistent and reduced speed.

This feedback will help inform the formal consultation process that will happen later this year before the speed limit along the state highway can be changed.

Again it’s good that there was support for lower speed limits here but it seems a bit silly that they then have to go and do a whole other round of consultation to confirm it.

At about the same time as this feedback came out, it was reported that a business case for the wider Airport to Botany Rapid Transit project was due to be completed by November

He said after the rapid transit project’s business case is completed, the next stage will be to progress with the route protection and consents for the rapid transit corridor in mid-2021.

Hannan said further work on the Airport to Botany Rapid Transit system would depend on funding in the Regional Land Transport Plan (RLTP) 2021 – 2031, which is currently being drafted. But construction of the network is expected to take place in stages between 2027 and 2035.

One thing I’ve been thinking about recently is that I hope it also addresses how to deal with problems like Flat Bush. The issue with Flat Bush is highlighted perfectly in the current network with the frequent 35 route where instead of an 800m straight run up Chapel Rd, the bus instead takes a 4km detour.

My guess is we’re going to need to potentially restructure much of the bus network in this area, perhaps with one or more frequent cross town services, just to deal with the reality that Flat Bush is in the wrong place – much like Manukau, it should have been located 1-2km further west so it could sit on the rapid transit line. As Human Transit author Jarrett Walker puts it, be on the way.

If I could put one sentence about transit in the mind of every developer, every land use planner, indeed anyone who makes a decision about where to locate anything, the sentence would be this: Be on the Way! If you want to be sure you’ll have good transit, be on the way from one transit destination to another.

An efficient transit line — and hence one that will support good service — connects multiple points but is also reasonably straight so that it’s perceived as a direct route between any two points on the line. For that reason, good transit geography is any geography in which good transit destinations are on a direct path between other good transit destinations. (Obviously, this is not always a geometrically straight line; it may be a path defined by existing roads or rail corridors that everyone perceives as reasonably direct given the terrain.)

A bad geography is one that indulges in cul-de-sacs on any scale: It sets destinations a little back from the line, so that transit must either bypass them or deviate to them, where deviating means delaying all the other passengers riding through this point.

Perhaps something such as Ormiston Rd through to either the Papatoetoe or Otahuhu Train Station thereby allowing a connection to both the future busway and to the rail network.

We should also be taking a lesson from this for other greenfield developments that are planned as so far it appears we’re going to repeat the same mistakes. For example, the Drury-Opāheke Structure Plan shows the new Drury West station will be isolated from the proposed local town centre – which is also separated from it by SH22.

Meanwhile in the North at Dairy Flat, the proposed new Rapid Transit corridor is taking a huge detour to serve a potential new town centre there. I think a small diversion away from the motorway is okay but the route they’ve chosen feels quite extreme and likely adds about 2.5km to a journey. We don’t yet have the Structure Plan to show where the town centre would be located but I have heard suggestions that the corridor will still only touch the edge of it.

Ideally we wouldn’t be doing all this sprawl greenfield development but if we are doing it, we need to make sure we’re designing it to Be on the Way.

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  1. On Puhinui Station: when (eventually) the Rapid Transit goes in and replaces the buses on that route, is that planned to just stop at Puhinui – or are they planning for it to go on through to Botany?

    1. I mean, I can see their little dots indicating stations all the way to Botany, but they can’t be serious on that route can they? It twists and turns like a mad snake around Manukau. Not sure if there is a Rapid Transit system in the world that could those 90 degree turns…

      1. That’s the outcome of Manukau being in the wrong place.

        But the roads there are huge, you could turn an A380 around those corners.

        1. They used to hold a stage of the Rally of New Zealand on the streets of Manukau – the streets are plenty big enough!

  2. Here we go again, with a supposedly authoritative comment which is clearly pro-bikes and anti-cars. Lower the speed limit, re-institute cycleways which nobody will use (except the Lycra brigade at weekends)! Road improvements are supposed to provide FASTER travel, not slower. Ever thought of that? I am fully in support of improved PT, but the majority will still travel by private car for the foreseeable future. No harm in pointing out that Ormiston Town Centre is in the wrong location, but that will not change things so make provisions to cope with it!

    1. “Road improvements are supposed to provide FASTER travel, not slower” – no that’s utter crap, a lot of road improvements are to make things safer not faster. We have had years of making things faster at the expense of safety, mode choice, and communities (which is also the main reason “the majority will still travel by private car for the foreseeable future”)

    2. Huh? This stage of the project will remove the cycle lane … Not re-instate it. It likely to be many years away before the final upgrade to an RTN along Puhinui Road takes place.
      I’m a bit conflicted about the 20b reduction in speed though, 60kmh does seem low for a road going through farm land.
      But the travel time difference of 80 – 60kmh over 2.8km is only 42 seconds, so it’s certainly not the end of the world!

      And a question for you – What do you mean by make provisions to cope with Ormiston being in the wrong location?

      1. I don’t really know why they’ve done it either. But I agree with the timing thing. It feels really slow, but in reality its adding hardly any extra time at all. Even if it saves a couple accidents that could be considered to be eating into the losses in time / gdp even further.

    3. One of the main reasons why “everybody will travel by car for the foreseeable future” is the poor quality of PT, and specifically the lack of a proper RTN. While Auckland’s PT has made giant strides in the last twenty years, it still lacks a proper “network” of strategic services. I think we’ve been waiting far too long for the gold-plated solution and now is the time to accept that we’re probably still several decades away from an efficient RTN at the present incremental growth rate.

      Rather than wait for gold-plated, I’d like to see immediate action to provide a rough-and-ready interim solution on the main unserved corridors to create a network which actually contains some “net” (almost completely lacking in our current CBD-focused RTN). Lines like Ellerslie-Botany-Manukau, Airport-Onehunga-New Lynn and Henderson-Westgate-Constellation will just remain lines on a future RTN wishlist unless someone seizes the initiative and prioritises completion of the network by less-than-gold-plated means (which probably means express buses operating on 24/7 bus lanes).

      Only when we put some “net” into our network do we stand a chance of creating a serious shift away from the use of private motor vehicles.

    4. I’m going to ignore everything else, and just focus on the cyclist thing. I think this is the common conception that cycling is worse, and not an appropriate transport solution for people in this day an age. I totally disagree. Cycling is a legit, very effective transport solution for cities. I live in Onehunga and go to uni at UOA. By the time I walk 10 minutes to the train station, get to Britomart and then take the bus to uni It works out faster for me to cycle all the way there (35 – 40 minutes). Plus its much more flexible, I can go different routes, and go to other destinations much more easily than on the train. While the trains should go faster than they do now. The bike IMO should play a larger role than public transport for the average person in Auckland. The reason I don’t is because its not really safe at the moment. This goes back to the current / future problem of the isthmus capacity and the need for a more dense transport mode. Pretty much all of the area is within 1/2 an hour bike ride of the central city. We could significantly delay the need to buy more expensive infrastructure if we added a couple solid bike paths to the area. I know that its not going to work for everyone but it doesn’t have to either. I’d love to hear your arguments for why its only going to be a Lycra clad sports enthusiast hobby?

    5. The stats (eg Household Travel Survey) already tell us that “sport and recreation” only makes up at best one-third of all bike trips (and that will include Mum, Dad and the kids going for a cruise; not just the “Lycra brigade”). So it seems pretty sensible to focus on growing the other two-thirds of people who are just trying to get safely from A to B for work, school, shopping, etc.

      You may have also missed the memo that speed limits are being lowered everywhere, because that is by far the most effective way to reduce the amount of deaths/injuries currently on our roads… (you can only go so far trying to aim for perfect roads and perfect road users)

  3. Transport is the biggest cost for the government, especially infill. They should be designating then buying the land around the train station and building real density.

    They have their land development bill so nothing should be holding them back.

    1. Seriously, we’ve got all the way to the point where the only difference between these and actual trams is that is these run on tarmac not steel. I don’t really have a preference (I feel like steel is the better long term solution) but I’d be totally open if the numbers work out the other way. I think they are trying to distance themselves from this real obsession that people have with light rail being a total failure and a refusal to think, even though it clearly works overseas, and has really only been a political failure here for reasons completely unrelated to the engineering.

  4. Okay I am a bit lost here
    35km of 4 lane-ing Mill Road is to cost $1.35b

    18km of apparent busway for Airport to Botany Rapid Transit is to cost $1.8b and most of it is on grass medians.

    I miss something here as I thought the busway would be around $500m-600m hence why it was chosen over LRT ($1.85b). I get inflation which would kick LRT to $2b but $500m to near $2b for a bus way? What is it being paved in – gold?

    1. Just seem astronomical. I get why AMETI was so expensive. A lot of land acquisition and engineering. But 1.8B is pretty wild for a 2 lane road and bus stops

    2. Less than a third of it is on grass median. It’s 20km long and NZTA has bundled in or demanded a whole lot of works to maintain traffic capacity, while AT is requiring huge stations. And the airport are idiots.

      It it were just taking existing lanes then you might get $500m, but it’s not.

  5. (Without knowing anything about the area including geography and based purely on the map) For me, that Flat Bush detour could be solved by running the desired route, straight through, and rezone to allow development and the slow shift of the town centre towards the RTL. Simple.

  6. I wouldn’t get too upset about the cycle lane on Puhinui Road more people ride on the footpath. 314 bus serves passengers wishing to use rail or rapid transit as noted above increase frequency to 10 mins. Are they going to redo the Botany bus stop as its hard work getting a bus off Te Irirangi too many traffic lights. Will buses go into Manukau bus station or use the on street stop by the rail station. That would be quicker. Manukau bus station to Irirangi drive will be slow with the section along Great South Road. Note the present bus route is via Chapel Road the rapid transit is shown on Te Irirangi Road.

    1. People will ride on the sidewalk because it feels safer than a painted cycle lane. I will love the day when we can get rid of all of the painted lanes. But I don’t think that should be done by just not having any cycle lanes

      1. Concrete on the footpath tarmac on the road much easier to ride on the concrete less friction. Plus cheap pseudo mountain bikes from Warehouse with knpbbly tyres just make the friction worse. Need to change who is ordering the bikes at Warehouse.

    2. “Will buses go into Manukau bus station or use the on street stop by the rail station.”

      As currently, all the frequent ones just would use the straighter line version outside the rail station. Especially if they are articulated buses, pretty much have to be I would think. One of the reasons to use them instead of Double Decker’s is the faster alighting and boarding or course and not forgetting airport travelers luggage. These wouldn’t suit the city centre to Mangere/airport line due to the tighter constraints in the city.

      Note: The current 380 doesn’t quite make frequent status but pretty much is and perhaps not enough space or easier way-finding/transferring from regional buses to use the proper big bus station for them.

      1. Actually correction, the frequent 35 uses the bus bays as well, and the non frequent 361 uses outside the rail station. Looks like it’s more due to the fact that they pass north to south through there rather than a end point (like the 35 or 380). Also the 361 would be more busy servicing the MIT in Otara from train passengers?

  7. Reducing SH20B to 60km/h is one of the dumbest things I’ve heard!
    Here we have a road that is relatively wide and straight with very limited access and nowhere near residential or other users it is literally a link road between motorways.
    Why would you then go and reduce that to 60km/h? If anything it is a better road than almost any other in the country (bar motorways) so should be 100!
    Furthermore it is only going to slow buses down both now and when the extra busway lanes are built… not exactly Bus RAPID Transit is it….

      1. Don’t know if it’s going to be that separated in parts, shared path most of it. There is also several intersections along the way. With all the potential speeding up and slowing down it’s probably not going to really save any time making it 80 or 100 for the decrease in safety.

        That said, see Ben Ross’s comment above as to the price tag.

        1. What intersections? From the motorway to the airport boundary there are no intersections, merely a few side roads that are very rarely used.

    1. When the annual road-toll drops to about the level of the annual rail-toll, would be the time to look at increasing speed limits. Meanwhile we still have a pandemic of road-deaths and maimings going on out there. As the response to the current rail-defect problem shows, 40Km/h may be a good maximum speed to bring an equivalent safety-regime to the roads. Not taking meaningful action is tantamount to saying that 300-400 annual road deaths and perhaps 3,000 serious injuries is “ok”.

  8. This is just the tip of the iceberg that is Flat Bush.

    Murphy’s Rd is currently experiencing gigantic development. Large sections of former farmland are being redeveloped, kilometres from any bus route shown on that map. The latest Google Maps satellite view only shows about half of what can be seen from the road…

    Redoubt Rd looks like an interesting place to run a new bus service…

    1. The fix is to plan some feasible bus routes that connect the remote medium-density housing to the interchanges on Te Irirangi Rd (A2B Line).
      Ormiston to Otara is the principal connection, but there need to be others (eg. Thomas Road).
      The interchanges will need to be really good for transfer experience.

  9. “repeating same mistakes” i read, they seem more like design elements
    Onehunga rail ends 200m from Onehunga wharf
    Onehunga wharf repurposed to apartments – manukau ferry service ?
    Britomart cul dec sac train station (ok fixed in a later release)
    sorry to be negative, but i think we need to replace the transport planners with a bunch of kids with sim city 2000 – we’d save a lot in salaries, and we’d get trains that went around – not backwards and forwards.
    We need to see names and faces owning these decisions – an article on how future planning works in large NZ cities – and why both transport and planning suffer from such congestion.

    1. “… but i think we need to replace the transport planners with a bunch of kids with sim city 2000 – …”
      Lol yes, a lot of this stuff you see so easily work or not work when playing a city simulator. Was going to make a comment a the bottom regarding Matt’s quote, but seems kind of relevant here:

      “A bad geography is one that indulges in cul-de-sacs on any scale: It sets destinations a little back from the line, so that transit must either bypass them or deviate to them, where deviating means delaying all the other passengers riding through this point.”

      Try setting up a transit system in col-de-sacs in the game “Cities: Skylines” and you know all about it. Though not quite the same issue, I watched a tutorial on how to setup road grids for industrial areas, I think, to avoid total traffic jams, but it basically made all the roads in a hierarchical system but without joining together the roads as grids as to avoid intersections. In saying that if you had mod to make bus only roads you could make transit work, you can also make it filtered for active modes as well without any mods.

    2. I know right. You really can’t make this stuff up. It seems our transport planners want to keep creating and perpetuating problems, to keep themselves in a job (planned obsolescence). Always having cul-de-sac routes that require reversing rather than through-running (e.g., insisting that the Airport be (original) Britomart II), and never planning separate rights of way corridors dedicated to PT and active modes, and instead insisting that trains and trucks and cars and bikes and pedestrians all use the same road space.

      Why was/is that whole South-East Auckland area being developed with no designated separated corridors for PT; e.g., for a South-East route connecting Panmure to Pokeno via a Bombay Hills tunnel* – and an East-West lateral crosstown route from Whitford (looping to Papakura via Clevedon, and Panmure via Howick)-Ormiston/Flat Bush-East Tamaki-Otara-Hunters Corner/Papatoetoe-Mangere East-Airport (looping to Papakura via Clendon Park and Karaka, and Panmure via Mangere Bridge and Oranga/One Tree Hill)), i.e., areas where people live and work – and/or where more people will soon live and work – but are currently underserved by PT and so not provided with many serious options other than driving a car to get between those areas – i.e., enable them to “Be on the Way!” along dedicated PT/active corridors/routes, that interlink at key transfer nodes.

      * At an Auckland Council consultation on Drury earlier this year there was vague mention of a new railway route running to the east of the current main trunk, but who is supposed to be working on this – is NZTA talking to Kiwirail and AT about this long term planning?

  10. The existing cycle lanes on Noel Burnside and Cavendish Drive should have protection added to create a safer route through to Manukau City Centre since Puhinui Road is being downgraded for people on bikes

  11. Flatbush/Ormiston should have been served by a propoer crosstown straight from the start of the new network. You colud build a proper bus station there and have routes that go up to Botany on the eastern side, down Murphys Road to Manukau, and across Ormiston ROad to Hunters Corner and Papatoetoe. It’s going to need a total redesign of the netowrk to make it work now.

    I completely agree that we are repeating the same mistakes with Dairy Flat and Drury though. Dairy Flat is particularly bad as it has a motorway and a major highway circling it and no major road inbetween currently. There was total freedom to place things so the town centre(s) could have been chose for access to the RTN with the arterial routes then designed to avoid the centre as is done in the Netherlands.

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