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.