This is a guest post by Greater Auckland reader, Jack Gibbons.

Despite the Northern Busway’s enormous and continued success, it has always had one serious flaw: the lack of an interchange between Onewa Road buses and Northern Express buses, north of the harbour bridge. This makes it far less useful than it otherwise would be to a huge chunk of the North Shore population.

A sub-optimal bus trip from Birkenhead to Takapuna via Fanshawe St

Currently, especially off-peak, we get some very sub-optimal trips. This example is a trip from Birkenhead to a restaurant in Takapuna taken in the evening. Although there is a direct bus, it is infrequent, so  the best public transport option is often to cross the harbour bridge twice.

This is the most reliable and consistent way to make the trip due to the decent frequency and priority on both routes. This problem comes about because despite running interlined on the same route for almost 5km, the first stop where passengers can swap from an Onewa road bus and a Northern busway bus (or the 82) is on the south side of the bridge, on Fanshawe St.

The North Shore bus map shows the location of the crucial, but missing, interchange. These two groups of buses are the busiest in the city, depending on how you count it up. There are 3.9 million boardings for ‘Onewa Rd Services’ and 8.5 million for the NX1, NX2 and 866 combined.

North Shore Bus Map showing northbound and westbound buses at Onewa Road

I think we should build an Onewa busway interchange station. This would leave most of the current peak direction (commuter) trips unchanged, but would significantly improve off-peak and counter-peak experience through four methods:

  • Optimised and consolidated bus routes
  • Much more frequent trips between Onewa and the busway north through transfer.
  • Shorter trip lengths.
  • Concentrate services on better bus infrastructure.

This would in turn:

  • Offer more frequent trips at all times for everyone
  • Allow decent frequencies off-peak, while still reducing off-peak service hours.
  • Provide a more legible transit system, with more defined trunk and branches.
  • Allow users of these services to make convenient off-peak trips, significantly improving the ability to live car-lite/car-free. A huge cost saving for society.
A news article about the new North Shore bus rapid transit system in January 2000

Why is this hole here? Initial plans included a station here in one form or another, but it was scrapped in part due to local resistance, and political resistance to the busway in general.

I have two main proposals to provide this facility.

Short term solution

Buses run on their existing alignment, and make pit stops north of the bridge on platforms formed on the old toll plaza. There is plenty of room – 100×20 meters at least – on both sides for long, wide platforms. The two platforms would be linked by a new pedestrian over-bridge, allowing safe, visible transfers. This station design would provide the basic functionality and requires no massive civil works. The 50 meter over-bridge transfer isn’t ideal, but is still much shorter than the distance between the Lower Albert bus stops and the Britomart train platforms, and much better than riding a bus all the way to Fanshawe street. We could gain most of the benefits of an interchange with this cheap(ish), and politically easy option. I think this should be progressed as soon as possible and could be up and running very soon.

Short term solution: buses stop at an interchange on existing toll plaza land between the Harbour Bridge and the Onewa motorway ramps.

Long term, optimal solution

In the longer term the busway will need to be upgraded or relieved. From my perspective, the most likely solution is for the existing busway corridor to be upgraded to a decent Light Rail line, so I will assume that here. This station solution could therefore be built at the same time as the light rail upgrade.

We would ideally build such a station on the inland side because there more room, and it is more convenient for locals to get to. The obvious challenge is getting input and output lanes/tracks in the right place. Without the benefit of site investigations, my guess is that the Onewa Road access would be provided through a widened northbound off-ramp. This would allow a bi-directional busway to and from Onewa Road.

Longer term solution: a bus station/light rail interchange station on the inland side of the motorway.

The light rail would use a new 2-lane flyover crossing the motorway from the inland side to the current busway alignment, utilising this extra wide abutment on the Onewa southbound off ramp, that Waka Kotahi built at the time of the interchange construction.

Light rail could use this existing abutment to get across the motorway from a new station south of the Onewa motorway ramps

I will note that it is concerning that throughout all the recent North Shore rail plans none of them include an Onewa Road rail station, instead tunnelling all the way up to Akoranga or Takapuna before surfacing as described here and here. Onewa access is provided by city-bound and north-bound buses from Onewa Road. Perhaps there are serious civil engineering considerations that make an Onewa Road station impossible. It would be good to hear from Waka Kōtahi why it’s not being planned for.

A two-way busway

This optimal solution requires creating a two-way public transport corridor for the section between Onewa Rd and Akoranga, similar to the busway north of Akoranga. Waka Kotahi claims that this would require reclamation which would pose consenting challenges. However, there is enough space between the car lane, (around 3.5m vs 3.1 minimum), the shoulders and the 4-meter median, to fit either a bi-directional busway or double-tracked light rail. With lane narrowing, the speed limit would likely have to be lowered to 80km/h, but over the extra 2km, that’s only an impact of about 18 seconds. Access to Akoranga station would come through the current busway underpass, which was built future-proofed for bi-directional running.

The shoulder, lane and median have enough width for two bus lanes or double-tracked light rail

Travelling southbound from the Onewa Station

In the long term we should still run Onewa Road buses into the city, even with light rail going through Onewa station to the city as well. Forcing everyone to transfer to light rail would be a poor solution because:

  1. Onewa Road is a big destination. We want to have capacity on LR for the future, not use its capacity serving essentially a major branch so close to the city.
  2. Transfers are a feature of a well-connected network, not a bug. But only on long through running services, not lots of short hops. Forcing a transfer for everyone here is far from ideal.
  3. So many people transferring to/from terminating bus services at once would be an engineering challenge for a station, and would drive costs & complexity.

In light of this, and the huge demand already for Onewa Road, we need to have priority transit lanes on the inner lanes of the Harbour Bridge.  To provide for the remaining bus users on the bridge, some bus priority would go a very long way. Public transport is only good if it’s competitive with driving, so it needs to be congestion free.

These dedicated lanes will have to be provided on the inner lanes. The clipons are reaching the end of their life carrying heavy traffic while the center spans have a long life ahead of them. They would be reached via a flyover descending into the space between the two motorway directions.

Residents’ concerns

Two concerns local residents may have are effects on local street parking, and the threat of cannibalising Stafford Park to provide even more parking. Firstly, I don’t think any new substantial car park and ride facilities should be provided at any urban or suburban stations, especially so close to the city. Investments in bike access and bike parking would be far more cost effective and space efficient. Stafford park should be safe.

Secondly, local parking won’t be an issue here. We see parking issues at Sunnynook in particular, where people drive in to access the public transport and park in the residential streets, overwhelming them. This behaviour happens in places where the last mile service is inconvenient or slow. So instead of taking the feeder bus, biking, or walking, people drive to the closest busway/train station.

In the case of an Onewa Rd station, commuters will not be needing to drive in. On either of the key routes that would go through Onewa station, it would make far more sense to park further out, catch the bus earlier in its route, and take advantage of the bus lanes/T3 lanes. Driving and sitting in the worst of the traffic, only to get on a bus for the only free flowing part of the trip, is not most people’s idea of an efficient commute. There is no logical reason an Onewa road busway station would impact local parking.

Other advantages

Consolidation of services is one of the major advantages. While most of the current services are used heavily on peak, maintaining decent frequencies off-peak is extremely expensive with very low per-bus ridership. If a number of routes were consolidated then we would have more people on individual buses while running less service hours at these off-peak times, and still have more frequent services. Here is the North Shore network for reference.

The station could allow AT to rethink these buses and more:

  • the 942 which runs from Onewa Rd to Takapuna, replaced with 97 and transfer to 82.
  • the 966, which runs from Onewa Road to Newmarket via Ponsonby Road. Replaced with a 97 and transfer to an NX3 busway service (replacing the 866)
  • 939 / 933, windy ridge / beach haven to universities, replaced with an upgraded 95 and transfer to NX2

These consolidated service hours would be added to the 95 and 97, boosting their frequency and allowing AT to run more cost effective services. The overall journey times are lower because passengers could leave every 5 minutes and transfer to frequent NX2 services, as compared to the hourly off-peak frequencies for some routes. Even now at peak, it’s usually faster to use this transfer model. The service simplification and consolidation is the same successful model that AT rolled out on its New Network revamp.

Simplified and consolidated services – AT’s New Network map

Closing Thoughts

This change will add next-to-no peak direction demand. The key benefactors would be people traveling locally within the North Shore, and off-peak travelers. These are two crucial areas Auckland needs to improve, to make living car-free or car-lite much more practical.

Whatever form an alternative harbour crossing or an upgrade of the busway might take, it’s likely to be over a decade away. The short-term option I’ve outlined is a much faster project, able to provide ridership and improvements to communities in the near future. It would be a good  interim solution until light rail demands more significant changes. It would help the case for PT in the city overall, and could help ensure an  interchange at Onewa Rd is built into future transit plans.

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  1. Truly insane that they never built it in the first place and how hard any PT improvements were to get started 20 years ago

  2. I’ve long wondered whether Onewa should be the connecting point for a Bayswater line that could eventually run through the Western end of Devonport for Light Rail, and then eventually Lake Road or in parallel to it back to Takapuna – effectively a second CRL but for Light Rail, with the added bonus of less emissions from people on the Shore complaining about why they should have to pay for it.

  3. Another upside of have a PT bridge crossing instead of a tunnel would be that this station would then be on a future light rail line, rather than missing out

    1. In the short term or long term / ideal solution?

      Short term you’d have to have busses merging across multiple lanes of motorway traffic in a short space which is a no go if you want to still use the busway lane (which we do).

      Long term I personally dont think these motorway median stations are very nice at all. Surrounded by fumes, traffic whizzing past, maybe noise (depending on the barriers) and less accessible to the people living inland in this case. It also constrains the building site and the station footprint itself. Its expensive to move the motorway, but temporarily taking a bit more of Stafford park, returning it better than it was, would be comparatively cheap and easy.

      1. To me the centre is the best solution for the busway from Onewa Rd to the city and back. This would include a station in the middle of Fanshawe St. and an interchange one at the old toll plaza site. The lane would run over the harbour bridge beside the median barrier with a cones on the other side to provide a bus only lane that is moved along with the barrier morning and evening. There would need to be a bidirectional overbridge built at Onewa to bring the existing busway into the centre and ramps from the Onewa overbridge bothways.

  4. Our concept designs for the busway allowed for a station at Stafford Road and for the two-way busway to start there. The Onewa interchange bridges are future proofed to allow the busway northbound to pass alongside. This section was paused due to lack of funds. You have to remember that back in 2002, no-one could foresee the huge success that this link eventually became.

    1. Even getting the busway through at all was a big deal. I was told / read that the residents near the potential station were fairly unhappy at the prospect of one being there so very understandable that it was axed.
      You wouldn’t happen to have those concept designs handy / lying around would you? I wanted them in the post originally, if the designs existed, but was unable to find them. They don’t have to be public of course, but it would be nice to have a look / see how close I was.
      I OIA’d Waka Kotahi but they were unable to find them, something about being done before the digital system was properly done. Which is also understandable. 2002 was a while ago now.

      1. No need for a pedestrian bridge, there is a pedestrian tunnel already in place where those proposed stations would sit.

    2. A big part of the problem was that transport models are more descriptive than predictive. The PT models of the time were based on early 1990s transport choices and behaviours so inevitably the model predicted few people would use public transport. At the time the busway was planned the model suggested the only people who would ever use a bus were those who had no other choice available. Essentially it was an inelastic demand.

  5. While a bit off the subject of an interchange at Onewa.
    A lot of talk around light rail and the North Shore is always centred on how to connect the service to the CBD and therefore falls in to the to expensive basket and (almost) quietly forgotten about again and again.
    Why take a different view and say the shore needs a (new) light rail system which will eventually cross the harbour.
    The obvious starting place for such a service is a Takapuna or Smales Farm to Devonport line and then slowly adding lines fanning out from there to various localities on the shore.
    To make such a system work the ferry services would need major increases but the short ride between the CBD and Devonport wharves would help reduce demand on the bridge.
    With Smales Farm becoming a potential initial light rail transfer interchange it would make sense that rather than building a bus interchange at Onewa Road, buses all off peak run between Onewa, Birkenhead, Birkdale and surrounding areas to Smales Farm and then transfer from there to CBD services and other North Shore destinations.

    1. You think that light rail from Takapuna to Devonport is viable when the buses only run at 30 minute frequency?
      You would have to get Devonport residents out of their cars and there is no sign that is happening any time soon. Devonport has the cheapest parking on the peninsula.

      1. Agreed Taka-ite
        Although the abysmal popularity of that bus service is probably mostly because it has poor priority, there is always complaints about traffic getting on the motorway on Esmonde road. I’m sure if the bus was reasonably quick it would be more popular. And calling in at a busway station north of the bridge would go a long way too.

  6. Regarding the short term solution, there’s no need for an over bridge – that’s overkill and adds unnecessary problems. The existing toll tunnel can be tidied up with video surveillance at little cost and could be ready in weeks. The platform on the northbound section is in the wrong place. It needs to be 100 meters south, just outside the bottom left corner of the image near the tunnel exit, used for years as a stopping point for drunk and speeding drivers pulled up by the men and women in blue.

    1. I considered the tunnel, but IMO its too narrow and even with some sprucing up its just not good enough for a major interchange. Pedestrian overbridges are common to build, we built 2 this year / last year just a bit further north on the motorway. Plus there is quite a bit of median space for crews to work with, which would make it easier.
      I’m not saying it would be done in a weekend with some quick set concrete from Bunnings, but in the scheme of things I think it would be worth it, and not that big of a cost.
      Even if they were equally safe places, the overbridge would still feel much safer, with is pretty important.

  7. A tunnel harbour would not be useful to Onewa road would it. I assume it would pop up well past there. So would Onewa buses still continue over the bridge? Yet another reason why a second bridge makes much more sense than a tunnel…

    1. The shorter the tunnel the cheaper it is, so surfacing around the toll plaza would make sense. However if that would mean needing to do any land reclamation to get room* then that could create such a consenting issue that they just decide to surface further north instead. In that case an alternative option would be to build a station where passengers could transfer between the buses (surface) and light rail (underground).

      ( * this shouldn’t be necessary, just reduce the number of vehicle lanes if need be)

      1. Not necessarily, a 5% grade, about the max for light adhesion rail, would put you 50 meters under the surface after 1km. The maximum depth for the harbor, directly under the current bridge is about 25m, if the marine charts are accurate. This area could be fairly easily avoided in which case you’d be looking at less than 18m deep.
        On a mud seabed we could do a sunken tube tunnel which should(?) be cheaper than a bored tunnel, or maybe get lucky with the geology and tunnel into / under stoke point, getting low enough to be in the rock the whole way under the harbor until near a Wynyard portal.

    2. There are long sections showing geotech and grade for potential tunnels in the public domain that I saw several years ago. The deepest point crossing the harbour is the north shore side, and theres a fair bit of mud to keep under. As I remember a station looked possible opposite the end of Onewa Rd. It would be a couple of floors below sea level, requiring more reclamation. Not cheap. I’d assume this is why it isn’t being shown, however I agree that it should be built.

  8. While I agree that Onewa Road makes sense your initial example is a little misleading. Birkenhead to Takapuna runs every 30 minutes in the evening . If you have a restaurant booking using the existing 942 service is no hardship. I do it every time I go to Taka. I think infrequent suggests something more problematic.

    Personally I think the present network works well for Birkenhead (your example) although ultimately I’d like to see a western LR route from Onewa along the Glenfield ridge to Constellation with feeder servicews to the western north shore into it.

    This is pie in the sky though. There are vast tracts of Akl that need PT upgrades well before the Shore.

    1. This is the everlasting debate about frequency & transfer vs infrequent & one seat ride.
      The half hourly frequencies are no “hardship” per say, but its a massive penalty, and a big incentive to use / want to use a car off peak. This is especially true if you want to chain your trip up or do anything unusual, eg pick up something up on your way somewhere else, it quickly becomes a PITA and blows out your trip times.
      Increasing the frequency and therefore convenience is a big deal, especially when it would come relatively cheap, and with few side penalties from a fixed piece of capex.

      I used to work in Takapuna and had a couple co-workers that lived near Birkenhead that used to take the more frequent double bridge trip to work instead of 942 because when they got ready they could just leave, and most of the time they’d be there quicker than waiting for the 942. Now sure if you timed your life around the 942 then it is an ok trip, but that isn’t how most people live their lives. They’re ready when they’re ready, and the transport system that can cater to that is going to have more ridership.

      That’s also why I proposed the cheap solution. There are other priorities for PT in the city, but this seems like such a cheap, quick win that it would be good regardless of how well served the area is already.

      1. You are proposing a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.
        As DM wrote, there is a bus every 30 minutes and if there was any demand for more frequency, AT would run more buses and more often. The trade off for PT is that while it moves more people, it is not as convenient. If you need to travel urgently, you should use Uber.
        The ‘cheap’ intervention you discuss involves a very expensive bridge over the motorway and will interfere with the Stafford Road exit and the park.
        It’s not worth it.

        1. Well it depends on the level of ambition.

          If you want PT to be more mainstream you’ll have to come to terms with the way most people do their daily errands. They get out when they’re ready. If they happen to get out at 11:18 instead of 11:14, they want to leave at 11:18, not at 11:44. Those with cars will just drive instead of waiting for 25 minutes. If you’re OK with that wait you’re part of a small minority.

          A bus every 10 minutes may cost 3 times as much but it will be useful to much more people.

        2. Demand doesn’t work like that, Daniel. The demand currently demonstrated by people driving on this motorway has been manufactured; created by imbalanced infrastructure, transport system and subsidies.

          Building a motorway should include public transport provision along that motorway, including any infrastructure required to enable people to get to it, plus frequent overbridges to overcome the severance created.

          Since this wasn’t done, we have mitigation work to do. The cost is simply a catch up cost.

        3. That’s the beauty of the solution Daniel.
          I’ll use the tripling of frequency example from 30 to 10 minutes
          It doesn’t cost 3x to run busses, in fact you could probably slim down service hours with the interchange added.
          They dont have the resources to triple frequency, but if they did they would undoubtedly get more ridership, not enough more to justify 3x opex though.

          What if they could build some, reasonably priced, fixed piece of capex and get that 3x frequency for free going forward.

          The 3 x example is simplified, in some cases the increase in frequency is even more than that. Sometimes less. Undoubtedly some existing users will be unhappy with the change, such is life, but over time it will be like the new network. Leading to an upswing in ridership because new people find the service useable now.

          A very expensive bridge over the motorway? We built 2! parallel ones 20 meters apart this year for cycleways, if they were that expensive then they would have done anything they could to at least only build one. And that was literally just up the road over the same motorway. We also have other motorway pedestrian bridges in the area, that undoubtedly had a far worse cost to use ratio than this one, that would be integrated into a important interchange station.

          Stafford road exit could be moved to behind the station (or closed), and there is so much room around there that there is no need to interfere with Stafford park.

          Your excuse that PT is essentially always resigned to being less convenient is really poor, we should be doing far more to make it as convenient as possible.

          I would ideally like some actual professional business case to happen by AT. But from my perspective this is a great deal. A business case would reveal all.

        4. The problem as always is money. Yeah it would be great to have a bus every 10 minutes, but AT cannot afford this. I do the reverse route often and take the bus from Takapuna to Birkenhead. I like you, are doing it so I can have a meal and a drink without worrying about driving. Otherwise I would take my car.
          Given that it is a leisure trip (for both of us), waiting Max 30 minutes is no drama.
          I suspect that if you had an Onewa interchange, it would slow down the journey to the city and upset a lot of people in a case of the many bending for the few.
          But back to money. AT is going to be massively challenged to meet CO2 emissions and all new bus purchases are going to be zero emissions vehicles from now on. The existing fleet will also have to drastically reduce emissions. All of this comes at a huge cost and will have to be borne by the tax payers. The congestion fuel surcharge is not allowed to subsidise PT so the poor rate payers will be digging further into their pockets.
          I am not sure how Auckland can afford to have both a clean bus fleet and increase frequency of service, but if you can, I know some people at AT that are open to ideas.

  9. The first lite option makes more sense especially with any future crossing likely to include PT lanes.
    Also a walkway isn’t needed as there is actually an existing underpass you might not be aware of (leftover from the tollbooth days).

    1. I should have mentioned in the post, but in my opinion the underpass just isn’t good enough. Even trying to make it safer wouldn’t cut it for such a major interchange. And its not like pedestrian overbridges are overly complicated or super duper expensive, we just did 2 further north on the motorway this year.

  10. Jack there is a couple of things that are not clear to me. How would your interchange join up with the Northern Path. Also would you be able to walk from the interchange to Onewa road.

    1. I didn’t really consider the northern path that much. There is so much up in the air at the moment, it could be on either side of the current bridge, be on a different alignment altogether with a PT bridge.
      Whatever happens, its less constrained with its geometry, and structures are simpler and cheaper to build.
      They could even do something like this:
      With the path going out over the water at last resort.
      The station should be connected via footpaths to the residential street network at least at Nelson ave and Stafford road. Maybe sulphur beach road too.

  11. On Sunday morning I walked from Britomart to the base of the bridge. Its actually quite a long way. But there were heaps of people doing the same thing. If we build the walking cycling bridge there won’t be any room for cyclists because why would you walk along the path and not walk to at least the top of the bridge. The other thing I noticed is its really not that far across if a ferry option was chosen. Could the Northern path go to the waters edge and how would that connect to the path. I could imagine an electric ferry doing a one way trip in three minutes. Surely we could lay some track so the Wynyard tram could run to a ferry wharf at the base of the bridge.

    1. Advocates seem to really not like the ferry idea. I get it, it’s not as good as a bridge. But Amsterdam has high capacity bike ferries, running on quick frequencies, that look like a pretty good solution.

      I think a lot of the issues arise from the current state of ferries in Auckland with fullers being….. less than ideal. But that doesn’t have to be the way forever. And maybe the demand wouldn’t be able to support a good ferry service.

      1. The Amsterdam example isn’t similar – our bridge would be over a harbour. It would be amazing. Ferries don’t cut it for people wanting to be on a bridge. If you want to be on a ferry, you can already do that. Royce has nailed it – why would you not walk to the top of the bridge?

        1. Some interesting suggestions there, Royce. I hadn’t thought of a ferry running on alignment with the bridge, to meet the Northern Path. A 3min interlude for walkers and cycling sounds inviting. But cost of ferry and operations?

          One issue I could see is Fullers blocking it, as it would be competition for their routes and presumably contractually, AT can’t operate such a service.

        2. Well I don’t know whether it’s possible to run the northern path to the base of the bridge. One more thing if it was either a ferry or a bridge was built and there were bus stops at the toll plaza area then a trip across the harbour and a return on the bus would be a great day out whatever direction you did it in. And less carbon intensive than a car trip to the beach. And very last thing I think the tram would be sensational because it would connects with the red electric bus at Wynard much better than running around in a loop. What better thing for a family day out or a visit to Auckland.

      2. My family should be able to ride from birkenhead to britomart. Cant – and the ferry costs $40/return or lots more if cash – then we’re not sure if we can get our bikes back on it. The pricing involved lots of asterisks, and double asterisks – so who knows what i need to pay. Still would need to wait… for the ferry that may not take our bikes. Why is this so hard – AC AT

      3. A big part of the appeal of biking is the same as driving a car – you’re travelling independently, have route choices, all without relying on late buses, broken trains, overloaded ferries, after hours scheduling etc. Plus the bike ride costs nothing!

        A bike ferry is really overcomplicating things.

    2. I used to regularly use the Birkenhead ferry to get myself and my bike to the city. I haven’t bothered at all this year, and there’s several reasons for that. Some of the apply to all ferries, some just to the Birkenhead ferry service in particular. A triple-whammy of increased fares, unreliability of service, and the service slipping from 30 minute peak frequency to 40 minutes with the re-opening of Northcote Point wharf means the service is no longer a viable means for me to reliably get to work. That unreliability is partly because of operations problems with Fuller’s old, knackered ferries and a shortage of crew. Also, the introduced new ‘safety rules’ that restricts the number of bikes they’ll carry on any one trip, and there’s no way to know other than turning up and trying.

      The timetable was already a big disincentive. Not being able to get home until an allotted time meant I was constantly rushing to finish up at work, get changed and get to the ferry – not the stress relief hat cycling to work is supposed to provide.

      Also, the ferry is very hard on the bike. I used an old steel-framed bike for commuting and I had to do 2 bare metal restorations in 5 years of commuting to keep the rust at bay from the salt air. And bikes being stacked on decks leads to scratches and damage. I wonder how some of the cheaper ebikes are going to cope with regularly being dowsed in sea water on those choppy, winter crossings.

      Finally, it can be hard on the body during those winter months. The time taken to embark, cross and then disembark is enough to need to warm up all over again. And if it’s wet then standing around in wet gear for 20 minutes or so is thoroughly miserable.

  12. I used to run around Northcote point and under that tunnel where the old toll booths where. Quite an overlooked bit of land.

    Jack, have you considered going all the way with this idea and have the eastern (south bound) bus way continue on from the station and over a PT (single bus-lane) /Active mode bridge into the city?

    In the discussion about the $685m ‘cycle’ bridge, it seemed to me that what would make it much more cost effective would be to at least divert southbound buses onto it.

    It then opens up a new dedicated PT lane which would be carrying a lot of people in the morning, reduce load on the southbound clipon and would apparently only cost (compared to a $15b tunnel) a bit more.

    I am not sure where the $1b cost of adding PT comes from in the discussion of the cycle bridge, but apparently mostly in changing the busway approaches on either end.

    But as your plan for a bus station shows, there already seems to be practical route south.

    North is an issue, but at least reducing traffic on one lane south, should help if a lane needs to be dedicated to PT. Would mae routing difficult, but a single lane PT bridge could even become tidal and switch to allow northbound if you really did change the approaches significantly

    Or I suspect that even if you had to duplicate the PT/Active mode bridge on the western/northbound side, it would still cost less than the proposed tunnel and would allow the tunnel to be rail only.

  13. I would note that another downside of the example of Birkenhead to Takapuna via transfer at Fanshawe Street means you’d need to pay for a 2 zone fare (Lower North Shore + City), instead of a single zone fare.

    1. Plus (I assume) having a direct connection would help with the traffic on the harbour bridge. Seriously, I can’t believe there’s no direct bus line, it just seems like the most logical thing to do..

  14. A further consideration is the use of Onewa Road and interchange for a trip from Birkenhead to Albany. This likewise takes at least 10 minutes off a 45-50 minute trip (Verrans Corner to Albany) plus full frequency benefits.
    The Interim station idea matches the current North Western Bus Project quite well, with significant PT access improvement. Cost and benefit balance of bridge vs. underapss might be considered, but the underpass was never planned as a significant through route, so we shouldn’t rely on it for too much use.
    Note that interchange between Onewa Rd and other City routes from North Shore is difficult, for trips beyond the Onewa Rd service stops in the City, though better now than it was.
    Is it a silly idea to suggest removing the fare penalty for crossing the bridge twice in one trip?

    1. This is one of the big benefits in my mind, I just didn’t have enough space to put it in the article.
      Hopefully going forward, the sites around the busway stations will become more heavily developed, now with the NPS-UD forcing it a bit more. Maybe the expansive smales farm car parks could be downsized and re-developed. The land around Albany station has a lot of potential, it should become quite a destination if it is developed appropriately (instead of growing gorse). This will help drive significant counter peak and off peak usage, and the Onewa interchange would open up these destinations to much more of the north shore population.

      I agree about the fare zones, I never thought about it before. In the time being Fanshawe street interchange should be made a dual fare zone, taking the lower overall fare of the two, done in plenty of other areas of the city.

      1. “Maybe the expansive smales farm car parks could be downsized and re-developed.”
        There are already plans for two high rise apartments.
        Of course there are the new bike lanes across the motorway at Northcote Road.
        There is a massively underutilised golf course across the motorway from Smales ripe for high rise close to the bus station.

        1. “There are already plans for two high rise apartments”
          How exciting, I had no idea.
          If they do re-develop the golf course, they’d need a solid pedestrian over bridge to connect directly with the station.

          It almost looks ready to go as it is.

    1. I didn’t know they took public submissions?
      I was kind of hoping to put this project in peoples minds, you never know who reads Greater Auckland. Maybe someone will suggest it in the right meeting, and get some kind of ball rolling.

  15. This discussion is not complete unless we have some numbers. At peak there will be 10,000 cars per hour going through here so I expect there is no spare road space to encroach on. If we say 120 buses per hour we have one in every 30 seconds. If each bus took 15 seconds to pull into a stop Boarded/Disembarked for 30 second That gives 1 minute each. On average there will be two buses at the station. This is about the threshold where queues can form (as sometimes buses will be closer than 2 a minute)

    1. “At peak there will be 10,000 cars per hour going through here so I expect there is no spare road space to encroach on.”
      The short term solution I outlined doesn’t require any motorway space, purely relying on the toll plaza, and existing somewhat unused NZTA land.
      The merges and de-merges remain mostly the same as it operates today, so there is no net change there.
      So long as the platforms are longer than any other on the busway, plus extra for the Onewa busses, then this station will pose no bottleneck. It has to handle zero terminating busses which is a big advantage too. The toll plaza on the eastern side is over 150 meters long, that would be a massive platform, I doubt we would need all of that. And the western side has even more space. The Victoria park stop handles roughly the same amount of busses and its 90 meters long overall. And is not set up ideally at all, compared to how we could do the Onewa ones.

      At least until a business case stage done by professionals, I think its fine to rely on inferring capacity from other examples on the same busway.

  16. Agreed.

    Another false economy example that tries to saves a few bucks at the beginning and ends up costing more.

    Do it right, do it once.

    1. Oh come on people all that is needed is a little sign that displays this bus stops at Onewa Road. The busway will need management haven’t you heard of express. Or limited service. Not every bus needs to stop there if there is a congestion problem. And if we wait until we can do things right we will be waiting a very long time.

  17. Jack, there is much in this that I like.
    “In the long term we should still run Onewa Road buses into the city, even with light rail going through Onewa station to the city as well. Forcing everyone to transfer to light rail would be a poor solution because:

    Onewa Road is a big destination. We want to have capacity on LR for the future, not use its capacity serving essentially a major branch so close to the city.”

    I think that you are absolutely right. When the carbon crunch comes I can imagine that we will need many hundred million PT trips per year and there will be the need to have extra capacity from some buses running as they do. Single light rail/metro won’t cope. (I also don’t think that there will be space for a branch light rail service to Takapuna, but that is for another day.)
    I think that your 97 to Onewa should connect to the NEX service to Akoranga. The 82 off peak has the same problem as the 92 – 30 minute frequency. However, if it only ran as far as Akoranga it could be 10 minute frequency for no more operating cost. Now that’s turn up and go frequency. It would provide a quick access to open up northern trips as you suggest for the 87.
    Two bus changes to get from Birkenhead to Takapuna? And quicker than the 942. It feels just like moving across London, or Milan or Vienna. It’s only unimaginable to those without imagination.

    1. Agree on buses to help with capacity of the light rail. Which is why a Takapuna rail spur looks like a vanity project. Bus priority (with better frequencies) would get you to Aotea station in about 10mins.

      That, and bus priority on Lake Rd to get you to the ferry in a similar amount of time, is what is needed.

      1. Agree about the Takapuna light rail spur. A real capacity sink for further north, and its really not that high big of a destination at the moment. It could develop well, if decent density is promoted around it. But even at 15 minute frequencies to the city centre, it kind of underperforms, I think the boardings per service hour is not that hot.
        If you want somewhere north of the city to terminate some rail services early, a third platform at a station on the main light rail line would provide far more flexibility, and less obligations than the spur to takapuna, not to mention cheaper.

        1. The point of the takapuna spur, or a tunnel via takapuna, is to have the metro Centre on the regional rapid transit network. It’s the same situation as manukau. It would only need a quarter to a third of the capacity on the northern line. It makes a lot of sense if you have three patterns, one to takapuna, one to Albany and one to hibiscus.

  18. Wont having another stop on NEX line will slow every else’s trip down?

    Best plan is to encourage more people to NOT commute across the bridge. Add financial incentive for people to stay on either side. Companies pay a higher tax rate if their employees commute across bridge? This can be done from tax filings automatically, as IRD know where you live 🙂 , Or just put a decent commuter toll on bridge, just like any civilized city

    Less is more

    1. The extra NEX stop will slow people commuting further north down, not by much, one extra uncongested stop. But they also get much better access to Onewa road (nice climbing gym there for example, and lots of houses, might be visiting friends etc etc). And Onewa road residents get much better access to the busway further north which will develop further too.

      We have vast potential to carry way more people across the bridge than we do now, if some more vehicles were changed to be busses. In reality its just a motorway section like any other, one that happens to be one of the least congested parts of the network in the city. I dont know why we would punish people for moving across this part of the city, its like travelling between any other areas of the city, just a different style of motorway. Maybe a toll for less space efficient modes could be swung.

      1. It’s a very expensive part of motorway! The tax would be for people whom commute on bridge on peak times in private vehicles (use bus records or car plate rec.)

  19. What is the expected usage of an extra connection from Onewa northwards?

    How does the BCR of this proposal stack up against every other potential connection and route in the region?

  20. I didn’t mean to give the impression that I’m a professional.

    There has been no business case.
    There has been no talk about this from any transport agency.
    I don’t have access to tools or skills that could put together what would take a professional team months to do either.

    My case is mainly that we should investigate it because from my layman perspective it would be incredibly worthwhile. Probably the most useful station aside from Britomart on the busway. Really pretty cheap, compared to other projects, and adding a lot of value.

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