This weekend saw another important milestone for public transport in Auckland with the opening yesterday of the first stage of the Eastern Busway, between Panmure and Pakuranga. The Busway is a key part of improving public transport to one of the most under-served areas of PT in Auckland.
Despite the significance of this project, there’s been surprisingly little fanfare from Auckland Transport. I can understand that uncertainty over COVID would have likely prevented them from being able to plan a big public open day. Instead, there was a press release a few days ago saying that some bus routes will be changing, and this press release came out on Saturday after the blessing and formal opening that morning.
COVID had another impact on the project too: it had been on track for an early completion and opening in October; however, lockdown pushed that back to yesterday.
In total, the project has added about 2.3km of urban busway to Auckland’s network with one new station on the busway itself. It has involved the construction of a new 210m bridge across the Tamaki River, as well as the removal of the once iconic Panmure roundabout that was terrible to travel through in a car and far far worse if you were on foot or on a bike. Thankfully the new project has also included the construction of a parallel shared path and cycleway.
With the busway now operational, the 70 and 72 frequent services have shifted to using the new busway – although some of the less frequent routes will continue to travel via the Panmure town centre, which makes me wonder if a stop should have also been added to the busway to serve the town centre.
The busway has been a long time coming, having even been part of the old Eastern Motorway concept in the early-mid 2000’s. The busway as we know it today became the central pillar of the plans for improving transport in the east in 2011, following the failure of the earlier motorway plan.
That it’s taken a decade since then just to get the first stage of the busway built really highlights that we need to do better with this stuff if we’re to roll out the rest of a region-wide rapid transit network.
One issue for the project has always been funding – and despite being a nationally significant project supported by both major political parties, as well as various government policy documents suggesting more central government support for rapid transit projects, Auckland has (so far) had to pick up most of the tab, with Waka Kotahi only contributing 41% of the cost.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get out to Panmure yesterday to check it out, but it seemed many others did, especially by bike. One thing that did concern me is the suggestion that AT haven’t put enough signal pre-emption in place
Took a ride on the first stage of Tāmaki Makaurau/ Auckland’s Eastern Busway, opened today. Impressed with the infrastructure. Less impressed with the apparent lack of signal pre-emption for buses. Rapid transit is meant to have very high levels of priority. pic.twitter.com/89UCV6pbqC
— Darren Davis (@DarrenDavis10) December 19, 2021
busway seems nice, a few people confused the bus no longer stops in Panmure town centre pic.twitter.com/tOuCnH496P
— Jono Cooper (@consindo) December 18, 2021
Auckland Transport recently consulted on the second stage of the busway, which will see it extended around 5km to Botany, though they’re also looking at introducing a silly dog-leg at Burswood in order to not upset drivers using Ti Rakau Drive.
Once complete, AT estimate the busway will see around 30,000 trips a day, which is about the level the northern NX1 and NX2 routes carried before COVID became a thing.
It would also be good to see something done to tame Pakuranga Rd up through to Howick, to help improve bus reliability and further encourage mode shift. At the very least, it seems a couple of these seven lanes could be converted to bus lanes.
Well done to AT on getting this first stage delivered. I really look forward to seeing the impact it has, and seeing the rest of the busway built.