Auckland Transport have announced that the Northern Busway extension will open in just over a week’s time.
We’re pleased to announce that on Sunday 8 May the Northern Busway extension between Constellation Station and Albany Station will be open for use.
The new section of the dedicated busway means buses between Constellation and Albany stations will no longer have to join the motorway. This means no time sitting at traffic lights, quicker journeys, and more consistent travel times.
Please be aware of bus stop changes at Constellation Station from 8 May:
- Northbound routes NX1, NX2 and 866 will use the new northbound stop (B) which is alongside the motorway on-ramp. Access to this stop will be via a bridge from the station building where you can use stairs or a lift.
- Routes 861, 901, 906 and 907 will always use stop (D).
For the first few days after the changes are made, we’ll have AT ambassadors at Constellation Station to make sure you know where you’re going.
This is fantastic news. I had thought the busway extension must be close to completion based on Waka Kotahi’s latest Northern Corridor video which shows many parts of the busway extension already have asphalt and even lane markings in place. It’s also notable as the motorway works on the Northern Corridor, of which the busway extension is a part of, still appear to be quite some time off completion.
The first busway services first started in late 2005, before there was a busway, when the Albany and Constellation Stations opened and buses just used shoulder lanes to get to the city. The busway itself opened in February 2008 and usage took off, reaching over 8 million trips annually before COVID struck. At peak times as many 40% of the people crossing the Harbour Bridge did so on a bus. That makes it one of the busiest and most successful PT routes in the country and that success is further amplified by the fact it delayed by decades the need to build another harbour crossing costing tens of billions of dollars.
COVID is still having an impact on PT usage but even so, this extension will only make the busway even more useful and successful because as AT note above, it will make trips to or from Albany faster and more reliable. Once open, a trip from Albany to Downtown will see about 57% of the journey take place on the fully grade separated busway with just over a further 23% taking place on bus lanes meaning about 81% of the journey will have some form of bus priority. Of the remaining 19%, almost all of it is the section of the motorway that crosses the Harbour Bridge.
Sadly what won’t be opening with the extension is the extension is the Rosedale Busway Station which is not due to open until 2025. I’m also unsure if the shared path alongside the busway will open at the same time.
The one downside to it all is I do still think that Waka Kotahi have made a mistake with keeping the busway on the Eastern side of the motorway and having the daft loop back bridge at Albany, hampering any future conversion to light rail or a rational extension of the busway to Silverdale. A look at the latest streetview images highlights this even more as the busway has been raised considerably above the motorway and so could easily have crossed over it at Grevelle Rd and allowed for second new station in Albany South.
What Next for the Busway
Last year Auckland Transport completed a Business Case for enhancements to the Busway. It suggests that by 2038, usage of busway will rise to around 21.7 million, a 170% increase on pre-covid levels and so improvements are needed for its long-term capacity.
The business case sets our four stages (Horizons) of upgrades to maximise capacity on the busway and improve the customer experience, though the latter two stages will be dependent on what happens with potential new harbour crossings – which the government recently announced they were investigating again in conjunction with light rail.
The stages are shown below
The two stages most likely to happen are Horizon One and Two, to be clear on what they are
Horizon One – 2021-2023 – $14-$20 million
These are relatively cheap improvements that can improve things like reducing passenger crowding, circulation and bus dwell times,
- Platform and bus stop extensions.
- Platform and bus stop widening.
- Signal optimisation on Fanshawe Street.
- Minor bus priority improvements on SH1.
- System-wide improvements, i.e. all door boarding and active queue management
We’ve already seen platforms at Smales Farm station be lengthened
Horizon Two – 2023-2027 – $80-$90 million
These are much more substantial upgrades to stations to improve capacity and pedestrian safety
- Infrastructure to separate local bus movements from busway services.
- Grade separated crossings.
- Additional layover bays.
- System-wide improvements, i.e. off board fare collection and level boarding.
The maps below show the proposed station layouts to accommodate the changes in Horizon Two.
Smales Farm Station
Horizons Three & Four
As mentioned, these are dependent on what happens with a new Harbour Crossing. However, if they go ahead, they’re expected to cost $9-$12 million and $170-$230 million respectively. Stage four seems almost too cheap given it involves extending the busway to the base of the bridge, widening SH1 through St Mary’s Bay for a bus lane as well as a bi-directional busway on Fanshawe St.
Overall, these changes should help significantly improve the capacity and quality of the Northern Busway. So much so that I do wonder why the huge fascination of with another harbour crossing so soon as they could push out the need for it quite far into the future, saving us not only tens of billions of dollars but also meaning focus can be put on providing rapid transit solutions to other parts of the network, such as the Northwest, Airport to Botany and maybe even routes like Upper Harbour.