After taking a long time to get started, progress is finally being made on the suite of improvements to make buses better for the Northwest. This has occasionally been referred to as the NW busway but the quality of what’s being delivered is far to low to be considered a busway – both in terms of the level of bus priority and the bus stop facilities.
One thing these issues highlight is just how much of a missed opportunity it was not to include a proper busway at the same time we were upgrading and widening the motorway less than a decade ago. I’ve covered this before as part of this post.
The NW Motorway already includes a number of bus shoulder lanes and one of the key features of the project is meant to be improvements and extensions to these. When the improvements were first detailed Waka Kotahi and Auckland Transport showed off a map with near continuous bus lanes from the city though to Westgate. While not to the same standard as the Northern Busway it would have been close to the next best thing.
Recently Waka Kotahi put out a somewhat quiet consultation – only to those signed up to get updates on the project – on what they plan to deliver and those plans are not only significantly less ambitious that what was originally suggested, but in some cases even remove existing sections of bus priority.
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency is seeking feedback on the planned extensions and new bus-only lanes on SH16 to be implemented by bylaw as part of the Northwestern Bus Improvements project.
The existing bus-only lanes will be extended on the Northwestern Motorway (SH16) between Westgate and Newton Road to improve reliability of the planned express bus services.
The specific changes that need to be gazetted into the bylaw are:
- Extensions to existing bus-only lanes
- Extensions to existing emergency stopping lanes (needed to ensure that traffic is not permitted to drive in the bus-only lanes outside of their hours of operation)
The proposed changes are outlined in the maps below.
- Royal Road to Hobsonville Road westbound. Existing bus-only lane extended closer to Hobsonville Road
- Royal Road to Lincoln Road eastbound. Existing bus-only lane extended onto Lincoln Road off-ramp
- Te Atatu Road to Lincoln Road westbound. Existing bus-only lane extended on the Te Atatu Road on-ramp
- Patiki Road to Rosebank Road eastbound. Existing bus-only lane extended closer to the Patiki Road off-ramp
- Rosebank Road to Patiki Road westbound. Existing bus-only lane extended closer to the Patiki Road on-ramp
- Patiki Road to Rosebank Road to eastbound. Existing bus-only lane extended closer to the Rosebank Road on-ramp
- Rosebank Road to Patiki Road westbound. Existing bus-only lane extended closer to the Rosebank Road off-ramp
- St Lukes Road eastbound. New length of bus-only lane between St Lukes off and on-ramps
- St Lukes Road to Newton Road eastbound. New length of bus-only lane
- Newton Road to St Lukes Road westbound. New length of bus-only lane
- Patiki Road to Te Atatu Road off-ramp. Existing westbound bus-only lane removed to tie in with new off-ramp lane configurations and the new bus interchange
- The causeway eastbound. Existing bus-only lane shortened to improve the Rosebank Road on-ramp mergeA. Patiki Road to Te Atatu Road off-ramp. Existing westbound bus-only lane removed to tie in with new off-ramp lane configurations and the new bus interchange
B. The causeway eastbound. Existing bus-only lane shortened to improve the Rosebank Road on-ramp merge
There are a few decisions here which are surprising given what was done for the Northern Busway a few years ago – where Waka Kotahi extended bus lanes/shoulders northbound through the Onewa Interchange and up the Esmonde Rd off-ramp. Why wasn’t the same approach taken with Patiki and Rosebank Roads along with the Te Atatu and Lincoln interchanges?
Meanwhile, that there are so few bus lanes east of Waterview is going to make for highly unreliable journeys. I get there are issues with having both the Gt North Rd interchange and the SH20 interchange in the same place but I wonder if there wasn’t something they could do if they really wanted to. For example, there are probably times when buses using this 500m+ section between St Lukes and Gt North Rd, coming off at Gt North and travelling straight over to the onramp – which already has a bus/truck/T2 lane – might be faster than sitting in the main flow.
Submissions for this close today at 5pm and to make one you need to email email@example.com
The other key part of the the improvements are creating some bus interchanges at Te Atatu and Lincoln Rd. To be clear, these were never intended to be large Northern Busway style stations but the expectation was that they would be at least somewhat functional and a bit better than your standard bus stop.
The works at Te Atatu are now complete and it shows the amenity provided at these interchanges is terribly low. These images are from the northern side of the interchange with Stop A being the one for those travelling city-bound with Stop C being where those coming from the Peninsula will disembark or those heading south will board.
Now I’m no fancy big city transport planner or civil engineer, I don’t even play Cities Skylines.
But it looks pretty wet under that brand new bus “shelter” doesn’t it? Not very “shelterish” is it? pic.twitter.com/heeO500EoS
— Kris B (@kris_bNZ) December 14, 2022
The first thing you may notice is there’s not even any seats for those waiting. They’re also not very good as shelters either, lacking sides and front panels to hide behind. Particularly in the case of Stop C, this is likely because the island it sits on is too small so sides and seats would block the path for passengers too much. All of this could have been dealt with but it appears the Waka Kotahi engineers prioritised traffic flow over passenger amenity – I understand those engineers also stripped out many of the other amenity improvements that were originally planned late in the design resulting in the spartan interchanges we are now getting.
My big concern here is that with the level of quality of these interchanges so low, it will work against the efforts to get people to use buses. The Northern Busway shows that people will transfer if you make it easy and comfortable to do so but we’re not doing that here.
There is one place where Auckland Transport plan to build a Northern Busway style station and that’s at Westgate but being delivered separately to the rest of the improvements project and not due to open till 2025/26.
Earlier this year Auckland Transport released some information about their plans for it.
The station seems very much like Albany, including that it’s somewhat isolated from the existing developments.