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.

Bus Priority

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.

  1. Royal Road to Hobsonville Road westbound. Existing bus-only lane extended closer to Hobsonville Road
  2. Royal Road to Lincoln Road eastbound. Existing bus-only lane extended onto Lincoln Road off-ramp
  3. Te Atatu Road to Lincoln Road westbound. Existing bus-only lane extended on the Te Atatu Road on-ramp
  4. Patiki Road to Rosebank Road eastbound. Existing bus-only lane extended closer to the Patiki Road off-ramp
  5. Rosebank Road to Patiki Road westbound. Existing bus-only lane extended closer to the Patiki Road on-ramp
  6. Patiki Road to Rosebank Road to eastbound. Existing bus-only lane extended closer to the Rosebank Road on-ramp
  7. Rosebank Road to Patiki Road westbound. Existing bus-only lane extended closer to the Rosebank Road off-ramp
  8. St Lukes Road eastbound. New length of bus-only lane between St Lukes off and on-ramps
  9. St Lukes Road to Newton Road eastbound. New length of bus-only lane
  10. Newton Road to St Lukes Road westbound. New length of bus-only lane
  11. 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
  12. The causeway eastbound. Existing bus-only lane shortened to improve the Rosebank Road on-ramp merge
A. 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.

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Submissions for this close today at 5pm and to make one you need to email

Bus Interchanges

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.

Image from Auckland Transport

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.

Westgate Station

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.

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  1. As much as the infrastructure isn’t great, its the service improvements that it enables that are the most important thing.

    1. The shelters are mean as anything! Imagine inviting someone to your house if it had no weather protection, no seats and no concessions to comfort. The quality of provision is much the same here.

      Public transport needs to be customer-focussed. The design philosophy appears to be centred on cheapness and penny-pinching. How disappointing.

  2. It is abundantly clear that WK are clueless about providing for anything other than motor vehicles. This smacks of being forced to add something to their precious motorway system,that might in some way detract from its free flowing purpose.
    I have a picture in my head of traffic engineers ,watching live camera feeds of traffic congestion,with bewildered expressions,struggling to understand how a bigger pipe didn’t get the water flowing faster.
    It will be a desperate or dedicated commuter,that takes on the “Hunger Games” commute along the NW motorway. Submissions only work,when there are willing parties, WK would appear to be a very unwilling party in this exercise.

    1. “WK would appear to be a very unwilling party in this exercise.”
      NZTA dont appear – they ARE the unwilling party with NWBI
      They value engineered out all the basic amenities for Te Atatu and Lincoln Road if one compares the draft designs to the final designs.

      As for Westgate that has gone absolutely radio silent. I wonder why

      1. Value engineering a few thousand dollars out of a bus stop, by not providing seats or wider panels.

        What is really shocking when you compare how they approach something they do want to work on like the NCI

        A new motorway interchange becomes a giant 5 year $700m and counting project, that even throws in a bus station and bus ways among the vast sprawling cloverleaf of lovely expensive motorways

        And the big driver behind this project was to speed people in cars to/from the northwest without speeding another minute in an off-ramp. Meanwhile people in buses can just buy an umbrella and stand waiting for that bus which is snarled up in traffic and late

        It’s really depressingly obvious that WK/AT will continue to splurge $100m plus if it knocks a minute off car travel time and won’t spend another $10k if it helps move people onto PT.

        Which would reduce car traffic and probably also improve car travel times. How does change in culture happen? Do we just have to wait for people to retire?

  3. This feels truly hopeless. The city-bound stretch between Waterview and Newton Rd is the one that gets the most congestion in the morning peak and yet there’s virtually zero priority there. I rode the 132x many times when the drivers were told by the dispatch to take the Greath Nth Rd off-ramp and go via Pt Chev/Grey Lynn to avoid delays. Perhaps that should be the default for the WX1?

    1. If GNR Connected Communities upgrade actually is allowed to go ahead – maybe that will be the quick way.

    2. They can fit continuous bus lanes the entire way AM peak, and most of the way PM peak:

      This doc has been shared with Mayor/Councillors/LB/AT/Waka Kotahi/MPs/Min of Transport etc.

      Doing this will make the WX1 actually useful, otherwise you might as well jump over to the 11T/W at peak times… unless WX1 drivers just take GNR like the 125X drivers often do at present anyway.

      The current piecemeal lacklustre number of proposed bus only lanes between Waterview and Newton are laughed to say the least.

  4. I question WK about the removal of the portion of bus lane at Te Atatū marked as “A ” on the map. The bus lane and bus stop is being moved to the other side of the off ramp. They have added a small section of bus lane at Pātiki marked as 5 on the map. This means that the bus has to somehow cross 2 lanes of stalled traffic at Pātiki to get to the new bus stop on the Te Atatū off ramp. WK said they had grappled with this, and this was the best they could do within the budget they had.

    1. Put the indicators on and wait until the bus can access the stop. That might wake up some planners who came up with this ridiculous situation.

  5. Absolutely shameful stuff, I thought WK were more enlightened that this, you’d expect this kind of incompetence from AT.

    What is the set up of bus lanes along the roads feeding to the motorway, Te Atatu/Lincoln Road etc

    1. Speaking to the Te Atatu sections, AT has some proposals out that have gone through multiple rounds of consultation which usually just results in a lot of extra Facebook group complaints about AT and housing intensification with a lack of carparks (as if that’s the real issue).
      My guess is that they will settle on some silly compromise like T2/bus lane feeders from 7-9am and 4-6pm which will prove highly ineffective as post-covid I’ve noticed a bigger peak spread possibly due to more hybrid working.
      I’m trying to be appreciative of the ‘improvements’ to the NW, but as with the bus stops, it’s becoming quite evident that there has been so much compromise that it will just piss everyone off.

    2. Bus lanes on the feeder routes? Lol, there is none. There was recently a very short and quiet consultation on adding T2 lanes between Gunner Dr and Gloria Ave on the Peninsula. but that’s all I’ve seen so far. And I doubt they’re gunna be much help given they stop about a kilometer before the “interchange”.

  6. Absolutely useless. Every time the bus needs to merge into normal traffic is an opportunity for delays. In a transfer centric system, like Aucklands, this means missed transfers, bloating PT travel times making personal car ownership more desirable. Because this doesn’t have a lane the entire way, adding more cars to this corridor makes the PT worse.

    It also looks like they have not ensured there are bus lanes where they are most needed, but just added them when it is easy to do so. ST Luke’s to Waterview going West is often walking speed by 3pm, there really should be a lane here, but too hard for NZTA apparently.

  7. Looking for a silver lining here but this is sufficiently rubbish that it will be easier for an incoming government to decide to just build a proper busway.

    The justification for this interim bus arrangement was the interim arrangement for a couple of years prior to the Northern busway opening. However, the NW plan was quite different and had the look of something that could stick around and be sub-par for years.

    1. Do you reallly believe that? The most likely scenario is this “interim arrangement” becomes permanent and any likely incoming government is going to be 100% focused on roads.

      1. I think the days of a government campaigning on no public transport improvements in Auckland are over. I expect this would be pretty much top of the list as it’s the number one option that doesn’t involve light rail, which I think National want to have nothing to do with.

        There’s no guarantee National will make it into power next year though.

        1. Polls would indicate a National/ACT government this time next year. And while things could change, lets work with that as an assumption based on current polling. And I don’t want to get into politics; just transport and evidence.

          But Simeon Brown is the one reason I won’t vote for his party as against all evidence and common sense, has already announced that they will resume ‘mor roads’ policy; Mills Road and other motorways around Auckland, light rail canned. Only major PT will be Eastern Busway; probably as pours money into and improves Simeon Brown’s electorate

          Actually just been searching for National party transport policy. If somebody has a decent link let me know as Google shows most statements were 2020 and wanting to build motorways everywhere. Can’t find much documents other than ‘Labour bad’ and an interview where Simeon doesn’t believe in induced demand

        2. A well known right wing blogsite has little Simeon nominated as National MP of the year for his “constant highlighting of the Government’s war against motorists”.

        3. Simeon Brown despises public transport but he is not solely responsible for transport policy. We saw that last time with Key overriding Brownlee to get the CRL underway.

          It’s amazing what principles people will drop to get a seat in cabinet.

  8. How is it possible to spend so much money, take so much time then deliver the most crap outcomes possible. Is it an auckland/NZ thing?

    1. Yes it is. In full agreement with Derek on this. NZ has no foresight. Rather than plan ahead as they do in Scandinavian countries which requires intelligent forethought, NZ is always in band-aid mode, patching up problems only when they have already been at crisis point for some time. Even then, the solutions are ill-thought and half-baked. Auckland is a mess, both in roading, and in construction.

      The mono-rail should have been built back in the 60’s when Dove-Meyer Robinson put the idea forward. Trains would make better sense if the network is extended. I can’t beleive the insanity of putting people in the middle of a motorway! It’s not a matter of ‘if’, but ‘when’, people get killed. It’s an insane idea to put bus stops where they have.

  9. Well on the positive the service frequency maybe such that no one needs to sit in those shelters. The Westgate station seems to have got all the funding and has a good amount of trees in the design.

    1. The unreliability will significantly affect the frequency, with so little right of way between Waterview and Newton the buses will bunch up all the time.

      1. Yeah I’m almost certain this is what they will claim, but with either no or incomplete priority lanes along SH16 or on the feeder routes, they’re dreaming.

    1. That’s what I ended up doing. After 15 years of almost exclusively using PT to get around, I realised that service levels weren’t improving or were even going backwards, and I was no longer young enough to have free time to waste several hours every week…

  10. They just need to spend a bit more money on things that matters – like a better bus stop, more seats, shelter than paying money for consultation fees, middle managers salaries and useless paper works.

    However look like Wayne Brown is cutting the core service such as libraries, maintaining the parks and bus services.

    IMO he should cut the middle managers and the consultants before cutting the bread and butter.

  11. My understanding regarding the eastbound bus lane (east of St Lukes – Item 9 on the snip) was that it just needed to be long enough to allow all the motorways lanes to be moved over to the right – there is no need for the two lanes for “East”. So Lane 1 would have been the bus lane, Lane 2 for GT Newton / CBD, Lane 3 for SH1 North, Lane 4 for SH1 South and then Lane 5 for SH16 East / Grafton Gully. That seems to have dropped… Anyone who know this stretch of SH16 eastbound will recognise that the SH1 North ramp signals and SH1 South queues contrive to congest the who thing back to St Lukes at several times of the day…

  12. It’s the perfect combination of good and bad. It’s bad enough it’s not going to stop future improvements, and it’s good enough to allow reorganisation of bus routes – it’s the bare minimum, no more, no less. Obviously the details are a bit more questionable (removal of existing bus lanes???), but the point of the project is to allow the reordering of bus routes, and this project allows it.

    NW Light Metro looks more likely with the new AWHC happening at some point (both parties are for it regardless of BCR as it’s popular with voters and the harbour bridge closures highlight the risk) and CC2M being killed.

    1. The risk of what? You might have to take an alternative route?

      If the alternative route wasn’t treated as the unwanted stepchild of State Highway 1 and actually developed in a way that’s useful to the people who rely on it to move about, then the alternative to the Harbour Bridge wouldn’t be such a crappy prospected.

    2. Agree, the previous proposal had all the hallmarks of something that could easily stick around for 20 years, I don’t think this will last until the end of the decade.

  13. The Te Atatu works have caused around a 6 month impact to connect to the NW cycleway. You have to cross the road and a few other busy slips. A few cyclists have ended up stuck in-between busy traffic, its the first time I have thought I was going to be run over on my bike which I guess im quite lucky living in Auckland. I would like to see the cycle counts from when these works started up until now. I would say it adds around 10-20% additional time onto my cycle into the city as the phasing to cross the road and slips favors the cars. Im sure this will be the same for those who are plan to use the busses in this location. The works have caused PM westbound queues back to Great North Road from 3pm, the lane configuration needed to be sorted as there is high demand into Te Atatu south would block the other lanes and queue back to the motorway lanes. These improvements during construction appear to have made these issues worse! My main concern with these works is that there will not be direct busses from Te Atatu Peninsula into town, the only direct service will be to Henderson. This does affect convenience of PT as highlighted the amenity here is lacking, there is safety / cpted issues where these new stops are located and currently the anchor stop at the community center is popular with school kids and our elderly citizens. I understand there are major challenges and a different mind set is required to solve some of the transport issues in Auckland but this project has been a disaster and what happens if the local community do not use it due to the issues highlighted above? I

  14. Currently as a user of the Te Atatu buses they work very well for me with a 1 bus rde to the city. I am amazed that they were allowed to have bus stops that do not cater for the disabled. I would have thought that this would be a legal requirement. I will now be unable to use the buses as though I can walk I am unable to stand and wait. At least this should be corrected.

    1. It absolutely should be corrected. The “leaners-we’re-too-cheap-for-proper-seats” are useless for anyone who cannot lean for any number of reasons.

      It’s design that excludes a lot of potenital customers. This isn’t “customer first”, it is “cost accounting first”.

        1. My thoughts exactly. Its not cost cutting, the leaners are by design.

          They don’t want people sitting at bus stops. As Francis says; not everybody can stand and wait for 10 or 15 minutes without discomfort

          Yet, we can have nice ferry buildings with lots of seats.

          Just not bus stops out west.

          My guess is that there is a battered old design manual that says that without 24/7 security the design should not have seats that are comfortable for more than 10 minutes and don’t allow people to lie down

  15. Basically the problem with local feedback is that car drivers are still by far the majority in any area of the city. Whether they be workers, mothers or the mega wealthy, there are more motor vehicles than inhabitants in Greater Auckland. We the minority, the progressives, the climate change radical activists, those that love sitting in public transport enjoying the stress free environment of a train, a ferry, and even rather rollercoaster bus rides. Biking is fun but still high concentration, particularly given the overarching car dominance and preference throughout Tamaki Makaurau. Yes the NorthWest busway is an aberration of an omission. The NEX route is only bettered by train routes but it is sad for the climate and our tamariki and mokopuna that public transport has not been prioritised by politicians, neither local nor central, and only now are we playing catch up to 70 years of ignorance of climate change, meanwhile polluting to the maximum in the interim.

    1. “Basically the problem with local feedback is that car drivers are still by far the majority in any area of the city. ”

      Extremely specious. Plenty of motorists accept the need for a city like Auckland to have proper rapid transit to rapidly developing areas. And the fact that cars exist have nothing to do with the sort of project management failure that sees a Light Rail line scaled back to some patchy bus lanes and shelters without seats at motorway overpasses.

  16. If AT had had any brains they would have used the spoil from the Waterview tunnels to build a rail causway parallel with the motorway to connect with the train line at Swanson instead of filling in some ‘Good Ole Boys’ hole in the ground at Mangere.
    But dont complain at the bus stops. You should see the shelter at the Glenfield Interchange. Its had a wonky seat for years.

  17. Perhaps elevated electric light rail/monorail along the NW motorway with overhead transvesing and stops at each interchange. These interchanges could fed by buses. This seems a common solution in Japan and parts of Europe now.

    Faster than trying to tack on more lanes, where there is not room.

    If it modular in design it also becomes cheaper and more flexible to reconfiguration in the future.

    The same processes and thinking that leads to a problem may not be the best way to go forward to a solution.

    1. No need for elevation. Just use the existing centre lanes with bus interchanges attached to the existing overbridges. Lifts and escalators. No more pissing around.

  18. Great. Another bus station in the middle of nowhere. With probably no connecting services to get there to actually use NW busway. (because 1h frequency services are jokes, not services)

    1. Looking at the frequency proposals for the new routes they’re all at least 30min. Plus the main one the “13” is every 15 mins or better 7am-7pm & nothing worse than 30 Min out of peak.

      The motorway services are both frequent also at least 15 Min and there is two the WX1 and 11T/W one going GNR other motorway.

        1. 30 minutes is poor on what should be considered a strategic corridor for anything outside midnight – five am.

  19. The safety of pedestrians accessing the bus station is a major concern – raised tables at signalised intersections are the conventional and accepted way of ensuring that collision speeds between vehicles and pedestrians are within safe system limits and are survivable. With the volumes of pedestrians we are expecting here and the numbers of busses – someone will run a red light at some point and if the speeds are not low enough a preventable death or serious injury will occur.

    1. There’s no doubt about it. Deaths will occur for sure. Mixing pedestrians with traffic traveling at speed is utter insanity. They are morons, grossly overpaid ones.

  20. The bus shelters do not comply with Australian Disability Discrimation Act requirements that “If a waiting area is provided, a minimum of 2 seats or 5% of the seats must be identified as available for passengers with disabilities if required.” New Zealand is likely to have similar standards, but I haven’t found them online.

    1. Waka Kotahi have just ensured many of us will stick with our cars rather than patronise this poorly planned and executed public transport option. 4 buses at 4 stops with no weather protection just to get to the city and back. Taking greater time in waiting between each connection and even costing more (fares increasing again according to AT). Why would you bother. Still the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Let’s wait and see how well patronised it is.

  21. Someone crashed into the westbound Te Atatu South off ramp bus ‘shelter’ last week. Went through the guard rails, took out the pedestrian crossing pole, mounted the area where people could have been, were it operational. Currently yellow taped up awaiting fix.

    Doesn’t fill you with confidence on the safety front does it.

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