Auckland Transport are consulting on plans to add new bus lanes on Hobson St as part of the Northwest Bus Improvements that will see the introduction of a Western Express in November.

I’ll cover the consultation later in the post but first, this consultation is somewhat unique due to the inclusion of a single comment that we really need to see happen far more often.

Please note: Due to the importance of improving public transport and the significant benefits this project will bring to a large number of people, we will only consider cancelling the project if public feedback raises exceptional impacts that we are currently unaware of.

This is great to see and something that is needed on many other consultations. While they claim the opposite publicly, it’s been abundantly clear from their actions (as well as confirmed from internal/industry sources) that far too often, AT have treated consultations as a vote of approval. Having critical safety or public transport projects able to be delayed, watered down or even cancelled just because a loud group of people don’t want to have to slow down slightly for 20 seconds, or have to park slightly further away is no way to design a successful city.

Will this become the norm or is this a one off?

As for the consultation itself, the proposal adds bus lanes to Hobson St from Fanshawe St to Victoria St and from Cook St to Pitt St, providing a continuous bus corridor all the way along Hobson St.

Why we are extending the Hobson Street bus lanes

  • AT and Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency are working in partnership to deliver a range of important short- and long-term bus improvements for people living in Northwest Auckland. These changes, including dedicated bus lanes along the North-western Motorway (SH16), will more than double the number of people within a 45-minute bus journey of the city centre.
  • To ensure that people using these bus services can get into and out of the city centre quickly and easily, we are proposing to extend the bus lanes on Hobson Street.
  • The bus lanes will improve bus travel times and reliability (buses are more likely to be on time) making buses a more attractive travel option. Improved reliability also reduces bus operating costs as fewer buses are required on standby.
  • We need to improve public transport to make it an attractive transport option for more people. This is because:
  • Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland has limited space and increasing levels of congestion. Public transport uses less space. For example, it takes 4 traffic lanes, but only one bus lane, to transport 8,000 people per hour along a route.
  • Providing more road capacity is expensive, can take a long time, and is disruptive to peoples’ lives. For example, it might require property purchases and construction activities.
  • Travel by private motor vehicles has significant environmental impacts, such as carbon emissions. 43% of Auckland’s carbon emissions come from private vehicle travel. Te Tāruke-ā-Tāwhiri: Auckland’s Climate Plan sets the goal of halving Auckland’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Benefits and impacts of the proposal

  • Better use of space
    A bus lane can transport up to around 8,000 people per hour, while a traffic lane can only transport up to around 2,000 people per hour.
  • Bus reliability
    Buses will run more reliably. This will make planning a bus journey easier and reduce bus operating costs.
  • Bus trips benefitted
    Up to 38 buses per hour in the afternoon peak (by November 2023).
  • Impact on general traffic
    There will be little impact on travel times for most general traffic.
    However, vehicles turning left into Pitt Street will have to queue in the straight-through general traffic lane. This may increase travel time. Vehicles will be able to enter the bus lane to turn left 50m from the Pitt Street intersection.
    Vehicles may be able to save some travel time by using other routes to access Pitt Street.

On the capacities mentioned, 2,000 people per hour in a car is typically for a full but free flowing motorway lane. In urban environments with intersections and cross traffic etc, it is more like 800 vehicles per hour.

This looks to be a good proposal and a sensible reallocation of road space. The one thing that is probably going to be needed is some enforcement where the bus lane ends just before Pitt St.

Consultation for this closes at the end of this week on Sunday 21 May

It’s also worth noting that the buses that will make use of these bus lanes will then head up Pitt St and bus lanes on Pitt St are included as part of the Karanga-a-Hape Station neighbourhood and bus improvements project which is also our for consultation and closes on 26 May. We wrote about it here.

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  1. That is the “wierd”comment ,it smacks of an organization ,unsure of its true role. Surely they have enough nous and confidence within AT,to propose a project,consult ,modify,if necessary and get on and do it.
    To say ,they will cancel only in exceptional circumstances,makes AT, desperate ,looking for love,wherever they can find it,such timidity,invites ridicule.

    1. A bit harsh. I see as just setting out expectations from the outset.

      At worst, you can use it when people demand it be canned. At best, it has a subsconscious effect on those submitting against it in the negative, to work on solutions.

  2. Took the storms for me to realise there are still trunk bus routes in the CBD that aren’t fully in monitored bus lanes, I mean this is the easiest of fixes

    1. A lot of the problem is the turning both in and out of the bus lanes. Unfortunately we seem to have huge amounts of turning on these main trunk routes.

      And zero enforcement – need the strict liability enforcements like UK does at intersections if you encroach on the yellow hatch you get a decent fine. That would stop some people.

  3. Easy, just rip out the wooden bus step that’s there already, and get the stinking, idling diesel buses out of the way.

  4. How does this even need to go to consultation, it could be done overnight with a change of sign and a lick of paint, it’s insane.

    1. Exactly, and why even need to suggest cancelling? Surely the only thing to do would be potentially modify if some great feedback is submitted.

      Aren’t AT the experts so why need massive consultation anyway>?

      Do we consult on how to build surgical theatres? Or how to build fibre optic networks?

      1. It all comes down to a misinterpretation of the word “significance” – which is what determines the need for consultation.

        The IPCC has said all systems in all sectors at all levels need to change. Thus, any decisions by Council and AT to keep following status quo systems and operations that may previously have seemed innocuous, are potentially more “Significant” than most of the mild changes that currently seem to trigger the need for engagement. The status quo is our biggest danger, in terms of existential threat.

        So much of what AT does on a day to day basis should be up for consultation because it is “significant” to continue delivering a polluting and unsafe transport system. Instead they interpret “change” as significant, even though the “change” would deliver on Council and Government policy.

        They’ve got this all fundamentally backwards, and we’re paying the price with our health, our opportunities, our future and the lives of our loved ones.

        Which reminds me that Council haven’t replied about what they’re doing to prepare for the next iteration of the policy. The last review was egregiously overdue, yet they were upfront that they were doing the review in a slapdash fashion.

      2. Experts at building roads maybe, not really experts at anything else. And certainly not experts in local knowledge. Consultation offers the chance to improve a design.

        But I guess mostly consultation is done because of that big fiasco with St Heliers with a room full of angry old people yelling at the CEO and the absolutely useless Mayor Goff MIA.

  5. Some of the bus lane already exists north of Victoria Street. I use it regularly.

    Hopefully 18 & 209 buses turn right out of Lower Albert Street onto Fanshawe Street and then go up Hobson Street, rather than the current weird route of fighting their way down Kingston Street.

    1. When Albert street is finally open, buses could go up there. Pick up more passengers in upper Albert than lower Hobson.

  6. I’ve asked why the project doesn’t take steps to further the CCMP goal of a more liveable “green boulevard” for Hobson St, which can be advanced at minimal cost, by simply reallocating some more space to the other functions of the road – living and socialising, walking, cycling, and green infrastructure. A tactical approach with planter boxes can try out different layouts, and when the road surface is next renewed, it can be made more permanent – or at the very least, the renewals costs will be lower because there’ll be less vehicle space tarmac to renew.

    1. I cross Hobson to get down to Bradnor to catch buses going to the north shore as it is the quickest way (i think) rather than sitting on a meandering bus through customs, etc.

      There’s a good desire line from Queen st, up past the old Burger King, over Swanson st. However the whole area is just dilapidated carpark buildings and very little for pedestrians. It is also notorious for cars just parking on footpaths or even yellow lines.

      and don’t get me started on Hobson with it’s so called 40 kmh speed limit.
      More green links across the CBD are seriously needed.

    2. The whole area around Federal Square needs more attention, it feels like it’s a work in progress rather than a fully activated public space.

      Maybe once the cranes and trucks clear out from their current work we’ll see something happen there.

    3. Hobson is Aucklands stroadiest stroad that ever stroaded. A boulevard would be amazing. So much potential.

      How about making Nelson two way and Hobson becomes a pedestrianised transit boulevard?

      I guess that with the downtown parking building closing at some point, traffic volumes up Hobson may reduce.

      1. That would be great. I reckon owners of private carparks in the city centre have had 11 years since the 2012 CCMP to get the gist of what’s coming, too. Now it’s time for AT to reallocate extra lanes tactically, and announce the results of their in-depth work with government on parking levies. Or, if necessary, start it?

        Bring on the transformation from stroad to liveable streets and green axes

        We’ve had enough programme names. Corridor Management, Integrated Corridors, Connected Communities… and the swiftly-murdered Healthy Streets Framework. Time for programme delivery.

        1. Yes. Look at the successful use of tim-tams in Nelson St. Do the same in Hobson St as a quick fix to deliver a two-way cycleway. And add the bus lane. This gets the cross section basically correct…and then it can be made nicer with planter boxes etc, prior to proper tree planting.

  7. What I find weird is that AT insists on having time-restricted bus lanes that turn into parking on those crucial routes. They all should be 24/7. That makes policing much easier and reduces confusion and issues with drivers coming too late to collect their cars. That also would help in an event of untimely storm, like we had last week, when the whole city centre was trying to leave and got stuck.

    1. Yes two I can think of are Wyndym St and K Rd where on-street parking significantly delays buses, even more so than Hobson St. Solution: make K Rd bus lanes 24/7, and either create WB bus lanes on Wyndym or reroute buses to Custom St to access Hobson.

  8. They should valley it the Northwestern Express, to make it distinct from the Western Line. These Express buses are a near equivalent to a train line and should be seen as part of the same offering.

  9. I don’t like it as it stops me from getting to the motorway quicker in my car, but it should have been done ages ago.

  10. “…we will only consider cancelling the project if public feedback raises exceptional impacts that we are currently unaware of…”

    aka – we know better, we’re the experts….

    Finally – some sanity in the consultation process. More please !!
    Less political interferance (like the parking on arterials strategy) to let AT carry out its mandate.

  11. Repeating the same things that are not working now will not solve future problems! Revise approaches needed

    1. What do you mean? Bus lanes are effective, so this is a step forwards. They just need to go further and make the place nice.

      1. Too much consultation – paralysis by analysis.

        It should be “notification and (non-binding) feedback”

  12. A 24 hour bus lane is part of this project?!?!? Finally we can work towards being a truly international city!

  13. Thats great. 20 years late but still great.
    Get a proper busline so the Northwest bus don’t need to stay 15 minutes on Hobson Street everytime there is congestion.

    However thats the lowhanging fruit, more is needed.
    Aim for the sky, plan for proper buslanes all the way to Westgate.
    For once we have a Mayor actively championing this particular project. Its one of his recurrent themes when it came to transport policies (and he is right we need these key arteries built asap, doubt anyone here minus the green extremists are against it).
    We have a transport minister thats said that the Northwest needs something done soon and we have AT that seems to get that the new mayor isnt someone that they can stall into oblivion when it comes to his petprojects (like Phil Goff). What can go wrong?
    Have the decent people of AT provide a plan that really deliver fast bus transport to Westgate (and get the damn busterminal built there (and at Lincoln Rd ensuring that connections actually work (AT seemed to have missed that currently).

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