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.