This is a guest post from reader Peter N
As many of us know, Auckland Transport and Waka Kotahi are well into progressing works on the northwestern interim “busway” with services to kick off in just over a month from now on Sunday 12th November 2023.
Some of the work has included:
- Bus shelter / stops on or near to the motorway to facilitate transfers between the core WX1 and 11T/W services and local routes.
- Improved bus shoulders on the motorway, although some areas have been stripped off bus lanes and converted to general lanes, and many emergency shoulders neglected despite obvious candidates for conversion to bus shoulders.
- Some new wider bus stops to facilitate route changes.
- New routes kicking off in November.
There was also a proposal T2 lanes for Te Atatū South and Te Atatū Peninsula, to support the new frequent “13” bus route which replaces the 131 route directly and also the Te Atatū components of the 132 and 133.
However Auckland Transport has now come back 2 years later on the Te Atatū South T2 lanes and decided to downgrade them to being only on one side of the road. Whilst also reducing the operating hours of the other side to include the morning peak only.
Auckland Transport cite the reasoning as, “there were fears from respondents that there would be congestion”. Yet is it not the entire point of T2 lanes to encourage mode-shift to carpooling and buses? What would the point of them be if there was no congestion to tackle?
Despite a lot of feedback to remove the flush median, especially between Edmonton Rd intersection and Mcleod Rd, AT are insistent that this is needed for turns into driveways and side streets despite the vast majority along the section being rarely used residential driveways and quiet side streets. Many roads far far busier than this section, cope just fine without a flush median, including Onewa Rd which has T3 lanes. Freeing said space could allow T2 lanes on both sides of the road along the section, which will also alleviate concerns around cycling safety and having cyclists sharing a single lane hard up against the kerb with general traffic along some sections as opposed to the previous/current setup of having some shoulder space to work with. You can also once again point to Onewa Rd, where there are T3’s on both sides, no median and that sees more traffic volumes than Te Atatu Rd between Edmonton Rd and Mcleod Rd..
There is also an obsession from them around preserving the median “for driveways and quiet side streets” between Edmonton and Mccleod which could have allowed T2 lanes in both directions. This stretch only sees 20K movements, whilst Onewa with 35K movements does not have a median and operates just fine.
This is all on-top of the rather grim implementation coming up for Te Atatū Peninsula, which again, is just T2 lanes, but only in the quietest section of the 2-laned section of road in the Peninsula between Gloria Ave and the main shops. At least it is on both sides of the road, but the lack of a T2 section between the Z Petrol Station and the motorway is very lacklustre. Additionally as buses use Old Te Atatu Rd, non-bus T2 users also miss out on a potential section between Gloria Ave and the Z Petrol Station.
The “13” bus is essentially the star of the show behind the WX1, as the main new frequent route feeding into the interim “busway”. It’s really appalling that it’s not getting the level of thought needed to make an attractive and reliable service.
Conversely, AT have proposed 24/7 bus lanes in Westgate on Fred Taylor Drive quite out of the blue, and expect construction of those to happen before the next March madness episode in 2024. Why are they so ambitious there, but not for Te Atatū?
While the Westgate improvements are more noteworthy they are not without some issues either, oddly they did not run any consultation on these nor approach any transport groups for input, which may have highlighted some of the concerns and allowed them to smooth them out. Buses get caught up on Fernhill Dr because of the congestion on Fred Taylor Dr, Tawhia Dr also only has one general traffic left turn lane which also gets quite congested. This congestion impact for buses is likely to be exacerbated because the road transitions to one general traffic lane east of Taiwhia/Fernhill.
Additionally because the bus lanes will be in the centre of the road, the 112, 114 and the 120, the only connection between the West and North Shore and was meant to be upgraded to a frequent service, can’t make use of one of the bus lanes on Fred Taylor Dr as it only leads to the motorway.
There is also no connection between 120, which only stops on Fernhill Dr, and the WX1. Plus the 112 and 114 patrons will also have to double-back from the transfer point on Kedley Rd to access the WX1 which is less than ideal. Thus there really should likely be some bus stops on Fred Taylor Dr to facilitate these connections.
The 122/123/125/126 routes also do not seem to have any connection point with the WX1 which originates at Kedley Rd, this would really require some bus stops added to Maki St or Tawhia Dr to facilitate this transfer, otherwise these users likely need to get off earlier on Maki St and walk over to Kedley Rd, which isn’t ideal. We would also hope it’s well advertised, otherwise these users are likely to end up on the much slower 11T/W services if they transfer at the last stop.
Some improvements to this we would have suggested are:
- Applying a lane reduction west of Fernhill to get buses out of the fight over the merge.
- Putting the bus lane to the inside lanes, combined with the above would allow the bus to start straight from the Fernhill intersection and also be useful to other bus services.
- Make the inside lane on Fernhill straight/left turn only except for buses which can also turn right, this would have meant that buses leaving the bus stops on Fernhill don’t have to move lanes.
- Remove the left turn lane into Maki St, the right turn is already blocked off and traffic should be reduced there anyway to reduce cars in the shared space area.
- This would mean cars only need to cross the bus lane to turn into Gunton Dr, the SH18 onramp or to carry on along Hobsonville Rd.
Earlier in the year we also heard back around the Te Atatū Peninsula T2 lanes, which again are quite low in ambition, only spanning the least congested dual lane section as opposed to where they are most needed. Between the Z station and the motorway. They also could have added them between Gloria Ave and the Z station, whilst not used by buses, T2s are not solely for buses!
Further adding to the pile of downgrades, AT is cutting existing bus services to the Trusts stadium and residents/businesses along the stretch which already lost their bus service in 2017 on Vodanovich Rd as part of the new network. This service, the 146 along Central Park Dr, was supposed to aid with that, now there will be nothing at all within a reasonable distance for many around this area…
Another downgrade was that Auckland Transport proposed upgrading the 120 bus, the main connection between Waitakere and the North Shore to the frequent “12” bus, only to later cancel that upgrade and keep the service as the 120.
While some of these are likely budget related, we really hope Auckland Transport can see the light with some items here, such as the T2 lanes, and crack on with the original proposals, and perhaps then-some, as it’s not going to affect cost much at all. They could also potentially revisit their approach at Westgate to fine-tune it more. The cost of not doing it right is a failure of us coming even close to meeting our cities goals under TERP.