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.

Original proposal in 2021:
Downgraded special vehicle lanes 2023 to commence:

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.

Fred Taylor Dr Bus Lanes

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:

  1. Applying a lane reduction west of Fernhill to get buses out of the fight over the merge.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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  1. What bothers me most is the Westgate station location. Surely the undeveloped corner of Fred Taylor / Tawhia would make more sense? But I guess there won’t be space for a massive P&R or whatever motivates the location behind Briscoes.

  2. Bus users ,welcome to the cycling ” network” a hodge podge of ” improvements, great in patches,really bad in others. Buses given short bursts of “free running” only to be disgorged back into the congestion and mayhem. AT have honed their craft on the ” cycling ” community for years,they are just expanding it ,to another of their customers.

  3. Infuriating. So much infill housing is going down and already there is insane traffic everywhere, with next to zero transport infrastructure is being built to facilitate. My street is about to double in the number of homes, what is being invested to help people get around? Nothing.

    Bus lanes are the cheapest and easiest transportation infrastructure to build in infill situations like this, but AT say no to keep their hallowed medians? Ridiculous, and there is nothing anyone can do about it.

      1. I am assuming you also want to remove the beautiful viewshafts that look towards the city from Mount Victoria and North Head. Yes I understand some viewshafts make no sense like the onewa road onramp viewshafts heading south bound, but most viewshafts are able to be enjoyed by the public.

        1. “but most viewshafts are able to be enjoyed by the public.”

          So? Flush medians are also able to be “enjoyed by the public”. The fact that things can have benefits yet still have an OVERALL NEGATIVE is a rather simple reality.

          If things like viewshafts keep a town from growing into a city, and worsen housing affordability while creating perpetual suburbia in areas that should have medium and high density housing, then yes, the “enjoyment” of open viewshafts should very much be considered against that. Just saying that some of them do indeed allow pretty views to be had is missing the point.

    1. Yeah. Keeping their hallowed medians prevents life-saving changes that are needed for climate-responsible transport system change.

      It is professionally irresponsible to continue prioritising traffic movements over critical change like this.

      Engineering New Zealand needs to take action to discipline its members. I note yesterday ENZ’s lawyer, in referring to a case about structural engineering. “With a view to holding the profession to account, being seen to hold the profession to account, and with a mind very firmly on the public interest.”

      It’s way past time they turned their focus to traffic engineers.

      1. “It’s way past time they turned their focus to traffic engineers.”

        It wasn’t engineers who made these calls, but politicians and managers (who are often not engineers these days).

        I guess you can accuse us of “just following orders”. That’s true enough, and it is part of our responsibility to say “no” to crap instructions.

        After 10 times of being told “nope, not happening” when you try to push for better, you kinda get the message, though.

        1. In structural, geotechnical, chemical or electrical engineering, calling out systemic lethal management decision-making is absolutely part of the job. Traffic engineers have lost the plot. I don’t know why other engineers aren’t requiring change.

        2. “I don’t know why other engineers aren’t requiring change.”

          Because the lethality of is drip-fed (traffic crashes), socialised as a “cost of doing business” or is second- and third-hand (obesity, climate change impacts). Plus, we all participate in the Status Quo, and people are afraid of change.

          There’s a reason why passenger airliners and nuclear power stations have much more stringent regulations than car traffic design despite causing a lot fewer deaths. Its because we are inured to the constant smaller numbers of people killed, whereas a big airliner incident kills hundreds, but happens very rarely.

          I also think that unlike power plants and airliners, the fact that we all drive / walk / cycle ourselves makes people think they have more personal control over the outcomes than is actually true. In an airline or nuclear power plant the fact that things are out of your hand is much more clear.

          Finally – a lot of engineers are trying to push back. I have done so for most of my working life. But at some point many tend to become worn down and settle for improvements rather than dreaming about revolutionary change. I have refused (and still refuse) to design things that are outright dangerous, or that are worse than before. But lose my job because I refuse to work on a project that isn’t as much of a step-change as I’d want it to? Yeah nah.

  4. The whole area of Te Atatū (both Peninsula and South) is going through absolutely unprecedented amount of development. Te Atatū Rd is at standstill from both directions towards the motorway during both morning (7am till 9.30am) and afternoon peak (3pm till 6pm). The 13 is going get hopelessly stuck in those queues making the whole service completely unreliable.

    I think it’s also worth mentioning that neither Newton Rd nor Westgate motorway on-ramps have a dedicated T2 lanes so the buses trying get onto the motorway will be getting stuck there making the whole thing even less reliable.

    It’s clear that from AT’s perspective the only way to implement a PT priority solution is to make sure that absolutely in no circumstances those driving are impacted.

    How’s this solution expected to encourage a modal shift is an absolute mystery. Replacing one unreliable (but direct) service with two unreliable ones, that also require a very inconvenient transfer is not going to attract any users, particularly since the “feeder” 13 will be as stuck as cars are right now.

    1. > How’s this solution expected to encourage a modal shift is an absolute mystery.

      Nothing AT does is designed to encourage a modal shift. It’s gaslighting – they say one thing whilst doing the opposite.

      1. This. AT are not trying to drive or achieve anything beyond their continued existence. This won’t change until the structure does.

  5. Why is AT consulting?

    Obviously the yet to evolve beyond sitting in front of a steering wheel, listening to awful radio, and with a manufactured fear of sitting close to another human not from their inner circle; will be anti bus lane.

    AT should be educating these people; that would be useful work for the agency. Science and the real cities around the world already embrace the idiocy of private vehicle ownership. Congestion is caused by cars, and fossil fuel emissions have been causing damage to our lungs for more than a century; probably to our cerebral processes also.

    Will this place always be a tinpot donkey town or does the city aspire to be a city?

      1. “Because we live in a democracy?”

        We live in a representative, not a direct democracy. The key decisions should be made by our elected politicians, advised by experts. And then actually implemented, rather than using the consultation process as an anchor chain for the Status Quo by people who don’t want to implement approved policies.

        1. Exactly. So many forget the “representative” part of our democracy. We do not get to decide on each and every issue. We elect people to make those decisions for us, hopefully based on evidence and expertise. We then decide on the effectiveness of them periodically, when we vote at local and national elections.

          In saying that, AT isn’t “elected” so if anyone need not fear a lack of consultation, I would have thought it would have been AT.

        2. “In saying that, AT isn’t “elected” so if anyone need not fear a lack of consultation, I would have thought it would have been AT.”

          That was how Rodney Hide sold us AT. They would fearlessly make the right technical decisions, based on the policies & goals handed down by the elected members. Well, THAT didn’t pan out.

  6. The Te Atatu works also included some limited cycle protection components (which can be seen at the bottom of the screenshot images above). Have those been deleted as well? Wouldn’t be surprised that my work on designing those was wasted as well, but please someone tell me that there’s some of them left?

    1. The cycling outcome isn’t too bad. Still includes protection originally proposed… But annoyingly some bits are still being left without anything for unknown reasons…

  7. It’s staggering his much better the city would be for cyclists and bus users if somehow someone can can AT from painting these useless medians everywhere which are just a complete waste of the corridor

  8. Disabling the T lanes during the least active times… LOL. Does Australia do this too, I wonder?

    AT seem to not know how or don’t want to give PT as much edge as possible. It reduces lines at traffic lights, and it combines quite nicely with traffic light priority, for example. These are useful all throughout the day.

    The subjective experience should also not be discounted. Not having to line up behind 7 cars is quite a good feeling by itself.

    1. Yeah, I just don’t get it. Surely peak is already the heaviest hitting time to be running T/bus lanes, why turn them off the rest of the time? I get it for the areas that double as parking (not that parking on arterials makes any sense anyway though). But Te Atatu Mwy Interchange to Edmonton Rd in Te Atatu South is all non-parking anyway, literally no possible reason not to be 24/7.

  9. Much criticism of flush medians being “little used” but there is a safety issue – a lot of “t-bone” accidents happen with people turning in or out of driveways and minor side roads being hit mid-turn. Noumea has an interesting solution. Many of their main roads have a central raised refuge about a metre or so wide – which makes left turns in to property entrances physically impossible. This is our equivalent of making all access to driveways left turn in/left-turn out – eliminating the t-bones. The trick is to have frequent roundabouts about 100-150 metres apart so that drivers can still access the required driveway or side road. The central raised median provides a safe opportunity for pedestrians to cross mid block – similar to a pedestrian refuge but continuous along road. Traffic flows smoothly and more or less continuously. A variation on this approach may be required if we ever get street-running light rail which will require all right turns to be banned except at signal-controlled major intersections.

    1. That is actually the approach for NEW arterial roads in New Zealand – solid median and no right turns in or out (in fact, ideally no vehicle crossings at all, only side roads, and then access via those).

      But it seems absolutely impossible for AT to convince themselves that existing right turns can be removed. I understand it’s a big hassle to change the Status Quo, but it seems like this is nearly as forbidden as removing parking.

    2. This is exactly the right solution to the flush median problem. It only needs adequate provision for those needing to turn right to have an alternative (roundabouts or signal U-turns) and this becomes easy.

    3. Yes for major arterial routes, there should be no flush medians and all turns should be restricted to left in/left out for driveways and minor roads and traffic lights/roundabouts for more major roads.

  10. In regards to the 146 route along central park, no one ever gets on or off along there so there’s no issue with that. AT need to stop making these massive cuts. Or 13s will just get stuck in traffic and everything will get screwed

    1. Perhaps but this was meant to serve the people who lost their bus on nearly Vodanovich Rd in 2017. Now there will just big a big void area with long uphill walks for people to access the nearest services.

      Also, any events going on at the Trusts Stadium, suddenly PT a lot less lucrative for people as it’s a 10ish min walk from Lincoln Rd services instead of straight outside…

  11. “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”

    They have already converted a parking bay on each side of Maki St (between Tawhia and Kedgley) to be bus stops – so it’s ready to go for those outer-NW passengers to easily transfer.

  12. Re Te Atatu Rd, it should be a 24/7 T3 lane in each direction, or if they feel that they can’t just copy paste the Onewa Rd’s system, bus lanes only. Te Atatu Rd will be gridlock in both directions whether there is 1 lane or 2, but at least buses might be able to skip the queue.

    1. Honestly, 24/7 should be the way to go. Onewa is now constantly getting cars blocking the lane during the T3 hours creating pain for buses. Friday had some muppet parking a rotary book sale trailer in the lane at 4pm opposite Northcote college! Liklely did not get towed and presumably the idiot was oblivious to the clear signage.

      There’s no aspiration to have modal shift as someone says above, everywhere across the city are just token gestures at improving transport.

      I mean literally can it get much worse than just outside AT’s offices turning left from Fanshawe onto Halsey, an AT car waiting for the left turn (which they are allowed to do) but holding up every single city bound bus from the North Shore.

      Like a join the dots with most of the numbers missing.

      1. 24/7 is the way to go, yellow dotted lines are mostly understood, and cars can just be immediately towed (vs needed an AT officer and tow truck).

        How much AT spend clearing these lanes would be a great OIA.

      2. It’s the same on the main isthmus arterials. Dominion Rd, Mt Eden Rd, Sandringham Rd, cars park with impunity in the bus lanes when they are active and delay the journeys of hundreds of people as the queue of buses try to merge with the general traffic lane which is already close to a standstill. I have seen people get towed from time to time but it seems exceptionally rare.

        1. “I have seen people get towed from time to time but it seems exceptionally rare.”

          Partly because when AT starts towing (or even fining) aggressively, they get hit in the neck by the Herald (or even Stuff) with an article heavily implying – if not outright claiming – they are just doing it for “revenue gathering”.

  13. As someone who designs traffic solutions professionally, I have to really question the logic of some of these “designs” by AT staff. Some of them border on ludicrous, while others are just comical. I’m sure they make sense to someone paid to sit behind a desk with a pen and paper, but they fall far short of practical solutions.

    Perhaps approaching these issues with an open mind and actually listening to professional feedback might produce a better result.

    Maintaining a median lane to accommodate 200 vehicle movements on a road where you propose impacting 20000 movements shows a complete absence of reality.

    Let’s take the pencil and paper away from the “I learnt how to draw pretty pictures at University” people, and start listening to actual engineers who do these things for a living, and are right there on the front line observing the driver behavior.

    1. I suspect that rather than the engineers being bad at their jobs, they’ve been handed a list of requirements that are flawed, driven from the top by AT / AC politics

      Of particular political importance is homeowners and access to their properties. They must be able to right turn across multiple lanes of traffic directly into their driveway and anything that AT does that makes that marginally harder will have backlash.

  14. The 120 not becoming a frequent 12 is a disappointment but I note they upping the frequency to 15mins peak morn and aft from Westgate to Constellation and afternoon only to Westgate.

    Seems like “success breads success” with PT routes with the western end of the existing 14W/T getting the altered to the even more frequent 11W/T.

    Wonder how much patronage they get through Massey as a more pure system could have the WX1 doubled to every 5 mins but every 2nd one goes via Gt Nth Rd (like the 11W/T), maybe labelled WXG (how many drivers would forget which one they are currently driving?).
    The 14/W/T could of been kept the same or two short routes put in for the Massey end (11W/11T), or combined with the 116 loop but making it both directions instead of one way as proposed. ie a route 116 every 30 mins both directions covering Massey & Northwest Shopping Ctr.

    Interesting they can make new suburb areas without it being suitable for buses (Riverhead Point Rd) circa about 10 years ago.

    I think what they have done with the 146/147 service is a better idea, from the consultation report:
    “• Access to supermarket and shops from Waitākere Village
    The consultation proposal would have meant that Waitākere Village residents would need to take two buses to get to their closest supermarket. AT has combined two of the proposed routes (146 and 147) into one route (147) so that no transfer is required to travel between Waitākere Village and the nearest supermarket and shopping centre.
    • Access to Waitakere Hospital from Ranui
    In response to the feedback we received, AT has changed the route of the 147 bus so instead of travelling on Central Park Drive it now travels along Lincoln Road and past Waitakere Hospital to Henderson town centre. This will make buses more frequent between Henderson and Waitakere Hospital benefiting patients, visitors and staff.
    • Removal of buses from Central Park Drive
    Based on feedback from the community, and the low number of people currently boarding and alighting public buses on Central Park Drive (averaging around 22 alightings and 15 boardings a day), we decided that more people would benefit from having a more direct bus connection between Waitākere / Swanson / Rānui and more frequent buses between Waitakere Hospital and Henderson.
    For these reasons, we decided to run the new 147 bus route along Lincoln Rd and not Central Park Drive. This will mean the Central Park Drive no longer has a bus service.”

    1. Re 120/WX1Transfer. Yes the walk would be either 750m or 1km to nearest bus stop from what I measured. With my suggestion getting the alternative frequent service 11/W/T is then not possible. You would have to do the walk or transfer to less frequent Massey service then transfer at Lincoln. Maybe this is why 11W/T is done this way & gives you continuous service to say Te Atatu as well. Think someone going from Hobsonville Rd/Greenhithe to say Te Atatu.

  15. It is really is just so depressing. The bus stops at Te Atatu Interchange have no front panels because they’ve run out of funds. This means in a howling rainy winds anyone waiting will get wet. And that may be a 15 minute wait. It really it so insulting that AT don’t care at all that people might arrive at their destination saturated. It really is a dereliction of duty at their destination that they just don’t care. But sadly , nothing new when it comes to west auckland bus stops. look at Henderson bus stop apparently a ‘major transport hub’ Very little protection in rain and wind. 80% of the time the elevators to the train don’t work and still no live train information inside the walkway, meaning you have to walk down the escalator and along the platform to see live train information. The live sign at the bus station isn’t even connected.

    1. Congestion is only a bad thing when it affects the motor vehicle. Buses, cyclists, pedestrians all have to just grin and bear it – cars parked all over footpaths, cycle lanes, in T3/bus lanes, taxis just pulling into a bus stop, speeding through pedestrian crossings.

      Imagine if a group of people all just stopped randomly in the middle of roads all over Auckland – the outrage would probably be the biggest story all year.

      1. “Imagine if a group of people all just stopped randomly in the middle of roads all over Auckland – the outrage would probably be the biggest story all year.”

        In fact, in the UK and Australia you can now easily go to prison for that, even if it isn’t random, but due to honest concern (like protesting the lack of climate change actions).

        If they only blocked bike lanes instead, certain politicians and authorities would be a lot more lenient. Have the people who demolished the Onehunga LATM ever been charged? I expect not.

  16. Sections of Great South Road near Penrose have no flush median, and there’s a short section of truck and T2 lane.
    I’d argue that this area has higher traffic volumes, with more right turn movements in & out of business than Te Atatu Road.

    Get rid of the flush median – You’ve done it before AT, now hurry up and get on with it here.

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