Busway Stays A Busway


It’s a relief to see talk of a bus lane policy change for the Northern Busway has dimmed.

The latest Auckland Council transport committee report notes:

NZTA investigated the introduction of HOVs onto the Northern Busway as part of its Network Plan in relation to the Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing.

That investigation concluded that the introduction of HOVs onto the Northern Busway would result in an unacceptably low level of service for vehicles joining the Northern Busway, including buses in the traffic stream.  To control this effect, it is likely that ramp metering would be required at Constellation Station, Esmonde Road and Onewa Road, and this has the potential to restrict buses if they are in the same traffic stream.

The investigation recommended that HOVs not be introduced on the Northern Busway until the Onewa Road merge issue is resolved, and the provision of an Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing could also be a catalyst for a review.

The Northern Busway is currently 6.2 kilometres long, re-joining the Northern Motorway (State Highway 1) at Constellation Drive, and includes four purpose-built stations. The busway opened in February 2008, triggering an immediate and ongoing rise in passenger numbers and providing quicker peak time bus journeys between the North Shore and Auckland’s CBD.

During the latter days of the ARC, there seemed to be increasing talk from other parties suggesting the Busway be opened up.

In June of last year, an agenda from the joint harbour crossing committee of which ARC and NZTA along with North Shore local bodies were members noted:

The issue of allowing high occupancy vehicles (HOVs) on the busway and commercial vehicles such as taxis was being  driven by NZTA  and it was pointed out that a “condition of funding for the Northern Busway was to be that HOVs were allowed once the Victoria tunnel is completed with an environment court decision for 359 HOVs an hour on the busway.

Two local boards passed resolutions about North Shore bus lane changes in the last few months:

The Devonport-Takapuna Local Board recommended:

Auckland Transport, in discussion with NZ Transport Authority, to urgently investigate and report on the staged provision of a westbound High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane on Esmonde Road, to encourage more efficient use of the Lake Road and Esmonde Road corridors and alleviate traffic congestion.” and “That, subject to the outcomes of the investigation, Auckland Transport implement the HOV lane in stages: (1) Eldon Avenue to the Northern Motorway, as soon as practicably possible; and (2) extension of the HOV lane to the Northern Busway, upon completion of the Victoria Park  Tunnel project.”

At the time, the chairman, Chris Darby, pushed the decision, saying the current dedicated bus lane could be opened up to other high occupancy vehicles quickly and easily.
“Along this stretch of dedicated bus infrastructure, which starts just west of Eldon Ave, there appears no obvious impediment in the way of it becoming a shared high occupancy vehicle lane. Our residents are familiar with transit lanes with two operating on arterial roads in nearby Northcote and Milford.”
An investigation undertaken by transport planners at the former Auckland city council had stated that a shared HOV lane would provide local commuters with immediate travel benefits at negligible cost or impact to bus service operations.
Mr Darby said that he understands that currently, 90% of vehicles travelling out of the peninsula area each morning are doing so single occupancy. “This means that there is ample room for growth and significant opportunities for reducing congestion.“An HOV lane in this location may shave up to twenty minutes off peak travel time to the city, and this would be good news to a good many,” Mr Darby argued.
The Esmonde Rd bus lane and motorway fly-over currently carries, on average, one bus every six minutes during the morning peak.

The Kaipatiki Local Board passed a resolution:

“That, in order to facilitate improved flows of traffic down Onewa Road in the morning peak hours each weekday, Auckland Transport and the New Zealand Transport Agency be requested to provide the Kaipatiki Local Board with a report on the feasibility of T3 High Occupancy Vehicles being permitted to use the city bound bus lane across the Onewa Interchange of the Northern Motorway at Northcote.”

Auckland Transport’s recent decisions about bus lanes decided to keep the T3 on Onewa but in its next year plan investigate improving its configuration - along with reviewing the Khyber and Remuera bus lanes.

It would be easy to open up a can of worms by diluting busways especially the free flowing Northern Busway. Let’s hope authorities stay firm.




  1. Cam says:

    Sanity prevails.

  2. KarlHansen says:

    For now. That one of the reasons why I like rail - much harder to turn into a road after an election changes the ground rules.

  3. Patrick R says:

    Sanity prevails indeed, but on a technicality it seems, door still open…. Yet there is still a growing need for more buses.

    DEC 2010 figures for the bridge of the 29 000 people crossing in the morning peak nearly 12 000 are on buses… a good enough proportion for one lane way you’d think? Come on Chris…..

  4. DanC says:

    I still don’t understand why there is a not a bus way all the way into town. Spend all that money on the busway then it joins congested traffic??? That’s just dumb.

    Great to hear it’s remaining a bus way.

  5. KarlHansen says:

    Dan, why not? Because the powers that be aren’t willing to lose two out of 8 traffic lanes on the bridge (because to work, one would have to separate the bus traffic from general traffic).

    That said, the busway already gives a major time saving.

  6. DanC says:

    How much faster at peak would the bus get to Britomart if a dedicated bus lane went all the way? And then I wonder how many more people would take the bus.

  7. KarlHansen says:

    Much faster, though we’d have to start expanding the feeder bus system soon in that case. In fact, we’d probably find that the Northern Busway hits that “We need to rail to the Shore, we have busway capacity left” limit much, much quicker.

  8. geoff_184 says:

    Just to point out, it was not built as a dedicated busway. It was built with the intention of being an HOV road. It only became a busway after it was completed.

  9. nzbcfanboi says:

    Really Geoff that’s news to me considering it always bean called the Northern Busway since the project started back in 2003

  10. geoff_184 says:

    Yes it was called a busway, but the intention was for it to be used by buses and HOV’s. That’s why the HOV entrance was built at Constellation station. Just before it opened it was announced that HOV’s would be banned for a few months until the buses settled in, but then the ban kept being extended.

    Read the last sentence of this: http://www.beehive.govt.nz/node/16279


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