February 20, 2008

The mess that is public transport in Auckland

Auckland gets frequently high grades in the livable city surveys but they are usually aimed at and compiled from high flyer expatriates on foreign currency salaries who don't need to use local amenities like public transport very much. Locals have a very different view on how Auckland is lived in and you know I have a particular beef with the local public transport system, being European and all.
There is a public transport internet forum set up by Maxx, the public transport authority, for users to vent their opinions, which, I suspect, are then studiously ignored by the powers-that-be, considering the lack of replies from higher up to any concerns voiced. But we soldier on and I like contributing there.
Here's my latest missive on horror design stories around town involving bus stops and bus lanes:

1. The Britomart forecourt horror
Even Brian Rudman noticed "what an uninviting hell-hole the environs of that lovingly redeveloped historic building has become, now the area is wall-to-wall with noisy, fume belching buses." It's used by private cars with impunity now too. Why did we lose our pedestrian QEII Square for that?
Solution: abolish all route termini at Britomart and have through-line bus stop only. This will avoid buses being stationary for too long blocking the bus stops. Bus routes should have a spiderweb pattern with most crossing the CBD not terminating there. It'll make possible to narrow lower Queen Street in front of Britomart and increase pedestrian space.

2. Albert Street right turnoff into Customs Street.
Frequently cited to me by bus drivers as Auckland's worst intersection for buses to use. Waiting times of 10 minutes are not uncommon which is frustrating since it's in sight of your end destination at Britomart.
Solution (which I have successfully suggested to bus drivers but is considered an illegal move by bus company bosses): drive straight through to Quay Street and use the bus lane to turn into Britomart. Took 1 minute the other night.

3. Queen Street bus lanes.
Why aren't there any? The city's busiest bus route and they have to sit with the other traffic. Easily the dumbest PT idea Auckland planners have come up with and it wasn't remedied by the Queen St upgrade. Brian Rudman's comment here.

4. Albert Street bus lanes.
They are there but they are constantly clogged up by stationary buses forcing passing buses to move into the general traffic lanes.
Solution: as in point 1., remove termini from the CBD and only have bus through routes north-south, east-west and radially. Austin in Texas has a bus system like that.

5. The K Road bus stop configuration.
When taking a bus downtown you have to gamble at which bus stop you will get the first available bus since the Queen St buses and Pitt St buses have, inexplicably and frustratingly, different stops on K Road. And they are far enough apart to prevent making a successful run to the other one. Obviously Auckland PT planners never take the bus.
This bad configuration has been copied to the bus stops in Grey Lynn in the Gt Nth Rd/Williamson Ave area.

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