Many improvements on the go for bus passengers

Published: Thu 6 Nov 2003 02:51 PM
6 November 2003
Many improvements on the go for bus passengers
Auckland City is working to improve services for Auckland’s bus passengers.
Auckland City Council’s Transport Committee yesterday supported continued long-term enforcement for bus/bike lanes, tendering for more bus shelters over the next three years, and continued work to improve bus lanes and other priority measures.
Council will submit an application to the New Zealand Police to continue the bus/bike lane enforcement responsibility beyond the current one-year trial. The introduction of bus lanes and their enforcement have helped reduce journey times and improved reliability of services.
Surveys show that Auckland city drivers are now respecting the lanes more than ever before and few people are illegally using them during peak hours. The average rate of offending is now less than 3 per cent in the morning peak, and just 2 per cent in the evening peak. Prior to the start of the enforcement trial, those figures were as high as 6 per cent and 12 per cent respectively.
Councillor Greg McKeown, Transport Committee chairperson, supports the move on the basis not only of the reduced offending in the trial but also as an education measure. “Seeing an officer out there with a camera certainly acts as a reminder to drivers to stay out of the bus lanes during their hours of operation, and their presence will be helpful as we roll out more lanes.”
Following approval of the Sandringham bus priority scheme earlier this year, Mr McKeown confirmed that buses are the largest part of the public transport network.
“Buses offer a valuable alternative to using cars,” said Mr McKeown. “The transport committee has understood the need to help improve infrastructure in tandem with wider service development by the Auckland Regional Council (ARC) and bus operators to satisfy the current and future needs.”
The ongoing programme of investigating and implementing bus priority lanes, the launch of the ‘City Circuit’ electric bus in the Central Business District (CBD), the soon-to-be live signal pre-emption for the Link service and the opening of the Britomart Transport Centre are evidence of the transport committee’s commitment to public transport improvements.
Mr McKeown noted that one of the big issues is circulating buses into and out of the CBD efficiently. “We want to speed up the CBD part of the trip time for the buses that come to the CBD from all directions. We are well down the track with plans to introduce lanes and priority measures on Albert Street and Vincent Street, and to extend measures on the Symonds Street ridge. We have to build a network of priorities, routes and stops that work efficiently for bus passengers and is consistent with other plans and uses in the CBD,” says Mr McKeown.
One issue council faces is bus dwelling times at stops, and optimising the location of stops. While there has been a recent huge investment in new facilities around Britomart, it is clear that not all bus routes can converge there. The City will continue to use other city streets in the downtown and midtown areas, and around Civic, to cater for the needs of an increasing number of bus passengers.
“It is impossible for all buses to stop in the Britomart core precinct area,” said Mr McKeown. “The area would become too congested.”
Over the past months the committee has also been reviewing the use of signage, lane colouring and road markings for bus lanes. The review has, in particular, sought to develop an approach to lane colouring that will continue to send a clear message to road users of the presence of bus lane restrictions while minimising negative visual impacts.
The Transport Committee has endorsed a three-month trial on new bus lanes where green paint will not be used. A solid white line will denote the width of the bus/bike lanes along its length. The words ‘bus lane’ and an image of a bus and bike will be painted in white on the bus lanes at appropriate intervals.
“We already have bus lanes implemented where there is no greening, but with clear signs, and they are working quite well,” said Mr McKeown. “From a street amenity point of view we have been advised that there are some negative effects from the greening, and I appreciate that. Bus lanes have been considered for Tamaki Drive, and it would be useful to have an alternative to greening that is more sympathetic to the needs of that important environment, and by extension, others.”
“It is vital to provide an appropriate infrastructure for public transport. Auckland City is working closely with bus operators and the ARC to provide an improved public transport system, and we are encouraging them to improve other bus services, including an easy ticketing system that will work well across all modes,” said Mr McKeown.

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