Friday, July 22, 2011

Auckland to soften approach on bus lane policing

Tranzwatching transit strategy in Auckland,  Te Ika a Maui, New Zealand

Policing of bus lanes in Auckland in the 12 months to May this year generated 14, 253 infringement of bus lane notices. With fines at $150 per offense this has reaped $2.1 million for city coffers but "fury" and resentment from motorists.  A number of  measures are being introduced to make bus lane policing a little less heavy handed.

According to a report in the NZ Herald "A bus-lane review discussed by the transport board yesterday said that because Auckland's population was forecast to reach two million by 2035 and road-widening opportunities were largely limited, bus lanes were beneficial and necessary."


While there seems some case for a more measured strategy, the real-politik of it all is that most motorists can't bear to see the bus lane sitting empty - as it should be - 95% of the time. In that other 5% of time or less this allows buses the unhindered potential to carry four or five times more commuters than the number sitting up in a clogged up car lanes.  Allowing cars unregulated use of bus lanes makes as much sense as allowing cricket to be played on airfields between flights landing and taking off. 

Having been an internet tranzwatcher for over 15 years, I can say problems with on-street bus lanes appears to be endemic the world over. This makes a strong argument for segregation of such lanes as far as possible, by traffic islands, bedstead fencing - or better still building entirely segregated bus ways and sometimes bus only streets. Or use of trenches, cut and cover tunnels or flyovers.

Christchurch, with massive demolition in central areas following the Feb 22nd earthquake has the unusual opportunity to look at certain city streets (Tuam and Manchester spring to mind) that could be substantially widened into attractive boulevards of multiple lanes, including some island separated bus lanes - which I suspect also give buses a much higher status in people's minds. There are dozens of suburban points which could also benefit from judicious implementation of  bus only lanes, often very short but advantageous none-the-less.

When bus routes are treated as "train lines" and inserted in ways that buses rarely need to stop for other traffic, in turn becoming very reliable in schedules and facilitating predictable reliable transfers, the real potential of modern buses will begin to be realised.

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