The Eastern Busway is currently one of the biggest and most important transport projects in Tamaki Makaurau. The first stage of the Eastern Busway between Panmure and Pakuranga is almost finished and should open next month.
Auckland Transport has launched a consultation for its design project for the remaining 5km stretch between Pakuranga and botany, and there are major changes from the designs that have been featured in the past. The most noticeable difference here is in Burswood but there are also changes to Botany and the cycling network. When it comes to these changes, all seem focused on finding ways not to disrupt the existing traffic flow and priority. They also appear to be another product of the growing trend of secrecy where the public is presented with almost finalized plans at the last minute instead of agencies reviewing the problems of previous designs with the public before coming up with solutions.
The Burswood diversion
The northern section of the project between Pakuranga Rd and Gossamer Dr remains the same as we saw before with a large station to be built in Pakuranga, then the bus lane to the center of Ti Rakau Dr.
From Gossamer the new plan is to move the busway to the north side of Ti Rakau and then bypass the back of the shopping area to Burswood in a train station, eliminating 30 to 40 houses, before sending him back to the north side of Ti Rakau.
The main reason AT gave for this design change is cost, claiming that sticking to Ti Rakau Dr would see the cost of the project go over budget by $ 867 million. They also claim that this option has safety benefits, is 12-18 months faster to build, resulting in less disruption, is better for bus speed and reliability, and is better for general traffic.
The argument for improving bus speed and reliability is that buses would only have two low traffic intersections to cross. These intersections would have added lights and buses would have signal priority, meaning the only time they would normally need to stop would be at Burswood station. For comparison, there are currently five main intersections controlled by traffic lights on this stretch of Ti Rakau.
I understand the argument and also note that while it seems important, it only adds about 300m to the total length of the track. But I am not yet convinced that this is the best result and here is why.
They say it is not, but the strong impression I have is that even though it is not in any of the results they say they are looking for, someone in the middle of the TA has decided that the project must reduce the impact it has on traffic. The project team then works backwards from there to develop their proposal and the rationale for it.
For example, the main reason for the high cost is that engineers say that the can only be reached by widening the entire corridor to accommodate not only the armored bar, but also all the turn lanes and other auxiliary lanes existing on this section. The unreliability is due to the fact that right turns are allowed at every intersection. In addition, they said the widening would impact access to commercial properties on the south side of the corridor.
Still, council and government plans call for a significant mode shift away from private vehicles and a reduction in the number of kilometers traveled in vehicles to help tackle both emissions and congestion. The traffic patterns used to justify the need for these lanes and the deviation from the bus lane will almost certainly not account for this kind of change.
Instead, changing most intersections by removing the right turns so that they are left only inside / outside would reduce the need to take ownership and make the buses more reliable. Remove some of those other extra lanes and that cost could be further reduced.
The image below is what would fit into most of the existing hallway now.
It would be interesting to see the outcome of the consultation if such an option were presented alongside the new preference for a derivation.
Potential for urban redevelopment
Another factor that AT says counts against maintaining the bus route on Ti Rakau is that it has “reduced future land use opportunities” compared to the bypass option. At the very least, it looks like zoning and redeveloping the large commercial blocks on the south side of Ti Rakau would be much easier than it would be to acquire a large chunk of the smaller residential properties in Burswood.
One thing that strikes me about Burswood is that it is a peninsula that could easily be connected to neighboring areas with simple walking and cycling bridges. These could also improve the resort’s watershed and I wonder if locals should ask for some as mitigating the proposed rerouting. Some options might include:
- Westward to facilitate access to Riverhills schools
- North to reach the industrial area around Ben Lomond Cres – there is a Watercare site with water access which could be useful here
- To the northeast who could put houses there within walking distance of the station.
The botanical deviation
The busway is also diverted east to End of botany too with the proposal to cross Ti Rakau Dr, then cross Guys Reserve to a station which appears to be around Te Koha Rd. This station would also be the arrival point of the bus route from the airport to Botany which is being planned. This route would be a slightly faster trip than crossing the huge Ti Rakau Dr / Ti Irirangi Dr. intersection.
What surprises me is that AT opted for the option that opens on part of a reserve.
There are no images yet of what the Botany station might look like.
One less station
A further change from previous plans is that they abandoned the proposal for a station around Huntington Dr.
The Cycling Network
You will notice from the maps above that in Burswood the proposed cycle path also deviates from Ti Rakau. AT says the reason is safety and to avoid making him cross multiple alleys on Ti Rakau, even though he will have to cross almost as many alleys on Burswood Dr.
Looking at the map, there are only a few properties that don’t also have access to a side road like Burswood Dr or Torrens Rd. I wonder if AT could not have just worked with these owners to streamline the access to the aisles and keep the cycle path on a direct route.
A similar issue exists at the Botanical end but Botanical also raises another question, how do those in the east / northeast of the area access the bike path?
I appreciate that this project cannot deliver everything, but at least I feel like I have a bike path as far as the Ti Rakau / Ti Irirangi Dr intersection should be targeted here.
Flight over Reeves Road
As mentioned earlier, the plans at the north end of this stage remain unchanged and that means the flyover of Reeves Rd is still on the maps. As with the Burswood diversion, AT continues to claim that it’s about making buses more reliable and reducing congestion, even if it’s really about making it easier for drivers, which will encourage more people. to drive and will aggravate congestion. Also, if this is what a large transit project looks like …….
Why is AT adding or keeping slip lanes. And for pedestrians, there are up to five crossings they will need to make to get from one side of Ti Rakau Dr to the other, such as the southwest side (right side in the image above ) at the shopping mall. It’s not really a way of encouraging more pedestrian and cycling communities.
The consultation is open until December 10 and AT say they are hopeful that clearance work will be underway at the end of next year and that everything will be completed by 2026, which is a delay from 2025.