How to wreck a busway

Written By: - Date published: 1:30 pm, July 19th, 2016 - 20 comments
Categories: john key, local government, national, public transport, same old national, supercity, transport - Tags:

John Key City Rail Link

The Northern Busway has been an outstanding success.  The project started in the late 1990s and was officially opened in 2008.  It was credited with initially removing 500 cars per rush hour.  The parks around the stations were full shortly after the opening and drastic improvements in congestion around the Harbour Bridge were observed.

The busway works because it is for the exclusive use of busses.  The increased effectiveness and frequency of services means that catching a bus saves time as well as the stress of having to navigate rush hour traffic.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges has come up with an unusual idea, that busses should share busways with electric cars so that the uptake of electric cars can be increased.  It is good that he is thinking about how to incentivise vehicles with no greenhouse gas emissions but to let them use bus lanes will completely undermine the reason that bus lanes work.

Transportblog described the proposal as completely nuts.  From the post:

This is madness. The whole point of busways, bus lanes and to a lesser extend transit lanes is to make buses, which are much more spatially efficient, more viable and work better. They can make buses:

  • faster, making them more attractive to use and can also make them time competitive with driving.
  • more efficient, because buses are faster they can run more services can be run for the same cost or alternatively fewer vehicles and drivers may be needed
  • more convenient as if they allow more services to be run it means higher frequencies so less time waiting at bus stops.
  • more reliable as they’re more likely to arrive at stops and the final destination on time.

The introduction of bus lanes meant that far more people have been able to be moved along many key corridors than they would have otherwise. For example, the Northern Busway carries about 40% of all traffic crossing the Harbour Bridge during the morning peak – five lanes of traffic and 40% of the people are in fewer than 200 vehicles. On other corridors like Dominion Rd more than 50% of people are on the bus yet in both situations the lanes can look empty. But a bus lane that looks empty normally means it’s actually doing its job and allowing buses to flow, uninterrupted by congestion.

Adding electric vehicles to this, which will mostly be carrying only a single occupant, will undo some of the benefits and make buses less efficient. That’s because there’s a greater chance that buses will be held up or miss lights etc. It means a double decker carrying 100 people have the same level of priority as a single person in an electric car. And this isn’t just theoretical, back in 2010 the old Auckland City Council trialled changing the then Tamaki Dr bus lanes to T2. As the results of that showed, it actually had the effect of slowing other road users, especially the general traffic. One of the reasons for this is the T2/3 drivers would push back in to the general traffic queue to get around buses at bus stops.

But it appears that not only is the idea crazy but Bridges did not even consult with local authorities before announcing the policy and ignored advice to do so.  From the Herald:

Transport Minister Simon Bridges ignored official advice to consult with councils before announcing he would allow electric cars to use bus lanes.

He now faces a backlash with one council indicating it won’t implement the policy and another considering whether to enforce it.

Documents from the Ministry show he was told it would be “important to discuss” the measure before making any form of announcement on the Government’s high-profile, multimillion-dollar bid to get more New Zealanders into electric cars.

The advice said councils would likely be uninterested in allowing electric vehicles [EVs] in bus lanes because of the impact on public transport.

But the Herald checked with the nation’s three biggest councils, Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, and none say they were consulted with before the announcement.

Bridges claimed the proposal was necessary to improve the uptake of hybrid vehicles but the experience in Norway was that it impacted negatively on the operation of PT.

The proposal trespasses over areas where local authorities have primary responsibility.  In the future before doing so it is hoped that Bridges and the Government will at least talk to local authorities about what effects proposed policy changes may have.  And listen to that advice.

Reprinted from

20 comments on “How to wreck a busway”

  1. alwyn 1

    According to this story the Minister wasn’t going to allow the vehicles to use bus lanes willy-nilly.

    He claimed, back in May, that it would give councils the option of allowing it. It doesn’t say they must allow it. Has something changed in the proposal, was Bridges wrong in his statement in May, or is this post following the Green Party in misinterpreting what the Minister proposed?

    From the story it says
    “But Mr Bridges says it’ll be up to councils and local transport agencies to decide whether to let electric vehicles use bus lanes.
    “What we’re doing — and the Green Party’s got this wrong — is simply allowing this rule change,” he told Paul Henry on Friday.
    “Clearly the councils and the transport agencies are going to consult with communities, and let’s see where we get to.”

    Incidentally are cycles allowed to use the bus lanes in Auckland, or do they just do so because they can’t be identified?

    • Keith 1.1

      Push bikes and motorcycles are allowed to use “bus lanes” but not “Bus only” lanes such as lanes exclusively for buses on motorways and on ramps!

      • alwyn 1.1.1

        Thank you. I didn’t realise they had two kinds. In Wellington cycles can use all the bus lanes. Of course there aren’t any bus lanes on the motorways. Can be a real pain when the lane is winding up a hill, and the cyclist is doing about 5 kph with the bus unable to pass.

  2. Keith 2

    Am I being too cynical to think somewhere in the National Party business there are generous donors and or people who are making money out of selling new and used Hybrids and full electric vehicles, both of which are expensive and largely non attractive to buyers (Taxi’s excluded) unless substantial incentives are made available?

    Why else would you illogically degrade the operation of bus lanes, obviously getting worse over time especially when overseas experience tells you this will happen? And how will authorities tell the difference between the hybrid model and its petrol only clone without substantial resources being used to study footage of transit lanes? None of this makes sense unless someone is making a quick buck out of it!

  3. TC 3

    Wtf is that lying toady still a minister anyway after the northland by election bridges issue amongst other lies hes been caught out on.

    Hes clearly destined for a much larger bus to be thrown under when it suits them.

  4. Richard Christie 4

    When did the plural of a bus become busses rather than buses?

    Is “busses” US usage?

  5. Macro 5

    But! Nats are not interested in efficient public transport and saving the Planet! That sort of stuff is for the looney Greenies. This is about Simon and his mates being able to get about the city quicker in their Tesla’s. Now that is a priority – F**K the plebs…

  6. weka 6

    Transport Minister Simon Bridges ignored official advice to consult with councils before announcing he would allow electric cars to use bus lanes.

    He now faces a backlash with one council indicating it won’t implement the policy and another considering whether to enforce it.

    Does that mean that it’s not a government issue, it’s local body? i.e. the government can’t enforce it anyway.

    • Lanthanide 6.1

      Parliament is sovereign, it can do what it likes.

      • weka 6.1.1

        Yeah, that’s not what I meant though. I meant that roads managed by councils probably can’t be managed by government (as opposed to state highwways).

        • ropata

          Bloody great, the councils get to pay for all the development and expense of building busways, then some tosspot in wellington decides to fuck it up on behalf of his rich mates driving hybrids

        • Lanthanide

          Sure they can, the government just has to pass a particular act saying that their EV bus-lane rule overrides anything that a council does.

          Yes, it might be the case that the current proposal by the minister would not legally work. But the minister is fully able to draft a new proposal that does.

          • weka

            Yes, but again, that’s not what I am asking (how the govt can rule). I’m asking about within existing systems and whether the govt can even tell councils what to do in this regard. I’m guessing they can’t and that’s part of the fuck up with the announcement.

            • Lanthanide

              Well that’s already answered in the original article anyway:

              The proposal trespasses over areas where local authorities have primary responsibility.

  7. mac1 7

    Watch the Ministerial limos move to electricity.

    The cynic in me also says that this will apply to hybrids, to cars with a tiny electric motor fitted to circumvent the regulation, and to people who can get another opinion that their petrol engine is ekshully electric.

    Some wise spark will then postulate that his engine is electric because it uses high voltage current passed through an air-fuel mix for propulsion.

    The diesel fraternity will demand equality based on their low demand for free electrons, and anyway their engines are started electrically.

    Add-on electrical accessories will then become a trendy thing with solar panels and wind turbine generators being mounted on bonnets and roofs to attest to their electrifricity. However, special wardens issued with volt meters will be appointed to check that such vehicles meet the current standard.

  8. Macro 8

    There is a difference between hybrids and EV’s (Electric Vehicles).

    Hybrids still rely on an internal combustion engine (fossil fuels) for their primary energy source. They are more efficient than conventional cars because the ic engine runs for the majority of its time at its most efficient speed charging a battery as well as providing motive force to drive the vehicle. An EV’s primary source of energy is electricity stored in a battery and charged externally from a power source.
    Hybrids such as the Toyota Prius achieve economies of around 4.5 L of petrol for 100 km compared to cars of a similar size averaging around 7 – 9 L ( or more) per 100 km.
    EV’s are currently rather expensive and the cheapest the Nissan Leaf is around $30,000 for a good second hand car. They have a range of around 250 km.
    The Tesla is in a class of its own – but is expensive and well out of the reach of the average buyer. It has an impressive performance for a car buff (0 – 100kph in around 6 secs!) and the most up to day battery technology gives it a 365 km range. Still not enough to drive from Auckland to Wellington though.
    I gather that it is only the EV’s that Simon is considering from the post above. Peasant own hybrids and so they would have to travel in the car lanes like every one else. This is an elite society we live in now folks – get used to it. (don’t forget on Air NZ their elite customers get on and off first- the peasants wait.)

    • James 8.1

      It’s the model s that you want not the one you linked. 0-100 in as little as 2.8 sec it’s the mutts mutts. Sadly still a bit expensive but still sharper than a lot of cars with the same spec.

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