Push for bus lanes in centre of road

By Mathew Dearnaley

Kerbside 24-hour bus lanes could destroy character. Photo / Dean Purcell
Kerbside 24-hour bus lanes could destroy character. Photo / Dean Purcell

Auckland Transport is being asked to consider running bus lanes down the middle of Dominion Rd while reviewing an $84 million upgrade project.

Its revision of the project, inherited from the former Auckland City Council, comes amid community concern that widening the road and banning parking along proposed 24-hour kerbside bus lanes would destroy the street's character and retail businesses.

Some members of the Auckland Council are also disturbed at the cost of an undertaking which transport committee deputy chairwoman Christine Fletcher warns is likely to yield diminishing returns.

She told the committee the existing bus lanes - which operate for two hours at peak times - had already alleviated congestion.

"It seems patently absurd to spend so much money with no good gain," she said.

Committee member George Wood said it was ridiculous for the old council to have already spent $18 million buying properties for the project.

But the committee resolved Auckland Transport should be asked to prioritise a more effective public transport "configuration" while also "accommodating community concern to protect and enhance the village nature of Dominion Rd and the businesses which form the centre of those villages".

On a suggestion of committee chairman Mike Lee, councillors decided Auckland Transport should be asked to look at moving existing bus lanes to the middle of Dominion Rd - a proposal the agency is considering for Pakuranga Rd and Ti Rakau Drive.

Under that plan, buses would stop at intersections to drop off and pick up passengers and traffic lights would help them reach footpaths safely.

The old council's transport committee backed down on parts of the Dominion Rd project at its final meeting in September, including the plan to extend the bus lanes to 24-hour operations and ban all parking for 4.5km, after former mayor John Banks received a petition signed by 6704 people.

But petition organisers are worried about what Auckland Transport may have in mind as it reviews the project before its board approves a preferred upgrade option in March.

The agency's major projects manager, Rick Walden, told councillors Dominion Rd provided an important north-south connection between the central business district and the southern isthmus and was "probably one of the few routes in Auckland where more people are carried by bus than cars".

John Hickey, a lawyer who lives on a street off Dominion Rd, was concerned that a staff report to the committee still included a diagram showing extensive widening of the route along all but three short sections through the Mt Roskill, Balmoral and Eden Valley village centres.

He warned that would only increase vehicle speeds along much of the road, exacerbating bottlenecks through the villages.

"It will destroy the viability and liveability of Dominion Rd," he said.

He also argued that the idea of bike lanes on each side of the road - which the old council proposed before dropping the idea in September - should not be revived for the sake of a predicted 6 per cent annual increase in cyclists from a peak hourly rate of 60.

"That means [spending] $84 million for 3.6 [extra] cyclists per hour."

Although cycle lanes were supported by most people who filled in consultation forms, Mr Hickey said they had not been told "the road was so narrow that the only way to have a cycle lane was to ban parking and narrow the 2m footpath and kill local businesses."

- NZ Herald

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