Last Wednesday night, over a hundred locals packed the Bucklands Beach Yacht Club for a public meeting on transport. Organised by Pakuranga MP Simeon Brown, the meeting was focused on some upcoming changes to Pakuranga Road proposed by Auckland Transport (AT) as during the construction of the Eastern Busway.
AT Project Director Duncan Humphrey was onsite to brief the crowd on the challenges and respond to questions. He started with an explanation of the project and its potential impact on our area.
The Eastern Busway has the potential to transform how we travel around East Auckland and the $1.4B project is being delivered over four stages, the first being Panmure to Pakuranga. This includes a new intersection at Panmure, an additional bridge along Lagoon Drive and new bus station at Pakuranga Plaza all connected by dedicated bus lanes. Once completed, it will be capable of carrying up to 60 buses an hour and enable travel between Botany and Britomart by bus and train in under 40 minutes.
Work is already underway with houses being demolished along the path but there’s a lot more to come over the two year construction period. The contractor has agreed to maintain two lanes of traffic in the peak direction, but there will still be disruption especially along Pakuranga Road heading into Panmure. This is the sixth busiest stretch of road in the country and serves as a vital link from East Auckland. AT believe that they need to reduce the traffic by 10% and are using a number of methods to try achieve this. Some will be implemented immediately while others are contingency plans.
The first of the immediate changes is a park and ride at Lord Elsmore Park with capacity for 332 cars. This will be served by dedicated buses which will go express through to Panmure and for the first few weeks these will be free to encourage uptake.
The second immediate change proposed is a transit lane down Pakuranga Road for the two year construction period. This will travel westwards from Dunrobin Place (Highland Park) through to Gossamer Drive, then from John Lane to Brampton Court (Pakuranga Plaza). The transit lane will take out the existing left hand lane and there’s a gap because Pakuranga Road is already too tight on this stretch of road.
I’ve seen the business case and modelling behind this decision which supports the concept, but it’s getting mixed feedback from locals. Simeon Brown ran a Facebook poll which showed that 43.9% supported the transit lane (from about 400 responses). When asked about the park and ride, an overwhelming 76% of people were supportive although many noted this would require it to be cheap or free.
By comparison, Howick Youth Council ran a survey which found that 70% of 97 respondents supported the transit lane. This went up for bus users (93%) and down for car users (56%) which is fair and higher than I would’ve expected. Support for the park and ride remained high with 72% overall support with little difference between bus (75%) or car users (69%).
At the meeting there were a lot of questions about public transport in general, particularly about the New Network. These issues are important and are worth talking about separately - I’ll cover these in another post but it’s worth noting that there are plenty of challenges in the public transport. A number of locals present voiced concerns about Gossamer Drive and the issues that already exist turning left onto Pakuranga Road, with others expressing the same about Cascades Road.
AT will be running active monitoring which means they’ll be watching the traffic very closely and making adjustments as required. This includes live adjustments to traffic light phases to compensate for issues and they may explore options such as variable speed signs. Exactly how quickly AT responds to issues is something that we won’t know until these changes take effect.
And we won’t need to wait long - this is all expected to happen around the 15 April.