Backtracking on busway lane
Commuters will not get their promised Albany to Constellation Drive busway until after 2020, documents reveal.
Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee has approved a recommendation removing the busway from fast-tracked Northern Corridor projects.
This comes comes despite an April, 2014, announcement by the government to provide the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) with a $375 million interest-free loan.
The loan is to fast-track $815m of Auckland road spending announced by Prime Minister John Key in June, 2013.
Treasury documents released this month show four of five components for the Northern Motorway totalling $450m of the $815m spend remain - but the busway is not one of them.
The remaining parts, including three-laning northbound lanes on the Northern Motorway between Constellation Drive and Greville Rd, would be completed before 2020.
North Shore councillor George Wood is embarrassed and transport blogger Luke Christensen is mystified by the U-turn.
Wood says that since 1998 he has been involved with getting busways for Auckland.
"I'm disappointed. I actually went to the ceremony for this project and watched John Key turn the first sod," Wood says.
Christensen cannot understand the "short-sighted" decision.
"It's very hard to see why it was removed, the extension would really benefit North Shore people.
"You can get all the way from the city to Constellation Drive in 15 minutes. I was expecting the same from the extension. It could have continued the really fast, high quality service all the way to Albany," he says.
Wood says prioritising the extension would also send an important signal to communities even further north like Silverdale and Whangaporoa that bus travel is becoming dependable.
"The busway has certainly proved effective at getting people off the motorway."
Ministry of Transport chief executive Martin Matthews could not offer an explanation why the Northern Busway extension was dropped from fast-tracking but says it "may be considered for acceleration in the future".
In the meantime "investigation and route protection" is continuing on the busway, Matthews says.
Christensen stresses the importance of a getting an early extension, citing figures obtained from the New Zealand Transport Authority (NZTA) which show the number of weekday bus travellers going over the harbour bridge has more than doubled to 12,000 between 2004 and 2012.
"We could potentially be looking at a five-year delay here," he says.
North Shore Times