Auckland's Northern Busway to reach capacity a decade ahead of schedule

Auckland councillor for North Shore ward Chris Darby says the Northern Busway needs to be light rail by 2030.
Felicity Reid

Auckland councillor for North Shore ward Chris Darby says the Northern Busway needs to be light rail by 2030.

As a record number of passengers use Auckland's Northern Busway, a councillor says plans to convert it to light rail need to be brought forward.

The number of people using the busway in the past year will hit five million this week, and North Shore ward councillor Chris Darby said the route will reach capacity a decade earlier than predicted.

"More than 50 per cent of people who cross the Auckland Harbour Bridge are not in a private motor vehicle, they are in buses. There just isn't any plateauing in demand to ride the buses," Darby said.

When the Northern Busway opened in 2008, it was forecast to reach capacity in 2041. 

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However, Darby said patronage is trending above expectation, with a 17 to 22 per cent growth on the Northern Busway over the past five years.

"It's hard to envisage what traffic on the Northern Motorway would look like without the busway," Darby said.

Darby says the busway, which runs alongside the Northern Motorway, should be converted to light rail by 2030 to meet demand.

Darby said the bus route already has the infrastructure in place for conversion to light rail.

Auckland Transport (AT) is investigating different modes of transport for an additional harbour crossing, Darby said.

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The busway will be extended under the Northern Corridor Project (NCI) and will have an additional station at Rosedale by 2021.

New North Shore bus services, that increase the frequency of feeder buses to the Northern Busway stations and to the North Shore ferry wharves, are planned to start in September 2018 according to AT's James Ireland.

Darby said the Sunnynook Bus Station - which is one of the busiest on the busway and has a number of people who walk to the station - is an example of why not every station needs a park and ride.

It is not just the Northern Busway that is attracting record numbers of users.

Ferry patronage has also increased by 6 per cent, with 6 million passengers taking a ferry in the last year.

Darby said congestion in the ferry basin in downtown Auckland needs to be addressed so that the ferry services can grow.

 - Stuff

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