Birkenhead priority lane may go both ways

Commuters catching buses or car-pooling from Birkenhead to Auckland along Onewa Rd’s pioneering high-priority lane may also get faster trips home.

Auckland Transport is seeking public comment on whether to restrict one of the road’s two eastbound lanes to vehicles with at least three occupants during afternoon travel peaks, building on the success of the fast track now enjoyed by commuters headed for the harbour bridge in morning traffic.

The council agency hopes to operate a transit 3 (T3) lane from 4pm and 6pm on weekdays along more than half of Onewa Rd, between Church St and Birkenhead Ave.

That follows more than 10 years of running a high priority lane in the other direction, now down Onewa Rd to the motorway interchange.

Although it will leave less room for single-occupant vehicles, Auckland Transport estimates that buses carry about 41 per cent of people travelling back up Onewa Rd in the after-noons.

It expects cars carrying at least two passengers to boost use of a westbound T3 lane to 48 per cent of people travelling up the road, which carries about 26,000 vehicles daily, making it one of Auckland’s busiest routes.

The proposal will mean less parking on the southern side of Onewa Rd. Auckland Transport acknowledges that is likely to be contentious, but promises to minimise the effects by providing parking on side roads, with time restrictions.

Submissions on the proposal close on September 12.

The agency also intends upgrading the Onewa Rd footpath into a shared pedestrian and cycling facility, saying the new transit line will not be wide enough for pedallers using what is part of Auckland’s strategic regional biking network.ON THE WEB

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Written by: Mathew Dearnaley | Email Mathew
Published by: New Zealand Herald – nzherald.co.nz

Wellington Street on-ramp to re-open

The NZ Transport Agency and Auckland Transport (AT) have announced plans to re-open the Wellington Street on-ramp in the city’s busy Central Motorway Junction.

The NZTA is planning to re-open the on-ramp to all traffic in about six weeks after the completion of necessary work – including the installation of ramp signals and final pavement works – to ensure it is safe to use.

The recommendation to re-open was made after a detailed investigation by the NZTA, Auckland Transport, Opus Consultants and Beca Engineering of the potential effects on Auckland’s transport network from re-opening the on-ramp or keeping it closed.

The NZTA’s acting State Highways Manager for Auckland and Northland, Steve Mutton, said the agency and Auckland Transport would be discussing the re-opening plans with local residents and other interested parties over the next few weeks.

Mr Mutton said the NZTA and AT received 710 submissions about the on-ramp: 72% of those submissions wanted it re-opened, 18% preferred it to stay closed to general traffic and 10% wanted a partial re-opening-

“This is a strong response reflecting a high level of community interest in the future of the Wellington Street on-ramp,” says Mr Mutton.

The recommendation to re-open the ramp is based on a transport assessment which indicates there is current capacity for vehicles to use Wellington Street without affecting the performance of the motorway in central Auckland, except for a period in the afternoon peak.

“These findings, together with the feedback we have received from the community, have lead us to support the recommendation from our working group for an opening at this time.” Mr Mutton says.

Mr Mutton adds, however, that the findings also warn Auckland’s growth and development will have an impact on the performance of the city’s network in the future.

“While there is room now on the motorway network to re-open Wellington Street, capacity is expected to reduce over time as the network has to accommodate more and more vehicles. The NZTA and Auckland Transport will be working together to monitor and manage the performance of the motorways and local roads, including the Wellington Street on-ramp,”

Mr Mutton said ramp signals will be used again at Wellington Street to control access to the motorway.

“Previously between seven and eight thousand vehicles used the on-ramp every day. The critical time is the weekday afternoon peak. The Vic Park tunnel improvements mean traffic is moving more quickly and ramp signalling will help ensure the motorway operates efficiently and safely for all drivers”.

The on-ramp has not been opened to general traffic since May 2011 when it was re-built as part of the

Victoria Park Tunnel project. It provides additional access from central Auckland to the northbound lanes of the tunnel and the Auckland Harbour Bridge on State Highway 1.

The working group‘s review was conducted over three months from May.

Feedback on the most positive effects of the on-ramp’s closure included less congestion and delays on the motorway, improved traffic flows on local roads near Wellington Street, and improved safety around local schools as well as for merging traffic on the motorway.

Negative effects identified by those who made submissions included delays to travel times; driver and resident frustration, “rat-running” through local streets, more heavy vehicles using local roads and an increased risk to safety locally due to drivers running red lights, making u-turns and driving too fast.

Mr Mutton thanked local communities for their patience during the on-ramp’s closure.

“We appreciate that the closure has had an impact on a large number of Aucklanders and we want to thank them for bearing with us during the tunnel construction period and for contributing to the review.

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NZTA Media Release: 10 August 2012

T3 lane to stay, says agency

T3 lane to stay, says agency by LISA HONEYBONE
NO GO: Traffic queues next to the empty T3 lane on Lake Rd, Northcote.
Motorists aren’t using the controversial T3 lane on Northcote’s congested Lake Rd – but Auckland Transport is adamant it’s staying put.

It acknowledges that the lane, which requires three people to be in a vehicle, is “under utilised” but says it’s not willing to undertake a six-month trial of it as a T2.

Media liaison Mark Hannan says it is required to complement the T3 lane arrangement on adjoining Onewa Rd.

“Given the T3 lane and single general traffic lane arrangement on Onewa Rd, the left turn approach from Lake Rd is required to have the same lane configuration,” he says.

Mr Hannan says if the T3 lane was not in place, there would be a significant safety and merging conflict for left-turners immediately upon entering Onewa Rd.

The North Shore Times monitored the number of cars and buses that used the T3 lane during a 15-minute period at peak hour from 6.30am to 9am.

Four cars, two motorbikes and one truck used the lane while the queue of ordinary traffic was backed down the hill.

Eight cars with fewer than three people also used the lane to get into the petrol station on the corner.

The light phasing allowed between seven and 10 cars to turn left on each green arrow.

Mr Hannan says the T3 lane is in place for the purposes of continuity leading into Onewa Rd.

“Also with the limited capacity for general traffic turning left on to Onewa Rd, delays to traffic on Lake Rd will remain similar to that currently being experienced,” he says.

Eleven scheduled buses use the lane during the peak hour, four of which are school buses.

The North Shore Times didn’t see any buses using the lane all the way to the top but some blocked the lane while trying to get into the right hand lane of queued traffic.

Mr Hannan says this problem has been “noted”.

“It requires further investigation to try to improve things,” he says.

Auckland Transport is not willing to undertake a six-month trial of a T2 lane.

“Ongoing assessment of traffic operations on Onewa Rd confirm that the current T3 lane arrangement is the most efficient configuration for this part of the road network,” he says.

There are no other T3 lanes in the Auckland region although Auckland Transport is about to introduce one on Remuera Rd.

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Written by: LISA HONEYBONE
Published by: Auckland Now – North shore Times