A Tale of Two Bus Lanes

It was the best of travel times, it was the worst of travel times…

I was following a bus down Riccarton Road yesterday and was impressed with how efficient the new bus lanes are. In the evening peak hour this lane shifts around 800 people in 25 buses, compared to the traffic lane next to it which shifts about 700 people in 600 cars.

I took this video showing the bus whizzing past 67 stationary cars, saving everyone on board about 5-10 minutes I reckon.

It’s a great example of how bus lanes can help keep a city moving.

In contrast, I was following a bus down Colombo Street south earlier in the week and was unimpressed with how poorly that bus lane functions. This lane shifts nobody because, for a variety of reasons, bus drivers don’t seem to use it.

The reasons are:

  • Cars are illegally parked in it. This should be a relatively easy fix with more enforcement personnel and/or cameras (the Riccarton Road bus lane has several monitored cameras to make sure its always clear)
  • The lane is very stop/start. Every intersection it stops and buses have to merge back in with traffic. Just about every shop has carparks outside it meaning the bus lane stops and the bus has to merge back into the traffic lane.
  • There seem to be more cyclists on Colombo Street than Riccarton Road.
  • Congestion isn’t as bad on Colombo Street as Riccarton Road (or maybe it was just unusually quiet on this day).

The takeaway for me is that not all bus lanes are created equal. They can be an extremely efficient part of the transport system if designed and operated well. Conversely they can be extremely inefficient if the design is compromised and its not kept clear of parked cars.

Christchurch will be rolling out a lot more of these over then next few years. Hopefully more of the former rather than the latter. Then maybe people might think of their choice to ride the bus in the same way Sydney Carton thought of his choice to lay down his life when he said:

It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.

Charles Dickens

2 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Bus Lanes

  1. Great commentary as ever Chris, absolutely admire your commitment to a better transport future and the mode shift logistics.


  2. I think these were the first bus lanes in Chch?, it’s a long time since the original study.

    We had all these bus lanes designed using a simulation model & all showed time improvements for the concept design layouts.

    They were compromised in many places due to the need to retain parking outside shops, but it was also recognized that they needed to be supported by Council to get approval. If the demand justifies they can always be upgraded to full bus lanes in the future.

    One of the biggest issues was to either provide a bus lane wide enough so that cyclists can be passed by the bus or narrow enough so that they can’t, but not the dilemma zone in the middle.

    I always wanted to see them painted green for the full length so that they would stand out. The paint’s not expensive compared to the Northern Corridor.


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