The Central Connector is a critical public transport project providing continuous bus lanes between Britomart and Newmarket. According to Auckland City Council, the project has the following benefits:
The Central Connector forms a crucial part of Auckland’s expanding transport network, linking into the Northern Busway at Britomart and connecting future bus improvement projects on Great South, Manukau and Remuera roads. It will also complement the rail network by providing a travel option to Britomart and Newmarket stations.Work to strengthen and future-proof Grafton Bridge is also nearing completion. The bridge will be able to accommodate heavier low-emission buses and other forms of passenger transport such as light rail in the future.
One crucial aspect of the project has been the strengthening of Grafton Bridge, with the plan to eventually make the bridge bus only from 7am to 7pm on weekdays. The bridge is only two lanes wide, and can only ever be two lanes wide. Therefore, before it was closed for maintenance last year it got very congested at peak hour. Redirecting a lot of buses over Grafton Bridge – as proposed by the Central Connector – would only add to this congestion if other vehicles continued to be allowed to cross the bridge, and undo many of the benefits that the rest of the Central Connector. So, to ensure that the money spent on the Central Connector actually achieves its stated purpose. Council spell this out quite clearly:
Upon completion, the bridge will be able to withstand a one in one-thousand year earthquake and accommodate up to 1200 buses every weekday. Accommodating more buses on the bridge is integral to maximising the benefits of the Central Connector busway and making inner city bus travel faster and more reliable. The bridge will be able to act as an important transport link between Grafton and the CBD, while retaining its heritage glory.
So far, so good. However, it seems as though the road loving politicians that actually make up the Auckland City Council don’t like the idea of not being able to drive across Grafton Bridge whenever they please, and have decided to waste ratepayers’ money and put the whole purpose of the Central Connector at risk, by undertaking further stakeholder and community consultation into whether cars should be banned from the bridge during these hours or not.
My feedback: don’t be idiots. Obviously the bridge has to be buses only from 7am-7pm. Use Wellesley Street bridge like you’ve been doing for the past few months and let’s get on with it. Somewhat fortunately, ARTA’s funding contribution to the project is based on the original proposal – so I hope their feedback goes something along the lines of “it’s buses only from 7am-7pm or you can find somewhere else to get the $14 million we’re contributing!”