A few days ago Nick R wrote an excellent post in which he applied Paul Mees’s “network theory” of bus routes to Auckland’s North Shore, to come up with a basic “grid” structure that could serve the whole area effectively, and potentially in a way that would use the same or less resources than are currently required. There have been enough posts about the network effect recently that I probably don’t have to explain the idea too much, other than to reiterate that it’s based around transfers between routes, simple route structures and high-frequencies – to create a system that can actively compete against the car for speed, cost and convenience in cities with dispersed residential and employment patterns.
I’m going to look at the Auckland isthmus area. Out of all parts of Auckland this is the area where I think a “network effect” approach could have the most advantages, because there is a basic grid street network structure throughout at least part of the isthmus, and there are a number of employment nodes – meaning that the current “suburb to CBD” route focus has its limitations.
First of all, let’s not forget that we have a three line (plus Onehunga, to be opened soon) rail network within the isthmus. Usefully, where a strong grid street-network is least evident (in the eastern part of the isthmus) the rail network offers an excellent line to base bus routes around. So let’s look at the rail network first:
If we had the Onehunga line extend through the Avondale, as well as the CBD rail tunnel of course, then we could run loop trains around the whole isthmus – which would be quite useful. Maybe some day I suppose…
Turning to bus routes now, I have added to the map what I think are the eleven key suburb t0 CBD bus routes throughout the isthmus. I suppose if I were creating a true grid I would make these ‘north-south routes’, but as a significant number of public transport users really do want to get to the CBD, I think it’s useful to have these routes, which are significantly simplified versions of the majority of the existing bus network (and very reminiscent of the old tram system). Each route would run at 10 minute frequencies, seven days a week, plus more frequent during peak times. They would be supplemented by less frequent feeder routes to main interchanges (Local Connector Networks according to ARTA). Hopefully some of the routes could be “through-routed” from one side of the CBD to the other: Obviously some of these routes would extend further, into Waitakere and Manukau cities. However, generally I would want to avoid the routes getting too long where avoidable, as hopefully most people travelling from the west and south would be using trunk RTN services such as the railways or (hopefully) a future Northwest Busway.
The key to making this a network is in the next step, where we supplement all these suburb-to-CBD routes with cross-town services, to truly create a system where people can go from anywhere to anywhere. Cross-town routes are less likely to be profitable that the red-routes shown above (at least in the shorter run), but they are critical in making the system more attractive and useful as a whole. Four main cross-town routes, plus the Link Bus, are shown in the map below: The inner-most cross-town route (aside from the Link) was probably the most difficult to settle on, but I think that the route I have ended up picking makes a decent amount of sense: being Westmere to Mission Bay via Newmarket. It would integrate well with the railway station planned under the intersection of Newton Road, Symonds Street and Khyber Pass Road as part of the CBD rail tunnel.
Put everything together and you have, what I think, is a fairly simple yet comprehensive network. I absolutely recognise that you would need to supplement these base services with local connectors – generally linking under-served areas with the nearest railway station or high-frequency bus route interchange. The system certainly works best in the western half of the isthmus than the eastern, largely due to the street structure I think. There might well be room for a north-south cross-town service in the eastern part of the city, although to some extent the railway line achieves that purpose, so having all the bus routes running east-west could be said to supplement that quite well.
Overall there are eleven red routes, four blue routes plus the link bus. That’s 16 routes to run at 10 minute frequencies (higher at peak times). I reckon that’s possible using a similar level of resource to what we have now. It’s got to be more easily understood than what we have now: Simplicity is important I think. Simplicity, better frequencies, easier transfers and more direct routes.