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New North Road bus changes (or why I hate St Lukes)

Auckland Transport have proposed some changes to New North Road bus services – which is a good thing as the current buses are an absolute mess. Here are the details:

What are the proposed changes?

It is proposed to simplify all services running along New North Road to improve frequency and reliability and to reduce overcrowding.

  • Future services will be timetabled to create a frequency of at least one bus every 15 minutes between Avondale and the City, 7am – 7pm, Monday to Friday. During peak hours buses will run approximately every 5 minutes. No change to weekend frequencies at this time.
  • All future services will go via St Lukes. There will be no service on New North Road between St Lukes Road and Morningside Drive.
  • All inbound routes in central Auckland will go via Symonds St, Wellesley St and terminate at Victoria St in the vicinity of Victoria Park (see future services map).
  • Outbound buses will continue to use Victoria St and Waterloo Quadrant.
  • Services will no longer go via Bond St, Great North Road and K Rd or via Ian McKinnon Drive and Upper Queen St.
  • The deviation along Carrington Road, Fontenoy Street, Margaret Avenue, Martin Avenue, Rossgrove Terrace, Asquith Avenue and Wairere Avenue will be removed.

From Rosebank Road in Avondale all buses will take the same route so passengers travelling between Avondale and Midtown will be able to take any 221 to 224 bus.

And the thinking behind them:

Why are we proposing changes?

  • To make better use of the services that travel along New North Road
  • To simplify the routes from fourteen to five so that passengers will be able to more easily identify the bus they require
  • To increase frequencies along the routes so that passenger waiting time will be reduced
  • To provide local communities along the route with more frequent access to St Lukes (every 15 minutes instead of every 30 minutes)
  • To serve the new intensive residential development around St Lukes
  • To provide an hourly service along Patiki Road on Sundays
  • To improve trip time through the city centre by taking the inbound services via Wellesley Street instead of Waterloo Quadrant
  • To provide more capacity through Kingsland and Eden Terrace
  • To improve access to the Victoria Park area
  • To make it easier to turn buses around in the city as Federal St will no longer be available if it is turned into a shared space. To restart the next trip they will terminate and start in the same place

Let’s take a look at the current, rather complex, pattern of bus services in the area:

And what’s proposed:

 

Overall I support the changes, though with a few points:

  • I’m not sure whether it’s really necessary to keep the 224 running to Henderson and quite a few buses, plus the trains, already do that trip between Henderson and New Lynn.
  • It seems like all the express bus services have been removed, which is a bit odd and likely to be unpopular one would think.
  • Sending every trip via St Lukes basically just makes the trip for anyone who isn’t going to St Lukes quite a bit longer – which is annoying. While obviously St Lukes is a big trip generator, this just highlights that it’s in the wrong location – fundamentally.
  • What this route really needs is some bus lanes, especially through Kingsland shops where the buses get held up for ages during the morning peak.

It’s nice to see that Auckland Transport are still looking at ways of making small interim improvements to the bus network, in advance of rolling out the full new network over the next few years.

46 comments to New North Road bus changes (or why I hate St Lukes)

  • I don’t see a problem with the expresses being chopped. They only saved 5 minutes last time I checked the timetable. I used to live on New North Road in Mt Albert near the railway station and I would catch the express only because it was the bus that arrived at the bus stop. The time saving for me was not compelling enough for me to wait for the express instead of just catching the regular all-stops (or rail instead) during the peak. I do agree with your comment regarding the Henderson buses — I think they should just have one route to Patiki Road (chopping off the New Lynn/Henderson route) and passengers can transfer to rail or bus services at Avondale to travel to New Lynn/Henderson.

  • Nick R

    In practice the expresses actually took just as long as the all stops.

    • Feijoa

      Do the stats actually show that? As a daily rider my experience is the expresses are definitely quicker, particularly in the evenings. I’d guess 5 mins or more off the 20~30 min trip from Mt Albert to Uni. And it is much more comfortable than the stop/start of a non-express.

      Unless they do something like put bus lanes all the way along this route I think it is going to be bad for the bulk of the people on these buses. I agree it has greater good for the bigger picture routes/interchanges, but this doesn’t help most of the existing patrons.

    • Peter M

      As a daily rider, what would you suggest as improvements for the service Feijoa? Useful to get perspectives from people who use the route on a daily basis.

      • Feijoa

        Bus lanes. They’re terrible on New North Rd. The worst is through Kingsland in the morning peak, where the queues from the Bond St intersection reach as far back as Morningside on a bad day. Other bottlenecks are through Mt Albert shops, approaching St Lukes Rd, and between Dominion Rd flyover and Symonds St.

        I’d say the 2nd worst problem is plethora of routes and the variations. Unfortunately the ones I always let pass me by, because I know it is quicker to wait for the next bus, are the 2 existing routes that go via St Lukes so I’m not looking forward to this being forced on me. The 215 route is an annoyance I will not miss, but it is marginal by comparison ie. I’ll get on it rather than risk waiting for a more direct bus.

        I’d say say the next biggest problem is confusing departure locations and differing routes from the CBD and the slow journey around the uni if you get on at Queen St. I am looking forward to this change.

        Finally lack of Hop on the odd Urban Express that shows up, although this is more annoyance.

        Bus lanes would do a huge amount to offset the pain, but given the St Lukes detour seems to add 5 odd minutes, and then removal of expresses on top of that, I’d say things won’t be as good for me until the CRL.

  • Luke C

    Agreed that silly for the Henderson portion to continue to be attached to New Lynn to city services. Timetabling much more reliable further along the route if they all ran from New Lynn. The New Lynn Henderson buses should be part of a longer service to Westgate, or towards Onehunga.

  • David O

    Although they are not useful for me, I suspect the loss of service via Bond St, Gt Nth Rd, K Rd (the 205) will be an inconvenience for many people. Making everything go via St Lukes is, I think, a mistake. The stops at St Lukes are only intermittently busy in the mornings, and in the evenings they are mostly an annoyance, serving only a few people. The removal of express services is mostly a good thing, I would guess – most times I am on one of these there is some unfortunate who wanted to get off soon after Kingsland and is not allowed off until Mt Albert. That doesn’t need to happen many times before you give up on the bus…

    • Stu Donovan

      Sorry DO but I have to ask why you think losing the 205 is a problem?

      When I look at it I see:
      1. Many buses on New North and Great North; and
      2. The only unique coverage provided by the 205 is Bond Street, which is hardly very good territory – south side especially poor.
      3. The only rationale, then, for keeping the 205 is for those people who want to travel between New North Road west of Kingsland and Great North Road between Bond and Pitt Street (the routes converge again through the city centre).

      From where I’m sitting that market just seems too small to justify it’s own dedicated service. The question you have to ask is: Does the 205 generate enough trips on its own (i.e. that would not travel by another service) to warrant the additional complexity in the network and loss of frequency on New North Road close to the city? I suspect not.

      In terms of the St Lukes diversion, yes it’s not ideal. But not much one can do with urban form that is not “on the way”. I will say, however, that the relative attractiveness of rail west of St Lukes will increase with electrification, so even though rail is currently unattractive for trips of that distance I’m not sure that’s going to remain that way very long.

      The other thing is that New North Rd between St Lukes Drive and Morningside Drive is simply not very good territory; The rail line creates a huge barrier to pedestrian permeability and compromises the street network such that pedestrian permeability is relatively limited. In contrast, the area around St Lukes seems to have better accessibility. But that’s just me eyeballing it from Google Earth – may be an opportunity for a walk catchment analysis in GIS to compare the relative “market” for each alignment.

      Ultimately, while the St Lukes diversion is a slight pain for commuters, I suspect it’s probably better in the inter-peak and weekend network.

      • David O

        You may be right about the 205 Stu – I was kind of wanting to say something about this, because I don’t find all of the plan convincing. You may be right that the 205-only demographic is pretty small.

        On further reflection, I think my main issue is that we could stand to still have New North Rd buses that skip St Lukes in the peak – assuming that in the peak the frequency is better than 15 minutes. Once the frequency is 15 minutes, then I think routing everything via St Lukes is OK.

        So I guess that’s guarded support (as a regular user of these services) from me.

        • Stu Donovan

          Skipping St Lukes is something that I’m actually quite ambivalent about. Part of me wants to just say “toss off” to developers who build in the wrong place. Only problem is 1) no point crying over spilt mike and 2) there may be more patronage there.

          But if patronage data shows St Lukes not generating much, then I’d support dropping it and prioritising the through movement.

      • Liz

        But won’t the lack of pedestrian permeability mean that it’s incredibly inconvenient for people who live along/behind that section of New North Rd? As they’d have to cross the train tracks or walk up to the shops to get to the bus. I guess they can catch the train though.
        And a much more annoying St Lukes detour is the 233…

    • Taking Guns n Roses out of the mix seems a little odd. Due to the high density res buildings supposed to go along that ridge…

      Now those people won’t be able to go to St Lukes, their closest mall, and will probably insist on apartments with carparks.

      Huge cock up going on imho. Unless of course no residential will be going in and just more car dealerships are planned- then it doesn’t make any difference.

      I wish planners talked to planners sometimes (shakes head)

      • Stu Donovan

        Geoff, there’s loads of buses on GNR aside from the 205; service levels there are not a problem. And their local centre (and closest mall) is not St Lukes, but downtown.

        • Stu- The other buses along GNR don’t go to St Lukes though. That is the nearest mall. Westfield Downtown is not regarded as a real mall by anyone right?

          • Stu Donovan

            I consider it a mall. Plus you have the whole city centre at your disposal. General rule of network planning is to not try to provide a bus from everywhere to everywhere else, or you end up with a massively complex network that people don’t understand. Patronage on the 205 must have been very low, which is why it’s being pulled.

            And the comment on service levels was more about you suggesting that people will insist on car-parks if the 205 is pulled. That’s bollocks, the most important bus routes on GNR remain.

          • What are you on about? The 205 only runs citybound 4 times in the AM peak, and once outbound in the PM peak. weekdays only. How is that in any way useful to people going to St Lukes as a destination?

        • Sorry didn’t see Peter M had already addressed this.

      • Peter M

        Plus how many 205 runs a day are there. Like 1 or 2 each way? And only in the peak direction so pretty much useless for people getting from Grey Lynn to St Lukes anway.

        The new network effectively extends the Richmond Rd bus to St Lukes so when that’s rolled out there’ll be a great connection at all times, not just a piddly peak only variant that really only exists for AGGS students.

        • Thanks Peter, I wasn’t aware of the crap frequency. In light of this I have no objection, tally ho etc

        • David O

          The 205 is generally pretty full in the mornings, but not with people specifically waiting for that exact bus, just with people going into the CBD. Heading to the Uni, I sometimes catch it from Mt Albert if the signs say there won’t be a 210/211/212/213 for a while. Get off on K Rd and walk from there. I don’t think there are many people whose lives revolve around the 205.

  • Sending every trip via St Lukes basically just makes the trip for anyone who isn’t going to St Lukes quite a bit longer – which is annoying.

    Couldn’t you say that in the future once we get higher frequencies and the EMUs that effectively the rail network will take the place of the express bus services.

    • Feijoa

      I wish that were true, believe me, but an express bus can take 15 mins city to Mt Albert which the train will never achieve. And then there is Britomart vs. mid city.

      Add CRL to your prerequisites and then it is true, but 8 years of pain?

      • I find that hard to believe as a former resident of Mt Albert. During the peak I’ve been on buses (both expresses and all-stops) which took 30mins+ just to travel City-Mt Albert. The portion of the trip past Mt Albert Road is especially terrible with Mt Albert-Avondale taking 10-15mins during the peak while the train is consistently 3-4mins peak or off-peak. Needless to say it’s been my experience that trains during the peak time are quicker and much more consistent in terms of the time it arrives at your destination. Nearly every time I’ve taken the bus during the peak I have regretted it and I have since gotten into the habit of only using New North Road buses during off-peak periods when they do provide a superior service to trains.

        • Feijoa

          “Can” being the operative word – that is obviously a good run at peak, but does happen on expresses if traffic not blocked (and hence more likely outbound in the evening as you have bus lanes rather than the Kingsland queue). But likewise 30 minutes would be a bad ride for me, and I’d say all fall in between whereas the train is very predictable and almost 30 mins at all times. Given the massive variation in frequency (existing train every 15 minutes, buses at peak every few minutes) and the fact the bus stops are closer to where I get on and off (much closer in town) I almost never take the train despite finding it a much better experience on board. The train obviously becomes the better choice further out than Mt Albert if there are more traffic jams down the road, and of course a station is easily reachable.

      • Stu Donovan

        Hold on: The Expresses are being cut, but frequency is being increased. So while the in-vehicle time is longer, the waiting time is shorter (because frequency is higher). So you can’t just compare travel-times for an Express now versus travel-times for a normal service.

        To put it more formally you need to think about “Total trip time” as being equal to walk to stop + wait-time + in-vehicle time + walk from stop.

        According to MAXX the Express is only 2 minutes faster than normal service. So we only need to increase frequency by a little bit (i.e. reduce wait time) to get us back to the current travel-time. So in sacrificing the Expresses we have bought 1) more frequency for all those people who just randomly turn up (as opposed to catching an Express) and 2) a much simpler network.

        And being able to guarantee 15 minute service or better all-day gives people something they can rely on. Experience shows us how valuable that marketing power is; it’s worked a trick on Dom and Mt Eden Rds and the Links, for example. It’s the difference between needing a timetable and just turning up when you fee like.

        Basically, I’m suggesting that the benefits of losing the Express will be more than wiped out by the increased frequency that results. But as someone who’s quite close to these things I’m probably a little biased :).

        • Feijoa

          Hey Stu, I practice what you preach being a non-timetable reading total trip time turn up and ride guy. So I definitely value more frequent services, but is that planned for peak times when you already have a bus every few mins? For someone in Mt Albert or west, won’t removing expresses reduce frequency since slower all stops would require more vehicles to run? For those city side of Mt Albert I agree they will benefit with a few extra services.

          My gut feel is the express advantage is more than the 2 minutes of the timetable. Besides bus time tables never being accurate, my gut feel is it would be up to 5 mins advantage. I will wait as an all stops passes if an express is showing due in a few mins – RAPID roulette – and expect to pass it by Kingsland.

          I realise you and the planners have a very tricky job weighing everything up, but removing expresses and sending us all to St Lukes twice a day (frankly the last place I want to go) is just cruel!

          • Stu Donovan

            Hi Feijoa, I suspect peak frequencies are being increased as well, but cannot confirm that. My gut feeling is that removing Expresses is the right call because it simplifies the network, but I’m more ambivalent about St Lukes and would be happy for service to be straightened out through there if patronage did not justify the deviation.

            I would add, through, that NZ Bus would have been involved in these changes and they may have felt that St Lukes was worth serving. But given enough feedback you may be able to swing them – so give it a go. It will at least prompt them to take a look at the numbers if they have not done so already.

      • Peter M

        Highlights the desperate need for better bus lanes along this route. While the railway line is there, because of the giant deviation to Newmarket for most trips beginning from Avondale inwards the bus will probably be faster than the train – especially for uni students who use the New North Road buses in their droves.

        • Kent Lundberg

          Kingsland bus lanes are a no-brainer.

          • Feijoa

            And while the no-brained takes 12 months to agree, they could go out and put a sign up city-bound before the Bond St lights saying “buses only can proceed from left lane”. Immediate gain by removing the queue of cars stuck trying to merge as they hit the sole bit of bus lane on the route, itself rendered useless by being downstream of this bottleneck.

      • Luke C

        The train will achieve 15 min to Mt Albert with CBDRL.
        However there is a big hole for those coming from the inner West and who wish to go GNR Road, Ponsonby and the lower West of the CBD i.e. Pitt St.
        Would be good to have a service following the 205 route, but gets most of its passengers from transfers from bus and rail at Kingsland.
        Would be best to turn an existing service this way, not sure how often the proposed 220 is to run but this could be it.
        Perhaps all services could run along 205 route, however send it right along Wellesley to serve University.
        Would open up the lower east CBD for rail transport for those who live in Henderson.
        Maybe these transfer dependent services can be added once the network is up and running, however I note in other corridors CBD bound buses entering along same route are having split destinations within CBD.
        Either way should start advertising Kingsland as a bus rail transfer point so those heading for southern CBD have rail option.

        • Stu Donovan

          No, you just get off on Symonds and cross the road to catch the Link to the destinations you mention. That’s the benefit of integrated ticketing.

          Again, general rule of network planning is to hit the major points of demand with a simple, legible, and frequent pattern. If people need to go somewhere else then they may have to connect, but that is a better trade-off than running a service from everywhere to everywhere else.

          Better to focus on simple high frequency paths that operate all day every day, with connections at certain points to enable a more diverse range of destinations to be reached. Diversions such as the GNR one you discuss, when multiplied across a network, basically equals death by complexity.

          • David O

            So when do we get the fabled integrated fares NOT ticketing?! At the moment transfers still cost money, don’t they?

            If AT are starting to tweak routes based on concepts of frequency, legibility and transfers, then the fare system needs to change first, not later. It would be very easy to lose customers in the meantime, because their direct connection for $3.40 just turned into a $5.00 two-trip journey including annoying negotiation of uncooperative roads and pedestrian crossings!

            ‘Cross the road’ when the road is Symonds St is easier (and quicker) said than done… the devil here really is in the details…

          • Nick R

            You can’t make an omellette and keep your eggs intact. AT has to start cracking the eggs one by one and working towards the final outcome, they don’t have the resourcing to simply change every aspect of Auckland’s public transport system overnight.

          • Luke C

            Yes I defintely agree about death by complexity and very much support what is going on. However concerned the diversion via the link will double, in fact a kingsland Ponsonby journey is timed at nearly 30mins due to nearly 10 min wait for link, clearly no one from inner city will do that. I think Link bus frequency needs to be increased to 5 or 7 minutes at some stage at peak times, as a 10min transfer time is too long for a short inner city trip, as it can increase journey length by 50%.
            Maybe by proposed pattern for New North Road services will be preferable once CBDRL is in operation as Eden terrace will be served by CBDRL but Ponsonby/Newton still out of the catchment. I do think Ponsonby needs a more direct connection to the West at some point.

          • David O

            I’m not asking that all the eggs remain intact, just that we don’t break the eggs without a mixing bowl to put them in.

            Doing things in the right order is vital. Integrated fares are more important than is being recognised here. They have to come before any substantial changes to the network premised on frequent transfers. Because if they don’t, then people won’t be willing to transfer frequently, and that would be a big mistake.

            And promised improvements that hinge on the CBDRL are seriously pie in the sky when you die territory – “never mind that the service is worse, it will be better again in 10 years’ time” is not a winning argument!

          • Stu Donovan

            Integrated ticketing is sufficient progress to make some changes to the network. We’re not talking many people here; if we were there’d be more than just three 205 services (for which the bulk of passengers will be able to re-assign to other routes without needing to transfer.

            I’m willing to bet that the passengers we attract through these types of changes will more than offset any losses within 6-12 months.

  • David O

    During peak, when I would hope frequencies are 5 minutes, if every second bus goes via St Lukes that would be nice, but it’s hard to know if it really matters all that much or not. It feels like a pain in the neck when your NNR bus detours via St Lukes, but in reality it doesn’t add much time to the journey (except when the driver holds at St Lukes to stick to timetable – that IS annoying!).

    I’ve looked more closely at the streets that the skipped out segment of NNR serves, and there are probably not many who will be inconvenienced (i.e. will have a longer walk to a bus stop). Most locations north of Fowlds Park are as quick to get to NNR after the proposed routes into town rejoin NNR at Morningside. From Fowlds Park south if you currently use the stop near Rocky Nook Ave (gotta love that street name!) then you’re look at a 500m walk up NNR to Morningside.

    The worst thing about this walk is that for the last 100m or so you’ll see the bus you are about to miss clearing the lights at the top of Morningside Drive… ahhhh, the (ahem) joys of bus commuting…

  • Now: time to clean up Sandringham Rd, so that south-bound buses don’t do that silly little detour to St Lukes.

  • Mr Anderson

    Time to relocate St Lukes so we don’t need to punish everyone else to enable access to the mall.

    • Tram line along Morningside Drive to the train station? :-)

      • Luke C

        won’t help much as most of St Lukes catchment is outside the rail network, ie suburbs to the south east, and north. The south west has other malls at Henderson and New Lynn, which are improving. The biggest problem with St Lukes is not so much New North road, but how it goes against the grain of the tramline suburbs.
        The best we can hope for is the CBD and Lynn Mall to become more popular so people can catch high frequency services to CBD rather than battle traffic and carparking to get to St Lukes. Had a great idea that the council could play with the traffic lights at St Lukes to make access to the mall more difficult, and hence slowly choke it away.

      • andy t

        Interesting idea Bryce, would it be possible for the tram to run from St Lukes to Morningside then to Newmarket via the western line (operates as a shuttle between Newmarket & St Lukes)? At Westfields cost.

        Overtime AT could extend tram line from St Lukes down along Sandringham Rd. Post CRL & Nth Shore Line this line would act as the shuttle service between Mt Eden station and Newmarket.

        • All this tram talk has me hot and bothered.

          Anyone still keen on the Unitec- Pt Chev- Motat- GnR- K rd- Queen line?

          I know the roads are wide enough, at least from pt Chev to town + some of it is already built…

  • Pim

    I might be a little biased, living in Te Atatu, but maybe it would be a good idea to continue the 222 to Te Atatu and Westgate? There are a lot of people who live out that way who work along Rosebank, and it would probably help relieve some of the ridiculous congestion that occurs on the Northwestern motorway. Also with the massive amount of growth planned around Westgate, it would be a good idea to give them bus routes to where they could hypothetically work, including the city, but also the place with the most industry in west Auckland, Rosebank Road.

    • Luke C

      sounds look a good idea in the medium term Pim. Either this or building a busway station at the Rosebank Road interchange.
      Doesn’t need to go te Te Atatu township or Westgate, just the busway station planned at Te Atatu interchange. Here people coming from Westgate/Henderson can change.
      At the moment some NW buses have a silly diversion to Rosebank, I presume this will be canned.
      Hopefully extra connections like this will be added once the frequent network becomes successful, thus improving farebox recovery so more funding becomes available for extensions.

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