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“Buses as pedestrian fountains” – Jarrett Walker in Auckland

Some you may recall that a month or so ago my colleague Jarrett Walker came to Auckland to talk about public transport. In this presentation, Jarrett discussed some of his work on Auckland’s new network. The general thrust of his talk was that improvements to Auckland’s bus network will play a crucial role in Auckland’s future public transport network. Highlight of the talk for me personally was Jarrett’s suggestion that we need to start thinking of buses as ”pedestrian fountains“. That’s a point to keep in mind the next time you look at pictures of Auckland’s city centre filled with people enjoying themselves; many of those people will have arrived by bus.

Jarrett also emphasised the often overlooked fact that even post-CRL, significant numbers of people will still be arriving in Auckland’s city centre by bus, especially from those areas which are not well-served by rail. For example, buses will still be required on Manukau Rd, Mt Eden Road, Dominion Rd, Sandringham Rd, and Jervois Rd, which are some of the densest parts of the region. The CRL does not make buses go away, even if it allows their role to change in some parts of the region, and that buses will continue to be an important part of Auckland’s public transport system for the foreseeable future.

For this reason Jarrett suggested that we start thinking about how buses can be integrated into the city in a way that enables them to move efficiently, without clogging up the roads and detracting from urban amenity. And that means – in my opinion – that we need better bus infrastructure, like what you find in more enlightened cities overseas. Indeed, even Vienna – which is a city known for its relatively dense metro and tram network – has a bus system that carries 120 million passengers per year. That’s more than twice the passengers currently using Auckland’s bus network. Basically, there is no conceivable (realistic) future for public transport in Auckland that does not involve making better use of our buses.

Jarrett really lays down an intellectual challenge to people that “hate buses”.

Hate buses

In his talk Jarrett also emphasised that the best bus routes almost always make the best tram routes. So if you are a person who want trams to be part of Auckland’s transport future (and I would count myself as one of these people), then the best thing you can do is support the development of a high-quality bus network supported by appropriately future-proofed infrastructure.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the presentation, albeit without audio/video (technical difficulties on the day meant this is unavailable). In my next post I’ll upload a copy of Jarrett’s talk at the public transport careers evening that was held at the University of Auckland (again apologies for the delay with getting this uploaded; I know some of you have been asking for it).

And for those of you who missed hearing Jarrett on his last visit, rest assured that we’re already working to bring him back to Auckland later this year.

22 comments to “Buses as pedestrian fountains” – Jarrett Walker in Auckland

  • Steve N

    Yes indeed, those of us on the middle isthmus bit will continue to have no choice except buses. Frustratingly, AT already trumpet the Mt Eden route as a success, with frequent (5 mins or less) intervals, but it’s awful. Any passenger from Fairview Road onwards is lucky to get on board at peak times. After 7:40, it can take 15 mins to get from the Three Kings terminus to the first intersection at Duke St – I can walk the distance in 10 mins. So if I leave home at 7:30, it can take 35 mins to get 7kms, but any later and it can be 50 mins plus. The double deckers may resolve the “stranded passengers” issue, but only at the expense of even longer loading/unloading times. Every second bus starts deeper into Mount Roskill, so the times become more erratic.

    At the Britomart end, it seems to be a bus rule that the 5 min headway is cancelled at heavy rain, and no bus will turn up for 15-20 mins. Then of course, three bus loads of soggy passengers all want to cram into one bus. Where do they go? Probably delayed somewhere along the route.

    So, not a success :(

    If the bus lanes were extended full route AND the number of bus stops was reduced AND the double deckers implemented AND better weather shelters provided AND the buses can keep to schedule, then maybe it would be an OK service. In the meantime, I drive to Kingsland and take the train from there. More room, smoother ride, more relaxing, and decent weather protection at Kingsland and Britomart.

    • Well the bus is a success because it’s carry so many people. But it is becoming a victim of its own success in a way perhaps. I have also seen Mt Eden Rd buses bursting full at people, and often well after 6.30pm. Double deckers would improve the road and expansion of operating hours for bus lanes would also be required. For some reason Mt Eden Rd’s hours seem to be only 5.30-6.30 in the evenings, which is less than other roads. I’d be tempted to make them full time bus lanes, or at least a full peak period. 6am-10am inbound, and 3-7pm outbound.

    • Stu Donovan

      Yes, the Mt Eden Rd buses are a success. So much so that I believe they’re one of the potential routes for upgrading to double-decker buses.

      In terms of struggling onto Mt Eden services, I would suggest that every “successful” PT system I’ve ever used has a busy peak. Some days I found the metros/trams in Amsterdam so full that people could not get off them in time, let along get on. The peak is messy, I think that’s something Aucklanders need to get used to. In terms of there being space on the trains, I’d suggest that’s a sign of under-performance (and surely something that will change post-electrification and even more so post-CRL)?

      The impact of rain on service reliability probably reflects more on Auckland’s historical unwillingness to provide buses with corridors that are relatively protected from vehicle-induced delays. As a result, where it rains and congestion is worse, the buses are delayed. Hence the suggestion that we should invest in better bus services.

      Completely agree with the solutions you identify. Now we just need some political support for better buses. C’mon Auckland Council!

      • Steve N

        Stu, I meant the trains are more spacious rather than emptier i.e. there is more space between the seats and the aisles are wider. The Western Line commuter trains are definitely not empty! Even on a busy train, loading and unloading is easier due to the multiple and wider doors. On the fully packed bus, it can be very difficult to people to get off, and frequently the driver closes the door while customers are still struggling through the crowds.

        I’ve got no issue with the buses being successful and crowded, providing they keep to a predictable schedule.

        Three Kings is targetted for intensification, particularly with the quarry land becoming available for building. Puketapapa Local Board has been holding some consultation sessions, where one AC member glibly brushed off any concerns of PT overloading issues as the Mt Eden route already ran at 5 min intervals – so no problems! My worry is Auckland Council already see the bus routes as “fixed”.

    • SteveC

      tag on/off ticketing will provide better information on loading along the route, there’s probably a case for some short working to pick up the passengers closer to the city, as I said intelligent service design

  • SteveC

    Steve, I think that your final sentence underscores the point that Stu is making, that bus services and infrastructure need to be significantly enhanced to fulfil a riole that only they can play. Your introduction emphasises why that investment is needed.

    Intelligent service design can diminish the load of bus services on the poor old CBD, for example through routeing buses has long been resisted in Auckland, but a significant proportion of Newmarket workers come from the North Shore and the service through Ponsonby is token at best (I surveyed it once and it was empty by Symonds St). That said, Newmarket’s not an easy place to turn buses, but the principle still applies.

    • Some all day North Shore – Newmarket via Ponsonby buses would be good. It would be good if the 962 and 966 ran in the contra peak direction as well. There are people who live in Ponsonby and work on the North Shore. Even a half hourly all day service in both directions would be great.

      • Luke C

        I’ve wondered about a Northern busway then direct along motorway, exiting at Greenlane, then to Ellerslie, Penrose, maybe even Onehunga and airport. The rail network does give this possibility, however the slow journeys through the CBD will make this unattractive. A direct service should give a huge time advatage, so even though goes against some principles of frequent network, is still worthwhile looking at.
        Looking closely at the network it appears the CBD Takapuna services will run via Curran/Shelly Beach, then to Uni via either Victoria or Wellesley. So will be interchange with Inner/Outer Link at Ponsonby.
        In general NEX/busway has been great for North Shore transport, but those not bound for the wider CBD will still almost all drive. So be good to give more options to others while we sort out CBD.

        • Luke C

          also note the southern half of the Outer Link falls off in the 2016 network, as superseded by Balmoral Road crosstown service. However another Outer Link type frequent routes appears to 2022. Proposed to be Wynyard Ponsonby Kingsland Mt Eden Remuera Orakei St Heliers, so connecting with rail network along all 3 lines, so brilliant idea!
          However I propose that this should terminate at Takapuna, rather than going to Wynyard. Will be interesting to see if this service appears as a 30 minute frequency in the 2016 network.

          • Stu Donovan

            Hi Luke, Yes it will be there in 2016 at a 30 minute or better frequency. In terms of extending to Takapuna, that’s not something I would necessarily support – you can connect to the Takapuna-Onehunga service on Manukau Rd to complete that trip.

          • SailorBoy

            Or connect to the NEX at Vic Park to get to the Shore.

          • Luke C

            ok, good to see the Takapuna one through routed to Onehunga, can be hard to decipher that through route detail on the RPTP maps. I just think a lot of people commute from inner suburbs to North Shore, and CBD transfers very slow, hopefully this will vastly improve over time, but will take some time. Also terminating a service at Wynyard a bit strange. I guess I’m thinking about people that may come from down Mt Eden Road etc, if they have to change once at Mt Eden, another change at Ponsonby will put them off. But then I guess its 9 extra km each way, so maybe better spent elsewhere, esp in short term.

          • Stu Donovan

            Why do you think terminating a bus at Wynyard is “strange”? It is after all a major interchange/terminus for the new network, as well as a major development area.

            Basically, Wynyard is part of the city centre. I don’t think it’s strange to terminate their, provided that it connects with other services.

          • Just hard to tell what sort of journeys it is supposed to serve from Wynyard. Inner Link connects Wynyard to Ponsonby, and the City Link gives good connections to other parts of town. Anyone bound for inner suburbs won’t change at Wynyard to go on this service, when direct buses run right through the CBD. With the CRL (should be in place once this is frequent service) will get very quick journeys from Kingsland to CBD, much quicker than busing through Ponsonby.

          • SteveC

            Luke, again, a lot of it will be about reducing the demand for kerbside space and impact of buses in the CBD and don’g forget, this area is growing by leaps and bounds.

        • Your idea is potentially quite a good one and we definitely need to make sure that North Shore services serve the wider area as well as the inner city.
          Having North Shore buses go via Curran / Shelly is a good move I think. A transfer would be required but if that means a much better frequency than that is a much better outcome providing we have integrated fares of course.

      • SailorBoy

        There is a Ponsonby bus in the RPTP Louis.

  • Looking forward to seeing the careers presentation from Jarrett as well. I didn’t make it and was interested.

  • Kris

    In essence buses are lower passenger density version of a tram.

    Jarrett Walker is right – best bus routes almost always make the best tram routes.

    Been a regular bus user in Wellington, the ‘success’ of bus services is where travel is under 30 minutes of less plus having tap on/off ticketing system helps the matter.

    The problem with Auckland bus services, there is a still lack of will by the powers to, to look on how to work bus services with train services.

    This lack of will has been around since the trams were withdrawn and there seems of will to do something about for nearly 50 years.

    There are two underlying factors about Auckland bus woes, being the the future proofing the rail network and the motorway system.

    If there had been some foresight in building motorways from the early sixties onwards by allowing either rail or bus lanes in motorway designs, then Auckland wouldn’t been experiencing the urban transport problems it has.

    Whilst it is easy to say reduce the number of cars that are on the road, there needs to user friendly integrated public transport system available for people to switch.

    One of the key factors is, starting building the central rail loop, to increase frequency of train services.

    Auckland urban transport back bone is the trains and ferries, with the bus services being the ribs.

    The other, is Auckland Council and Auckland Transport to talk to NZTA, about future proofing new motorway designs/build with dedicated bus/light rail right of ways.

    Bus services should by feeders to trains, local bus services should operate from major rail stations, like Panmure, Newmarket, Papatoetoe, Sylvia Park, etc as bus/train interchanges.

    Bus services in the old Auckland city limits, be upgraded to allow user friendly travel.

    Those outer suburbs, who are not serviced by rail and is more that 45 minutes plus in bus travel time, have express bus services that feed into local services to communities in that suburb.

    Have an integrated ticketing system, so that people have one travel card.

    Yes, I am aware of the fiasco over Snapper/Hop but it would have worked, if Thales and NZTA was prepared to let it happen.

    if Snapper/Thales cards were compatible with each other, there might signs of people using public transport instead of their cars.

    But no, bureaucracy rules, hence the shambles on Hop integration and cost over runs.

    With regards to light rail is concerned, I think it is a dead duck. The cost would be high and neither central government and Auckland Council has the stomach for it.

    Extension of the Onehanga line to the airport would be a good move as a rail extension but has the airport company made plans for it their future land redevelopment.

    Until there is strong leadership from Auckland Council and Auckland Transport and has strong long term support from NZTA/Central Government, Auckland’s public transport system will still limp along as it is doing, with its not very integrated bus/train/bus network catering for a growing population and with more cars on road clogging an already congestion roading system.

    • Kris, are you at all familiar with the Regional Public Transport Plan? It’s entirely based around integrating buses with trains in Auckland, with train lines, busways and ferries as the backbone and frequent bus services as the ribs.

      What you’ve described about is all accounted for in the current plans.

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