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The Wrong Buses

Since 2011, NZ Bus (who run the Link buses, Metrolink, North Star, Waka Pacific and GoWest) have purchased over 350 ADL Enviro200 buses for use – most of these in Auckland. These are the ones:

city-link-bus

 

NZ Bus seem pretty proud of these buses – noting the following on their website:

Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) is the UK’s leading bus and coach manufacturer, employing around 2,000 people at facilities in the UK, continental Asia and North America.

The fastest growing bus and coach builder in Western Europe, ADL encompasses three famous and successful marques – Alexander, Dennis and Plaxton. ADL produces a wide range of innovative and fuel efficient, low floor single and double deck buses, plus a full portfolio of coaches, welfare and mini vehicles.

ADL products offer real operator, passenger and environment benefits, all backed by an unswerving commitment to world class customer support.

In January 2011 NZ Bus announced a $50 million investment in new fleet and after an intensive search, we chose Alexander Dennis as our preferred supplier of fleet. Since then, NZ Bus has purchased 354 new Enviro200 buses at a total cost of approximately $140 million. These buses are of the highest quality, reliable, safe and with a Euro 5+ emissions standard, are environmentally friendly.

While the buses may have good fuel economy and less emissions than earlier types of buses, in a large number of ways they’re not ideal for the tasks we ask of them on many routes in Auckland – particularly when running City Link, Inner Link or Outer Link services.

Here’s a bunch of flaws these buses have:

  • The doorways are too narrow for someone who is paying with a HOP card to easily slip past someone who is paying with cash. This massively slows down waiting times leading to enormous operating inefficiencies, reduced reliability (due to slow boarding time) and longer trips (slower boarding times again is the culprit). For the lack of a slightly wider entrance to the bus the efficiency of the entire bus system is quite significantly undermined. This could be partially addressed by allowing people to buy tickets offline and/or having a policy of issuing no change, things that should probably be done anyway.
  • The aisles are too narrow. Perhaps due to the greater than normal separation between the two seats on either side of the bus, the aisle down the middle definitely feels significantly narrower than most buses. This makes manoeuvring around the bus really difficult when it’s full and once again slows down trip times hugely as people take ages to exit and enter buses when they’re busy. I imagine it would be even more difficult if someone in a wheelchair needs to board, as shown in this Campbell Live piece (from 11:20 but it is different kind of bus)
  • The seat layout at the front of the bus is completely unsuited to use on services where people are getting on and off all the time – like the City Link. The buses previously used for Inner Link services realised that it was worth sacrificing a bit of seating capacity for much greater circulation and standing area for bus services where people wouldn’t be on it for that long – but where loads may be really high. The ADL buses basically use a seating layout for an inter-city coach and then apply it to very busy inner city services – hopeless!
  • The buses are too small. While smaller buses are needed in some situations, I don’t know what possessed NZ Bus to invest in fairly small buses at a time when public transport patronage is growing and then to put them on popular routes. Very frequently people are unable to board packed Link services in particular – simply because the buses are too small and also because the silly seat layout referred to above means there’s hardly any standing room.
  • Low Ceiling height at the back of the bus. Because you can’t stand at the back of the ADL buses (ceiling is too low and there’s a sign on the steps banning it) once again the buses get so overcrowded that people are often left behind at stops. This doesn’t happen with other types of buses.
  • Really dark window tinting. The tinting on the window is really dark and while that is useful for helping reduce the impact of sun which in turn means the air-con doesn’t have to work as hard, it makes it harder to see in and out of the buses. Being able to see in and though buses was one of the key points made by Jarrett Walker the other day.

Overall, it feels like the ADL buses aren’t necessarily bad buses – they’re just being used for the wrong services or need a major internal redesign in order for them to work better. Key changes should be to shift to side-facing seats on Link Services (especially City Link) or preferably to use other buses in the fleet that are larger for these busy routes. That in itself raises another point, whatever happened to NZ Bus’s plan to buy some double deckers for busy routes? Another critically necessary change is to somehow make the front entrance wider – or perhaps allow rear door boarding with AT Hop cards to get around the narrow front door issue and make the buses faster, more reliable and more efficient.

I also hope that NZ Bus thinks harder about their next purchases to ensure that these same mistakes aren’t repeated. With the new bus network proposing many frequent services that will result in increased patronage over time, it’s important that we don’t get stuck with too small buses with too narrow aisles and entrances again.

63 comments to The Wrong Buses

  • Fred

    Spot on! I hate these buses – especially how slow they are to board as people with Hop Cards get stuck behind those paying cash because the entrances are SUPER NARROW.

  • Andrew

    Is it just me or are their engine noise also quite loud inside compared to most other buses?

  • jjay

    hmmm – not tried them yet given I am not using PT much at the moment (the 3 week olds only been on the bus once so far
    as I need a bigger pram with such a little one so its trickier) ….I have to wonder how friendly they would be for parents travelling with kids or prams and other users like my Mum with her guide dog …….do you have any inside pictures of them ???
    I know one of the concerns in the rejig of services was the statement they were going to use smaller buses on some services with the changes (but no pictures of buses) ……..certainly would hate to think the new buses were more accessible than the old …….of course out south we tend to get the older buses so it might be a while before we get those – which might be a good thing

    def if you get internal shots post them !

  • Geoff

    Is there a bus that has got the balance right, between wide aisles and properly spaced seating. I use Ritchies, who have lovely new buses. Some are enormous on the outside, you could almost install a mezzanine floor. However on many, the individual bucket seats are so close together it is almost impossible for two people to sit comfortably side by side.
    And the trade-off with the super low floor are the huge front wheelarches to squeeze between. Caught an off-peak in Massey, huge new bus, half a dozen passengers max, but two baby buggies and an elderly woman with a stroller and it was completely impassable inside. I think there’s some serious thinking to be done on bus interiors.

  • Michael

    They’ve also deployed these busses in Wellington. http://www.nzbus.co.nz/news-from-nzbus/8m-christmas-present-for-wellington
    As a regular user, I love the fact that the seats are wider – way more comfortable (I’m just an average skinny guy). I agree that it makes the aisles narrower though.
    I can’t say that I’ve noticed that the doors are narrow, however down here in Wellington Snapper usage seems to be more like 70-80% cash paying passengers are the minority.
    The ones here have inward facing fold down seats for the first small section that seems to provide good space for prams/wheelchairs – do the Auckland versions have this? I’d still say that people with a pram would still struggle to get out the rear door though.

  • Valid points! I use the red buses everyday and I’m mostly annoyed by their smaller size (not big enough to accommodate the crowd during peak times), and the tinted windows.

  • Linz

    These buses also seem exceptionally jerky when accelerating and braking. I’ve seem many passengers caught unawares and come close to toppling over.

  • One more thing is the noise the back door makes when it’s being opened and shut, and how slow this process is. I realise this is for safety reasons but it seems like a step backwards to me!

  • One thing they could do is take out the seats on the front section between the two doors and reinstall them running longitudinally down each side. That means a few less seats, but much more room for standing, moving around, prams, wheelchairs etc. The seat aft of the rear door could stay in the current configuration.

    That would fix most problems except the single rear door.

    Also fit two HOP readers at each door, one either side. And mount them back from the door a bit so that you can tag on the way through, not once you are stopped in the door hole.

    • Rob Mayo

      Good idea Nick. Better the seating be reconfigured (as longitudinal) within the existing buses especially on the city LINK, rather than replace the buses with another model. Agree with you too that one more HOP reader should be placed by the rear door.

  • john smith

    In a world of rising living standards, to compete with the private car, public transport has to focus more on comfort (this has been the trend of the last generation anyway, with airconditioning now standard for example).

    I think bus operators should look more at three abreast seating. The space of the missing seat is shared between making the remaining seats bigger, and wider aisles.

    In the common suburban situation where your standard bus is rarely more than half full, this is pure gain: more comfort at no cost, less pram-in-aisle problem.

    Of course for the peak period trips where the bus is full, there will be a higher proportion of standing riders and maybe a slight reduction in total capacity (but not much, as more space per person in the seats is balanced by less space per person needed for the standees).

    That’s a cost, but I think the benefit of a more comfortable ride for most people most of the day outweighs it.

    By ‘focus on comfort’ I don’t mean ‘always a seat’. It’s okay to plan for standees in short trip inner city situations, as with metro rail. For them, more comfort means
    - adequate handholds
    - aisles wide enough so that you don’t need to contort every time someone wants to get past to get on of off. Three abreast seats would allow that.

    Personally, I find the typical 400mm square bus seat a little too small for comfort: when all seats are occupied you are constantly distracted by the need to maintain and not intrude on personal space. I am a rather thin man of average height.

    Longitudinal seats are a pain in buses (more than in trains), because the high and irregular acceleration & braking mean you need to constantly brace to avoid being flung into the lap of the person beside you. They are not appropriate except perhaps a few for the old ladies who feel unsafe standing in a moving bus and like to sit right behind the driver.

  • Waspman

    I reckon the high tide mark in buses for Auckland was the Mercedes 305 model new for the ARA from 1973 -1980 and in service for a good 20 plus years thereafter. Plenty of power and acceleration, roomy, wide doors to enter and exit simultaneously , well ventilated, low floor, easy to see out of, smooth to ride in and I’ll take an educated guess, fairly reliable too. After that its all been down hill ever since with the exception of super low floors but that brings its draw backs too insofar as seating and ride goes. You get what you pay for I suppose.

    Yes the ADL’s are too damn small, not enough seats, jerky gear shifts and when NZ Bus plaster them in advertising forget about seeing out of them.

  • Harvey Specter

    I thihnk the ADL’s are under powered too (using a smaller engine) – probably a specific choice at the time to reduce road users which will no longer apply with recent changes.

    The Buses I use to catch in the UK had two wheelchair bays behind the front wheels with leaner seats. Most of the time, short trip passengers just leaned but if a wheel chair, or more often a pram (and once a christmas tree) boards, there is plenty of room for them without blocking the isle. They may have had fold down seats but they were up by default if they were.

  • George

    We need electric buses.

    Quieter, cheaper to run, zero emissions at source (and with NZ’s clean electricity, very low emissions overall), smoother, and something to attract people to use public transport. And now at a reasonable price and with proven technology.

    Let’s rearrange the tenders so that we have more control over the buses we use.

    • SF Lauren

      Issue there is that it is very hard to build additional green electricty generation of any significant output.

      And then you have the range issue without covering our roads with a web of power cables and sticking up hazardous power poles in the footpaths.

      • A lot of technologies coming out that don’t require trolley bus wires

        • SF Lauren

          But cost a fortune to install.

          • Across the lifetime battery electric buses are only marginally more expensive than diesel (due to much cheaper fuel despite heavy battery costs), and much cheaper than installing overhead power where it doesn’t already exist.

            Within five years Auckland’s buses will start to electrify,simply because it’ll be cheaper for the operators than running diesels.

          • SF Lauren

            I Wasnt talking about electric buses in general, I actually quite like them and you recall that I have been a long time suppoter.

            What I was saying is that some of the new technologies that have flash chargers at every bus stop cost a fortune to install.

            So like our new trains, although the trains are much cheaper to run we have needed to spend an extra $1 billion just so they can run on our existing rails.

          • You don’t install them at every stop however, just the main termini. With the isthmus routes for example you would only need charging infrastructure at the city centre stops. The buses could easily run out and back again on one charge, actually after a deep charge at the depot they could make several runs before needing a rapid top up charge in the city. The amortised cost of the charging infrastructure is included in that statement that electric is cheaper.

            As for rail electrification, that only cost $400m. The rest is the trains themselves and signalling and track upgrades.

            Nonetheless, it was cheaper to install the electric traction infrastructure, buy new electric trains and run them for twenty years than it was to replace the diesel fleet with new diesels and run them for twenty years. The operating savings more than cover the additional capex over the lifetime of the vehicles.

            So just like how electrification went ahead simply because it was the cheapest thing to do, likewise electric buses will appear very soon simply because it will be cheaper for the operators than buying and running new diesels. Buses last about twelve years in service, which means the worst right percent of the fleet is replaced each year, on average. It will take about a decade to convert to a more or less fully electric fleet once the first lot stacks up, although only a few years to get the busiest routes done.

            In the meantime, we might see a few tranches of serial hybrids like the ADL enviro (they do a very cool double decker version). Those can run electric only in busy city areas before firing up the Diesel engine to recharge the system.

      • TheBigWheel

        On the contrary we have loads of clean green renewable electricity in NZ if we want to tap it. Electric buses with made-right-here-in-NZ world leading IPT charging at bus stops and route ends is the way to go. No wires. No CO2. No particulates.

    • Don C

      Green unless you mean the 25% generated from fossil fuels :(

  • Here is another solution: Convert Queen St to a bus-only mall.

    Currently the red Link does about 5-6km/h, jogging pace on average. It would be very easy to get that up to 15km/h without traffic and with reduced intersection delays. If you do that you triple the speed, triple the frequency and triple the capacity… but with exactly the same number of buses and drivers and very similar operating costs.

    Triple the capacity would really take the edge off!

    • Bryce P

      Seems like a smart thing to do. Can we have a couple of cycle lanes as well?

      • Chris O

        Let’s see… we’ve got two lanes in either direction. You could have a full median down the middle, with the bus stops. Bus lane either side of the median. Protected cycle lane between the sidewalk and the bus lane. And maybe repurpose some of the now redundant inset car parks on Queen Street into pocket parks or something. That would also allow you to prioritize the east-west traffic flow on Victoria and Wellesley Street a bit more.

  • Dave

    We need electric buses

    Down here in Wellington, we have electric buses, but the same bus company as you have in Auckland uses them as little as possible.

    The ghastly ADLs now dominate services seven days a week. They are so tiny that on a route like Karori Park, they are full in about six stops and then leave everyone stranded. A trolley is big enough to take everyone waiting the length of Karori Rd

    Just why this outfit bought such ghastly buses is a mystery

    • Such a shame NZ Bus prefer not to use electric buses in Wellington as they have far superior seating layout, quieter and zero emissions.
      What Wellington and Auckland really need is articulated electric buses.

  • shorty

    I could live with most of the issues IF only there were more continous BUS LANES.
    Trips would be more pleasant and quicker.

  • SF Lauren

    I cant say I have an issue with our buses and their tinted windows. I find the non-tinted buses look cheap and are less pleasant to travel in. Ive never had any trouble looking out the windows either even if their is an extensive wrap. You have to wonder what portion of the population this is an issue for.

    • Do you ever ride a bus at night? Tinted windows make it almost impossible to see where you are.

      • SF Lauren

        I do quite often and have no issues seeing out the windowd.

        If people really did have an issue with tinted windows there wouldnt be an entire industry around tinting them and car manufactures wouldnt make them tinted to start with.

        Certainly in australia there are heaps of cars with aftermarket tinting.

        • Car drivers don’t tint their windscreens, in fact it is illegal because it interferes with forward vision. When you are a bus passenger, you need to see out the side window to know where you are.

          • tuktuk

            Do these buses have green tinted windows or brown/bronze tinted windows – can’t recall from memory. And yes this does make a difference.

            For some reason the green tint is more efficient at blocking out rays than brown. I’m unsure about the relative efficiency of grey tint. The new Auckland EMUs feature green tinted windows…..while existing SAs are brown or bronze tinted and ADLs double grey.

            This whole area is a very sensitive matter for passengers. But it may be a relatively straight-forward matter to fix for the next batch of buses with a change in the glass specification or colour giving much improved views out of the bus while maintaining thermal efficiency. I imagine that lightweight buses originally designed for UK operations with a very large glass area do gain a lot of heat during our summer and make air-conditioning systems work hard. I think improvements to the window specification would be a good question in future, for AT to put to NZ Bus and other operators, when ordering this type of vehicle for use on subsidised routes.

          • The green or brown lightly tinted glass is fine, it doesn’t have to be perfectly clear. But the links have an almost black tint, when you are standing next to one in the street you can’t see inside.

            See the photo above, windscreen and drivers window are more or less clear, passenger windows almost opaque.

          • tuktuk

            A green or brown tinted glass is fine…..only if the temperature inside the bus itself can still be maintained to certain temperature standards in the height of an Auckland summer.

            The purpose of the tint being to reduce the suns rays(ie glare and heat). If it is grey that is currently being used, then it may be possible to substitute the grey with a more efficient (and lighter coloured) blue/green and achieve the same interior temperature specification. A question to ask the bus manufacturer.

          • jjay

            Re the 12 year life span comment – -are you sure ??? I am pretty sure a large portion of the buses we use (South/Waka Pacific) would be older than that …………no air conditioning but that’s not as bad as I thought – when the air conditioning on a non-waka pacific bus we had as a sub failed and we cooked all the way home I began to realise opening windows and lower tech had its advantages :)

            Re window tints for new fleet – I think tints are a great idea given how hot the little ones and I get on the way home in the full heat of the sun on the “wrong” side of the bus in the afternoon – tinted windows would fix that – though if you can’t see out that could be quite tricky ……..also tints could be good for all ours eyes – since my Mum lost her sight she’s constantly drumming home the importance of wearing eye protection in the summer months ………so roll on tinted windows if you can see out …………def. not at all keen on narrower aisles though – that would be a stressful disaster in my situation

    • Bryce P

      I can’t stand it as a passenger. A very light tint is more than adequate to lower any effects of sun and the buses all have AC now.

    • Bbc

      When it rains it’s impossible to see out

  • Chris O

    I’ll add one other annoyance about the ADL buses – the god-awful beeping noise made by the rear door as it (sloooooowly) opens.

  • Exaucklanderinsydney

    What happened to those green link buses with single aisle seating on one side? They were perfect for that route

  • Andrew

    the Green Link buses are now running on the Go west lines

  • Charles

    I have to speak in favor of the ADLs. Don’t forget several recent purchases have been big 3 axle buses. It’s time there were some newer smaller ones. I was always mystified to see the Scania “bubbles” on the outer part of 163 with 2 pax.

    The ADLs are a good size for feeder or low density routes. Hoping when the integrated network hits that this purchase will seem to make more sense. Hoping also that, being smaller, they will stay solid a bit longer. Many of the 3 axle ones are already rattle-bang.

    Also, it isn’t that hard to tag on when someone’s paying, just requires a little big city attitude…

  • ADL’s are OK for some routes, but are not suitable for busy CBD routes.

  • Jacky

    Hi All, in the past that mentioned that they will be getting double decker on the nzbuses line? how come we never see this coming out yet?

    and also, ritchies, only 1 and only double decker running on the northern express line? that sad…

    jacky

  • TheBigWheel

    Agree with every point you make Matt. Slow boarding my biggest gripe. Plus while they’re nice and new and shiny, I can’t help thinking they look a bit “cheap”.. the wheels look like they’ve come off a transit van.

    Double deckers not so straightforward ‘cos of all those low hanging overhead power lines..

  • MrV

    As far as single deck, non articulated buses go. Can’t go past something like these. Photo below is from China, but they have them in Europe too. 3 doors allows quick load/unload. Room at from for wheelchair/prams etc. Anyone know who makes them?

    http://www.globaltimes.cn/Portals/0/attachment/2011/c2a364f6-ff40-495d-9b9f-a855a3cfa4f7.jpeg

  • Martin

    Whats the issue? SO NZ bus is using slightly undersized bues on high capacity routes, this will be rectified in time I’m sure, no different to here in the UK.

    I think you’ll find that these buses have been designed with Oyster/Snapper cards in mind and not cash. You may not be aware of it but cash will be withdrawn on TFL buses very soon (if not already) while most buses here (ie not just London)can now recognise contactless payment with debit/eftpos cards. No need for cash.

  • Ran Derson

    The seat pitch is what I hate most about the ADLs. I’m 188cm tall and I can’t sit in the seats with my legs together. It makes the journey uncomfortable and makes getting in and out difficult.

    Whereas the old green link buses were perfect. Some seats had enormous leg room but the others were still sufficient.

    The trains also have good leg room – hope the new EMUs don’t make the same ADL mistakes.

  • There’s a bit of performance issue, braking system and bit suspension has to go with the maintenance i say, yup definitely agree with Ran that seats are too compact but the walk way is bit wide, i guess its on purpose since a lot of people would have to stand as compare to sitting, still room for improvement just like refiling your ink when your cartridge runs out :)

  • john

    NZBUS’s ADL buses are really bad design, very small seat space. I like Richies’s Buses

  • tuktuk

    The ADL buses appear to be a tidy piece of kit, certainly more resolved from a design and styling point of view than the most recent Designline vehicles, one suspects much better mechanically too. As for discussions on size and technical specification, you have to remember the fundamentals of what these buses are – an attractive, light weight and cost effective solution. One could go to a larger and heavier model type, but purchase and operating costs would go up. It will however be interesting to see how well the ADLs last in service.

  • Sara

    I find this post a bit unfair; the buses are new, clean and quite nice – a big difference between some of the older ones around that are smelly, don’t have lights working properly and are very noisy.

    The doorways are too narrow: this could be solved with an education campaign asking people paying by cash to stand on the left. What slows the buses down is the huge amount of people still paying by cash – making the doorway bigger would only make a minimal difference.

    The aisles are too narrow: they are narrow – but getting in or out of a packed bus is always a nightmare, no matter how big the aisle is. Saw a gentleman on a wheelchair getting out of an Outer Link the other day and he managed pretty well, I’m guessing that having the wheelchair/prams area by the entrance without any seats in between is a good idea. Still, disability access can always be improved.

    The seat layout at the front of the bus – this is probably a good point in a City Link (only took it a few times) but on the Inner and Outer Link some of the journeys can take longer.

    The buses are too small: they are pretty empty after 8pm. I agree that during rush hour they sometimes aren’t enough but increasing the frequency or changing to a different type of bus during peak time (if possible) would solve this problem.

    Low Ceiling height at the back of the bus: most of the buses have this. Unless there’s a third door at the back this would only worsen point two. People tend to sit on the back if their journey takes longer and leave the front seats for people who get in/out more often.

    Really dark window tinting: personally don’t have an issue with this and can see pretty well outside. New Zealand sun is harsh and I’d rather have tinted windows than squint the whole trip.

    Just my two cents.

  • Jon Reeves

    The Mercedes Citaro (modern successor of the 305) buses are the best, l use them frequently here in Basel.

    Interesting to note, apart from the UK, l have not seen any ADL’s in use in any city in Continental Europe. I wonder why?

    I will miss the Citaro and excellent tram networks in Europe when l return to NZ to live at the end of this month.

    • Martin

      I”ve used them in parts of Spain and Portugal but given that Continantal Europe is left hand drive it would be cheaper to procure from a manufacturer such as Mercedes, Scania etc

  • Here is what a bus GO wellington Driver thinks of them

    “These buses are absolute crap. The seats are awful, the buses are way too small (for many of the routes they run on), the engines have crap acceleration and the transmissions are shoddy. I drive these buses every day (I work for NZBus, based at Kilbirnie depot) and NZBus are considering cancelling their order for the new ADLs, as they have so many problems, they are costing a lot of money in upkeep and repairs for new buses.”

    Source Comment:http://youtu.be/7mI-FPJrlpA

  • Ta toos

    So loud and ugly, I hate them all. I love the MAN busses

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