Now that I’m working in Takapuna I thought I would try out a few different options for getting to/from work via public transport and will write about some of my experiences over the coming days.
To start with I’m going to talk about the 130 bus which travels between New Lynn and Takapuna via Upper Harbour. I only tried this bus going home due to the timetable not exactly being friendly on the way to work in the morning.
In theory this service should be ideal as
- It provides basically a single seat journey between Takapuna and Henderson (where I live)
- Constellation Dr to Henderson has long been identified as being on the future Rapid Transit Network
But the reality is a far different story. PT services are always a balancing act between speed and connectivity and the 130 is a services that clearly doesn’t get that balance right.
Leaving the office at 5pm getting to the bus was easy and only a few minutes walk from work with the bus due to leave Takapuna at 5:10 so the timing was perfect. There were approximately a dozen people on the bus from Takapuna. From there it made its way to the Smales Farm busway station which took about 10 minutes with the bus getting caught in traffic along Taharoto Rd as well as picking up another ~6 passengers. The road is so wide that a bus lane should be easy along here however in the grand scheme of things it’s not the end of the world that it doesn’t exist.
At Smales Farm probably about another 10 people got on the bus before it blasted up the wonderful Northern Busway arriving at Constellation only a few minutes later. At Constellation another 10 or so people got on the bus bringing the total to 35-40 people all up which is a fairly decent load for a bus not going to/from the CBD.
Leaving Constellation the bus encountered what I thought was the first real problem that needed solving. To get to Upper Harbour Hwy the bus has to battle traffic on Constellation Dr trying to get on the motorway and it took almost 10 minutes just getting from the station to past the motorway interchange, a distance of about 500m. I’m interested to know if Northern Express buses to Albany also get caught in this traffic because if so it’s something that AT and the NZTA need to address (and quickly).
From Upper Harbour Hwy it diverts to Upper Harbour Dr and then Greenhithe Dr to serve Greenhithe. I can kind of understand the latter diversion but Upper Harbour Dr is odd as it is very lightly populated. As there are some other buses that do run that route (the 956), perhaps it would be better to keep the bus on to the motorway till Greenhithe Dr giving a faster journey will still retaining the connectivity at Greenhithe. The suggested change is shown in red in the image below.
But for the problems that the service has on the Shore are dwarfed by those at once it crosses the harbour. It starts when the bus comes off the motorway and then off Hobsonville Rd and travels along Wisely Rd. That looks good on a map as it bisects the houses in the area but Wisely Rd has a fatal flaw for buses as it contains speed bumps every 100 or so metres. This makes the bus incredibly slow along the road. It also then takes further detours to try and provide greater coverage which is really the opposite of what a more regional route like this should be doing. In saying this West Harbour and Greenhithe were the locations where the majority of passengers disembarked (perhaps 2/3rds) and for them it’s clearly acting more like a local feeder service. Keeping the buses on Hobsonville Rd would lose some, but not all, connectivity but would greatly speed up this part of the journey.
Perhaps the most mind numbing section was between Westgate and Lincoln Rd. The bus takes one of the most convoluted paths possible though roads barely big enough to fit a bus through undulating terrain. It’s clear that whoever designed this route only thought of trying to get as many houses on the route as possible and never considered actually making the service usable or attractive. This is of course on of the big downsides to a bus network focused on coverage rather than serving the most people. To me the bus should be run down the new Westgate Dr and then down Triangle Rd which like the Hobsonville example, would still provide some local connectivity but would reduce some of the worst parts of the journey.
All up I get the feeling that the 130 is trying to provide a long distance service but ends up getting bogged down trying to provide local connectivity. For a bit of a comparison it took about 20 minutes to get from Takapuna to Constellation station then another 40 minutes to get to Royal Rd though an area that doesn’t suffer from congestion.
All up from door to door (including a lengthy walk at the end) my trip took over an hour and a half which is probably almost twice as long as it would take to drive at the peak. Suffice to say I won’t be catching that bus again.
To me this is a good example of why we have such a high mode-share for driving. The PT options are simply not realistic except for people who don’t care about how long their trip will take. In many cases around Auckland the new network will help with issues like those described above (although not so much in this specific case). It’s definitely an issue I’ll be raising when consultation on the new network comes up for West Auckland later this year.