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Bus route frustration

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).

130 - Constellation congestion

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.

130 - Greenhithe

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.

130 - West Harbour

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.

130 - Massey

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.

50 comments to Bus route frustration

  • Sailor Boy

    Welcome to every single north shore bus route

  • Barry

    All buses heading north from the Constellation busway station must suffer the Constellation Drive motorway interchange. During peak it’s atrocious, made worse by a very short light phase heading west to go under the motorway.

    • Fred

      That’s why we need to extend the busway to Albany, like yesterday.

      • bbc

        The 500+ million ‘upgrade’ of the interchange there has ‘future proofed’ for a future upgrade, code word for lets PT-wash a major wasteful road binge even though we never plan to do anything about it.

      • Luke C

        But a big change could be made very cheaply in a few months. Just add a bus lane along Constellation Drive. There are a variety of options where you could put the bus lane, none of them perfect, but could sure help for a few years before busway extension built. Outer lane probably better, and could have special right turning phase for buses to get them to the onramp Bus/Transit lane. These bus phases have been added as part of Panmure upgrade and make it very quick and easy for buses to cross over too the north side of the road.

  • TimR

    I caught this bus at Hobsonville Point in the last year, heading towards home in Glen Eden in the late afternoon. Downsides were exactly as you mention in west harbour, so much so that I rapidly changed my plans and transferred at westgate. The second bus, same company, went motorway to Lincoln road I changed again at henderson to get home.

    Positives included that at least the two interchange experiences worked: convenient and short waits. In fact I think I asked the first driver if we would get to westgate in time to change; remarkably she radioed the other driver, and the bus I got onto at westgate waited for me and other interchange passengers. Great for me but not really practical as a regular level of service

    Second positive was that the driver seemed to know all the regulars by name, and had a banter with them all as they got off. The radio was on, which no one seemed inclined to complain about, and the experience felt very friendly compared to isthmus buses. Good one on all customer experience fronts, Ritchies.

    As a suggestion: would it hurt if every other bus was express, using the upper harbour and sh16 motorways + Hobsonville Road? What does the new network provide for? There is enough growth going in in the Hobsonville area to justify increased frequency pretty soon i would say.

  • These confused routes; trying to be local but also regional will always only end up suiting very few people.

    Exactly the issue that the CFN will address, completing a region wide network of highly legible, direct, and frequent routes for other networks of local coverage routes to connect with.

  • Isn’t this one of the main reasons why AT are redesigning all the bus networks?

    • Yes, and the New Network will be a huge and vital improvement, but it remains our view that it still lacks a region wide top layer of the highest quality Rapid Transit Network. The CFN is devised to sit above the New Network and to work closely with it. Not least as a highly visible attractor to the whole idea of taking transit as a competitive option for many many more journeys.

      Current plans are the result of demand based thinking so do envisage a piecemeal elevation of some routes to RTN status but does not see the value in conceiving, delivering, and communicating this top level network to the whole system.

      Yet the Auckland plan calls for ‘transformational’ action to stimulate modeshare shift, and AT has been set aggressive targets for ridership. The New Network is a necessary and important building block in this. But we agree with the 2011 Benchmark study by Ian Wallis associates that concluded that Auckland’s lack of a top level RTN is a huge factor in its failure to attract people onto its PT systems.

      It’s not that we want our proposal in detail or name to be used but rather that the power a full network that is legible, well communicated, and delivers on the definition of a real RTN is understood and worked towards and promoted. We simply designed our own to show that it can be done and is affordable without anything other than fresh thinking and the decision to pursue it instead of following old habits.

  • nonsense

    I’m sure AT could just ask the bus drivers for some quick fixes but hey management (that probably never catches a bus) knows better

  • Loraxus

    Off-topic, but what job do you have in Takapuna, Matt?

  • Bex C

    I’ll be interested to see what other modes/routes you take and how you find them. I live in Henderson too, but too far from bus stations to catch them anywhere easily. My usual go-to PT mode is the train, although this has its obvious limitations if you want to travel beyond the train network. I’m very interested in how the new planned integrated network will work out, as the idea of a train/bus trip anywhere far is incredibly off-putting, and as you said, convoluted at present. Plus, very expensive! The thought of making my way from home to anywhere on the Shore does not fill me with enthusiasm…

  • mfwic

    Half the problem at the Upper Harbour motorway interchange is caused by the ramp signals. When it gets really bad they turn off the ramp signals and queues clear as if by magic (or if not magic then by common sense). It got a lot worse after the Hobsonville motorway opened and now more people are using the Upper Harbour route and it will get worse again once the Waterview link is finished. Honestly all I can say is well done for using the bus (I am sincere in that) most people who have tried it go and buy a car. The last time I got a bus to Greenhithe it went through the Unsworth subdivision at high speed and when I got off in Greenhithe it took me an hour to stop feeling unwell.

    The whole SH18 route has been poorly planned. Transit NZ knew when they built the Greenhithe section that they had no real answer to the Paul Matthews to SH1 section. I gave evidence for NSCC telling them that as did an engineer for the BNZ who later became regional manager for TNZ. The biggest issue as I see it is we build to address current problems. Each fix creates another that we can see in advance but the funding methods mean we dont fix it until it is an actual problem. If you look the other way along Constellation Dr you will see a tidal T2 lane that assumed everyone goes to the CBD in the morning and returns in the evening despite the traffic counts indicating that is not even the major movement. A bit less ‘policy fit’ and a bit more ‘efficiency’ in the decision making process might be useful.

  • JimboJones

    All the bus routes are like this. I think they are designed by people who think bus users are all unemployed bums that have all day to waste.
    I’ve probably whined about this one too many times now, but – one of our main bus routes, Dominion Road, takes a stupid detour just to suit a small number of people who could easily walk to either Dominion or Mt Eden. When I drive to the city down Dominion Road (off peak), from View Road to the Civic Centre takes about 5 minutes; when I take the bus, it can take more like 15 minutes via the stupid detour.

  • Waspman

    A classic but sadly not unusual illustration of everything wrong with our largely bus based PT.

    Rather than make a direct link from New Lynn to the North Shore where the passengers have already gathered for the trip the powers that be cannot help but roll 10 bus routes into one. What they see are savings and a service been provided. What they don’t see because they don’t rely on or use these services is a painfully slow meandering service that makes taking out a 10 grand loan to buy a car to use instead, a really attractive proposition. In fact taking a mule is probably almost quicker.

    Buses slowed and bounced around by traffic calming measures whilst negotiating narrow streets, traffic lights, intersections, ramp lights and heavy traffic is so the norm! And I am still furious that the massive spend up on the North Western motorway could accommodate rail link to Te Atatu or Lincoln Rd (park and rides) but will not.

  • mfwic

    I wasnt going to suggest this as it is a bit presumptuous because I dont know your situation but Matt given you have scored a job in Takapuna have you considered making the move? It really is a great place to live (although undoubtedly it was better before the super city came along to rip us off) It has everything you could ever want and easy access to the CBD although we found after we shifted to Takapuna years back we found less and less reason to go to the CBD. The other really good spot is Highbury. It has great access and buses, excellent shops and well priced housing and amenities and Takapuna or the CBD in 15 mins.

    • Loraxus

      While Matt might conceivably make that change at some point, uprooting one’s home for whenever one’s job changes in capitalism is great for the employer, harsh for the person. And not very equitable – I note that most rich people live about as far (or further!) away from their jobs as the poor… why don’t they move to the City Centre, and spare us their BMW congestion?

      Not trying to blast you, mfwic – but this website is about improving transport, not abolishing it*.

      *Though of course more mixed housing IS a benefit by reducing trips… agree with that slant of mfwic’s comment.

      • James B

        I always find it amusing when people talk about putting employment opportunities in the ‘burbs so people can work close to where they live. They fail to realise that a lot of people have reasons other than work for living where they do, such as schooling, social, family. Especially when you consider how many households have two or more income earners. Finding suitable jobs close to all the workers in a household might be impossible. Again I’m not having a go at mfwic. I live less than a km from work and absolutely detest it. There is nothing quite so boring as living in the same suburb that you work in unless there’s more to do than Mt Eden.

        • Steve D

          Timely: this article in the paper today about the negative consequences for kids’ education when their parents have to move frequently: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/9867561/Kids-dragged-from-school-to-school

          This whole “jobs in the suburbs” thing makes a bit more sense in a world with jobs for life and single-income families. But that world’s never coming back. Deliberately dispersing jobs in this day and age is just a cruel way of making people engage in super-long commutes and/or drag their kids from school to school on a regular basis. Particularly for people who are repeatedly going off and on a benefit, or working multiple jobs, or a series of very short-term jobs.

          The problem is squared, of course, because both parents are working. Or worse, if thanks to unaffordable housing, you’re living with extended family and adult children. Who all need cars and jobs of their own, working wherever they can.

          People seem to be really attached to the “city of villages” idea, where somehow each suburb can be a self-contained island. Well, villages are horrible places to get work. The country’s full of sad, faded small towns that collapsed when the only employer in town closed up.

          Dispersal is risky. Finding somewhere to live that’s close to everyone’s current workplace, and every future workplace they’ll ever have, is essentially an impossible goal. The challenge for planners is to stop making the problem worse, by avoiding sprawling ever farther out, increasing travel times and costs.

          • James B

            Yeah job dispersal often leads to crazy commutes. A friend of mine got transferred from the city to Albany. He lives in Howick, he’s happy there, his family is happy there, and he’s happy with his job. Yet he now has a crazy hour long commute on the motorway rather than the 40 minute one on the ferry.

      • mfwic

        Ok first I am not suggesting everyone should live near their work or work near their home. Second I live 10 metres from my work and have done for 14 years and I love it but that is my choice, it lets me hate commuting on buses, on trains, and in cars with equal passion. Third I was simply suggesting that if his circumstances allow now might be a perfect time to shift to the North Shore which many people who live here think was the best move they have ever made. Fourth anyone who travels 90 minutes for work has my sympathy. A company I worked for in London relocated to St Albans, I lived beside Wimbledon Common so my rail commute was absolute hell and I only managed it for 3 months, luckily I got a secondment to British Rail in Croydon. Something has to give as travelling 3 hours a day is not good for your health (remember the recent post). And finally fifth, most of us reach a point in our lives where we are rooted to a particular area because of friends, schooling, community connections and just plain stuborness. If Matt hasn’t hit that point yet then he would do well to think about his options and not dismiss them lightly.

    • I’d have to get my passport out to move overseas to the shore rather than just have a daily visitors visa ;-) but in all seriousness, it is something we might consider as wife works in Wynyard so bus would be quite easy for her. It’s not something I want to do if I can help it though.

      Fixing up the 130 route could easily see the journey time down under an hour and I’m pretty used to that on the train at the moment so would be quite happy with just that. Also things should improve via town slightly with electrification (next year for me)

  • What is the cost of a return journey like this? It sounds like it could be the price of a full tank of gas for my motorcycle.

  • Sarah

    Now that Hobsonville Road is no longer the ‘Main route’, and Wesley Road is no longer the ‘Rat Race’ option, and Ms Vanessa Neeson has her speed bump chance, couldn’t AT reconsider the traffic safety options and remove the speed bumps?

    With the exception of some changes around Westgate, and the busway, it looks like that 130 route hasn’t changed since I used it to get home from school 15 years ago

  • Bryce P

    Congrats on the job Matt.

    Best frequency / reliability I can see would be any of the 822-896 buses, transfer to train at Britomart.

  • I think it is clear that this is actually three local coverge routes rolled into one that is pretty useless for going end to end. I would actually keep that much the same, but split the routes into three for operational reasons. So something like constellation to Hobsonville, Hobsonville to Westgate, and Westgate to Henderson. What is really lacking is a limited stops bus.

    Something that goes from constellation to Henderson on the motorway, and only stopping at key nodes. Say Constellation, Greenhithe, Hobsonville, Westgate, Lincoln Rd and Henderson. Six stops, rest of the time on the motorway.

    • Bryce P

      Run buses from Silverdale to Constellation (rather than all the way in to the city) to enable an easy transfer to the NW or NEX? (Exclude peak express buses that can carry on to CBD.)

    • mfwic

      I dont think the bus stops at each of these areas to provide them with a service. It was more about joining these communities so they could charge the higher public transport rates. ie its about the money not the service.

      • There is no such thing as public transport rates, those neighbourhoods would pay the same whether they had that service or not.

        And that particular route is almost certainly a subsidised loss making service. If it were about the money then it would be cheaper to not run it. It’s about providing a basic ‘welfare’ service to all of those neighbourhoods. That’s a fine enough goal, some people rely on the bus for basic travel, but they should look at something more useful to most residents at the same time.

        • mfwic

          Yes you are right and I am mistaken. When the ARC sent out rates they charged more if you were in the area served by PT but the new Council must have ditched that. My guess was the ARC liked to subsidise a service through there not so much for the transport disadvantaged but to screw money out of the rest of us.

          • Steve D

            It’s entirely possible there was a connection at the time the route was drawn up, though. More in a sense of “now this area is in the urban area and paying PT rates, we’ll have to put a PT service there. What’s the cheapest shit we can get away with?”

          • Interesting conspiracy theory, but the ARC had a policy requirement to provide public transport to all neighbourhoods as a social service. They would have, and AT still do, spend a lot more to provide basic service to marginal suburbs than they gain from any associated revenue.

            Steve, yes there would have been that discussion. Here is an area of new (and old) suburbs, what can we do to cheaply provide a basic bus service to these people? It would have been that way, I.e. These people are ratepayers who require some service, not let’s add in a bus so we can make money off extra rates. I can’t see any way that would have been a positive impact on revenue.

  • Logan

    Have you thought of getting your own bus that goes directly from your house to your place of work? It would be smaller and maybe car-shaped. No inefficient routes because it wouldn’t have to consider the needs of other passengers. So cool!

    • Unfortunately there are hundreds of thousands of other small buses already in the way, and the roads they run on really do have to consider the other users, and cost an absolute bomb to build.

      I wouldn’t call crawling in traffic from Henderson to Takapuna each day cool.

  • Raga

    I cannot find a word to say ..how it was to in travelling 130..its sucks …from new lynn to takapuna …yeah i was working in takapuna and wanted to travel to new lynn for weekend and was certainly unhappy about the bus and route ….I love new zealand ..but this bus route really annoyed me ..sinice i dont have a car and no other way only rely on AT

  • grantb

    Will be interesting to see the alternatives you come up with. Would like to see cost factored in as well, though looks like the 130 is the recommended route on maxx at $5.60 ( and 1:27 hrs).

    Fun one might be to bus or cycle from Takapuna to Devonport (20 minutes on the bike for me), ferry to Britomart, then train to Henderson. Probably still take a hour or so but might be more pleasant than sitting on the bus for that long.

  • Sean

    The best part is of course that Hobsonville is one of the few big growth areas in Auckland under construction. Well see thousands move here and transport for them is politely said inadequate. Well also see thousands of new residents using their cars to commute to offices.
    Taking the bus the otherway ie the Northwestern takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes. How someone can plan routes so bad is beyond me.

  • Publius

    The 130/131 desperately needs to be more regular than once an hour off peak.
    It is very well patronised and deserves to have at least a half-hourly service all day.

  • Jacky

    but the thing is, 130. from hobsonville or even Westgate Shopping Centre to New Lynn will take 1 hour? surely is that any other way to make the route more shorter? I am so hoping that the West bus services can be improved a little more when times comes.,

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