A letter from a reader to Auckland Transport that I was copied in on. It’s an all too familiar tale.
I am a central city dweller and I really, really want to support public transport – but you’re trying my patience and commitment. I’ve lived and worked in London and Sydney and owned a car in neither city. Back in Auckland I work reasonably close to where I live – so close that a car ride will take maybe 10 minutes. But I was trying not to own a car. A bus journey to work should take under 15 minutes – but that assumes the BUS SHOWS UP ON TIME.
This past week, I have wasted an accumulated estimate of close to two* hours of my life waiting for delayed buses. At a micro level, I’ve been personally frustrated, late for meetings and, on one night, cold and damp. At a macro level, the productivity loss of my time, multiplied by the number of people similarly impacted, is staggering.
*That 2 hours is only across 4 days; I walked to and from on the other day – and it was still faster than the previous day’s bus commute.
I’ve been experiencing erratic timetables for awhile on the 267/258 routes travelling from/to Queen St, along Symonds St to/from Dominion Road. (I get on in the mornings either on Queen St or the Symonds St overbridge). So, this week I decided to be more methodical about tracking just how little relevance the timetable has to reality:
On Monday, April 28th the week began in a manner prescient for the days to follow …
Arrive at Queen St stop at 08:44. 08:50 #258 listed as 7 mins away – on time then.
- 0849: 3 mins away…
- 08:53: The 08:50 #258 simply disappeared off the board. No “C” for cancelled appeared – it was as if the 10 people waiting had somehow missed the bus without noticing. I can assure you, we hadn’t.
- A #258 bus did pull up after that – but became “out of service”. As an aside, it would be nice if drivers, when approached by people who (reasonably enough) assume it’s their bus arriving, simply say “I’m sorry, I’m not in service”, rather than pointing and snarling “look at the front! Look at the sign”… that they’ve just changed.
Return trip from Dominion Road.
- Arrive at bus stop at 6:10pm for 6:12pm #258. No sign of it as the clock edges to 6:19, by which time a #267 should be arriving …
- At 6:35pm, a #258 scheduled for 6:30pm arrives.
Total delay in today’s commute: 33 minutes.
And Wednesday and Thursday and Friday, it’s much the same. Hoorah for the 08:53 from Symonds St on Thursday morning being only 2 minutes behind schedule.
I can only speak for my experience and, indirectly, those people waiting at bus-stops with me – sighing as they check the electronic board showing increasing discrepancies between scheduled and actual arrivals. But extrapolated across the city, how many thousands of residents arrive at work stressed because they’re late, or waste time every day getting to a stop extra early just to compensate for the unreliability of the service? If my experience is reflective of a common one, Auckland has a long way to go to be “the world’s most liveable city”, or its most productive.
Public transport is vital to the functioning of any city. When done well, it’s awesome. In the central city, I love the Link Bus; I’ll likely never drive within the CBD given this awesome (free with HOP card service). For those living further out of the city, I am sure that even if your bus is delayed, motorway bus lanes are still much faster than peak-hour car travel. It’s environmentally preferable. And reduces the need to waste precious land on car-parking.
But, for those of us moving around the city fringes, what can be done to improve services? I know a number of residents who also philosophically would prefer to take the bus (or train, when it’s expanded), but they’ve given up. Are my expectations of reliability unreasonable? Is my experience that the 258 and 267 route buses are routinely delayed by 10+ minutes within AT’s “acceptable” standards?
I’m just not willing to sacrifice 2+ hours a week to standing unproductively in bus shelters; I’m, with regret, off to buy a car.
I look forward to your feedback.