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A bus stop frustration

My regular trip to work in the mornings involves catching a train to Britomart and then transferring to a bus to get across to Takapuna. It generally works fairly well and I don’t mind transferring however there is one aspect that really bugs me, the bus stops on Albert St.

Takapuna is currently served not by a single route but by a collection of routes that pass through Takapuna on the way to elsewhere. The frequency is high enough that it effectively already meets the requirements of the new Frequent Transport Network of at least a bus every 15 minutes which will be rolled out across Auckland in coming years. There are a number of the bus numbers that run directly between the city and Takapuna before heading off elsewhere on the North Shore, the key ones are:

  • 820 to Takapuna
  • 822 to Castor Bay
  • 839 to Long Bay
  • 858 to Long Bay
  • 875 to Browns Bay
  • 879 to Long Bay
  • 895 to Waiwera

From the city services start on Wellesley St before heading north along Albert St before turning on to Fanshawe St. To get to the bus a quick walk to Albert St is required. Generally this is ok however it’s basically impossible to tell if I need to run for the bus or not as bus is too close to the start of its run for the real time system to actually know what’s going on.

Albert St Stops

The issue I have is that not all buses share the same bus stop which often makes it difficult to know which one to use. As an example the train I catch is scheduled to arrive at Britomart at 8am and depending on how on-time the buses are it means I’ll either be catching an 879 or 895 bus – generally the latter. The 879 (along with many of the other Takapuna bound buses) use stop 7075 while the 895 buses use stop 7073. There might only be 60m between them but that can make a big difference as to whether you get but bus or not. This is exaggerated by the fact that is basically impossible to know which bus is coming next. To combat this it seems the best solution is to simply stand between the two stops and to wait and see which bus comes first. To me that’s hardly a sign of good PT design and it’s also repeated further up Albert St.

Of course this is just one of many similar situations all around town – especially in the Britomart area – and is a hangover from the complete inattention given over to how buses would operate when Britomart was built. The whole area needs a redesign to better handle buses and that includes the need for dedicated bus lanes and improved stops on Customs St. I imagine any such major change is likely to be years away, probably not till after the new network consultation however it does occur to me that there’s an opportunity to do a few things.

  1. Clear up the confusion for passengers by joining all buses that go direct from the city to Takapuna into a single set of stops. In the case of the northern Albert St ones it could be either 7073 or 7075 however personally I prefer 7073 as it’s slightly closer to Britomart and also that 7075 is often used by isthmus/west buses as their last stop before Britomart.
  2. A single set of stops on Albert St would allow AT to much more easily advertise the (generally) high quality service that’s on offer.
  3. Provide more appropriate stop infrastructure e.g. if stop 7075 ends up being used only by isthmus/west buses on their way to Britomart it wouldn’t need the same level of infrastructure like signage or furniture as a stop that is picking up people from needs.

There are probably heaps of similar situations all around Auckland, where are the other ones that need addressing?

39 comments to A bus stop frustration

  • bbc

    I’ve had the same frustration when attempting to go to Takapuna recently, there appeared to be so many routes that I had to spend the entire time checking buses as they arrived as to whether they were one of the various options and added to that the bus stop I was supposed to wait was also unclear. PT that requires so much research prior to using it simply puts people off.

    • Stevenz

      Exactly. Unfortunately, transit systems are often designed to make sense to transit planners. When looked at from the perspective of the rider they can appear very different indeed.

      • bbc

        Issue in Auckland is that there never really has been an holistic look at how all the buses should be running to maximise efficiency until now with the new network. The current mess is a hangover of years of buses routes being added and removed, private companies running routes that maximise their profit etc The whole thing needs and is thankfully finally being redone by transit planners, and I can’t wait for the day.

  • Stranded on the North Shore

    Victoria Park!!! I know they’re talking about an interchange in 2016, but the current situation not only makes people run around the bus stop, but it’s causing congestion for other buses!!!

    If there was enough space, I’d suggest 3 separate long bays for buses (similar to Symonds Street motorway overbridge) for buses heading towards:

    1. Onewa Rd
    2. Busway or “express”
    3. Takapuna

    however that could be tricky to setup, as say going to Forrest Hill in peak hours, you’d catch “Busway” bus, but outside of peak you’d have to catch a “Takapuna” bus…

  • Barney

    I travel in the opposite direction from the North Shore so my bus dumps me off in Hobson St outside Liston House and I have to hike it down to Britomart. However on the return journey I catch my bus in Lower Albert St opposite Downtown where I notice that there is always plenty of kerb space on both sides of the street. There is just a few vans doing deliveries and the odd tourist bus parked up. I’m sure that this space could be better utilized in spite of the ocean breezes that beset the area.

  • rebecca

    I’ve also had this same confusion trying to head to Takapuna from further up Albert Street – not being familiar with it I just resorted to asking every likely-looking bus if they were going there.

    Going in another direction, late one evening, I once waited for a west bound bus outside the Surrey Cres shops in Grey Lynn, at what I assumed was the bus stop – given that it had a sign saying “bus stop” and a seat I didn’t think this was too outrageous an assumption. It wasn’t until two buses had driven past me that I deduced that the bus stop for west bound buses is fifty metres down the road past the lights, and the one I was at was only for very specific local services.

  • Kent Lundberg

    I’ve had to figure this out by trial and error over the last few weeks. I now just go to the 7073. Below is what the sign looks like. Could it be any more confusing? I find the service to Takapuna very useful and now jump at the chance of going to Takapuna. Door to door from the office is about 20 minutes with the help of a bike on the cbd side. The Takapuna Business Association should be thinking about how many people from the city, cruise ships, etc. would come to town if the route had better wayfinding.

  • Sailor Boy

    A better solution would be to just stop running the whangaparaoa buses through takapuna tomorrow and get the new network out asap

  • Myles

    There is a desperate need for more shuttles (820) to & fro Takapuna with Lake Rd Bus Station being the interchange to the burbs.
    When catching buses in Albert St a.m. one is confronted with many “Not in Service” rushing back empty. After all Takapuna is now a Metro Centre.

  • Richard C

    I did the train & bus to taka yesterday for the first time and just as i got out at britomart (@ 7:20am) and it rained, so got wet on the way to albert street. I agree with comments. I guess this is the problem of having so many buses in the CBD.

    It a shame the northern busway can’t start before esmonde rd and thus make takapuna buses go via Akoranga station

  • Chris O

    I wish more bus stops would have maps, particular busy ones served by many many routes. Had to catch a bus on Symonds Street the other week. All I wanted was a bus that would cross the motorway and drop me off the other side. But was there a simple way of finding out exactly which buses went to where I wanted to go? Like bbc, I ended up basically asking the driver of almost every single bus whether they crossed the motorway or not. Would it be so hard for busy bus stops to feature a map showing all routes served by the particular stop? (I notice some of the timetable posters have maps, but they frequenly only show the map for the route that corresponds to the timetable).

    And the AT mobile app is equally useless in this regard. (No I don’t want to use the journey planner. I want a map. A plain simple map!)

  • For a while I was working on the shore and transferring buses at Fanshawe St, opp Air New Zealand. There are an incredible amount of buses “Not in service” running during the morning heading to the north shore, particularly after 8:30am. You would think it would be in everyone’s benefit if they could stop and pick up passengers, rather than running empty.

  • Waspman

    I totally agree and you are quoting bus top codes that have as much meaning to most people as the Da Vinci code. Imagine Kingsland Railway station being call 8451,

    Since Britomart railway station was built Auckland lost its central bus station. Yes, not every route terminated and originated there but it was a hell of a lot better than at present.

    As it is the predominant PT mode why are we putting up with this shambles? Casual users often ask me where a certain bus leaves from even though they are only metres from it and I’m not surprised. It is extremely user unfriendly for anyone but hardcore bus users. You need to navigate maps, have fairly intimate street knowledge and understand those bus stop codes.

    Imagine if the ferries left from all over the Ports of Auckland from Wynyard to Fergusson Container terminal but arrived at different area just to add to the confusion!..

    Basic really but to much for our council to care about.. . .

    • Steve D

      > I totally agree and you are quoting bus top codes that have as much meaning to most people as the Da Vinci code. Imagine Kingsland Railway station being call 8451,

      You don’t need to imagine it. If you want to check the real-time data on the mobile app, you’re going to need to know that Kingsland Railway Station is in fact 122.

      FFS.

      • LX

        Odd way to set it up… Wellington you just type the first four letters of the train station name to get real time data. PETO for Petone etc…

        • Steve D

          What’s worse is that it’s not even possible to find out what the numbers are through AT itself. You have to click on the station in Google Maps to get the numeric ID.

          You can get the real-time information from the website, though, where there’s a dropdown list of stations.

          • TimR

            Yup. Ridiculous. AT could fix this overnight by including station codes on route maps / guides. Farcical, considering the idea of realtime is all about making life easier for customers.

  • BJ

    A similar but more complex scenario occurs with Downtown to University/Grafton/Hospital/MedSchool; Options include Howick & Eastern buses leaving from Galway Street. Waka Pacific leaving from around the corner and across the road on Customs Street. Then there is the MetroLink 625, and NorthStar 881 from Customs Street on the opposite side of the road from Waka Pacific. And to top it off, you’ve then got the Hospital Bus that leaves from Queen Street outside Britomart.

    So yes, heaps of services, but they are not within sight of each other. I frequently end up walking around the block in circles trying to figure out when the next bus is leaving. This is necessary because H&E are at the beginning of the runs so real time PID doesn’t work, and the inbound are frequently 10min late. All the buses seem to leave at very similar times; for example the 283, 595, 500, 550, and 881 are all scheduled to leave between 8:05 and 8:10am, and again the same bunching of the departure times occurs with the 500, 550, 334, 881, 625, and 532 all leaving circa 25 past 9although in reality add 10min to these times).

    With all these services to choose from, you’d think I couldn’t have an issue, but because they all leave from different places, and usually don’t leave on time, it happens you can be waiting for a bus say on Customs Street for the 625, and a delayed inbound Waka Pacific turns up across the street, headed back out exactly to where you want to go to the Hospital or the Med School etc. Or a Howick and Eastern turns the corner having started the route behind you on Galway Street; albeit 10min late.

    A train is also an option, I take this sometimes. However I’d then need to go into the train station to see the next departure, or use the AT PT app, which when presented with Britomart to Auckland Hospital doesn’t include the train as an option.

  • Graeme

    There are problems with the reliability of 258/267 bus services to the city from 993 Dominion Road at morning peak times (7 to 9 am). Both express and non express buses are not stopping, arriving late or not arriving at all.

  • john smith

    Too many separate stopping points for routes that should be considered as one route over an important shared section (eg City-Takapuna) > the problem you’ve described.

    Amalgamate these stops too much > problems when two or three buses pull up simultaneously. Very unfriendly for people with poor eyesight or those who are not adept at the 30m canter to get on the third bus in the line (which they need because they’re catching that bus *beyond* the important shared section of route).

    There is a sweet spot which depends on the total frequency and the number of separate routes which have the important shared section.

    A good way to go is: plan bus stops around the all day offpeak frequency; then have extra stops devoted to peak only extra routes. This depends on having a network that does clearly distinguish peak only extra routes (as opposed to increased frequency on all day routes).

    Even if the peak only extra routes also use the important shared section, the problem is less in peak hours because presumably the frequency is higher at all stops.

    • bbc

      I think the issue is that there are too many buses running from dozens of locations all the way into the city. Ideally, there should be trunk routes such as the NEX and buses heading to place elsewhere on the North Shore should connect to those at one of the busway stations. That’s what’s so confusing when trying to go from the city to one place on the route which all of them cover, there’s a confusing array of options. The exact same issue happens when travelling out West to somewhere like Pt Chevalier. In comparison it’s very easy when head back into town, as every single bus going past will take you to the destination you want. I’m hoping this is one thing the new network will be solving.

  • jonno1

    Why not drive? According to Google Maps it’s about 30mins/25km from Sturges Rd to central Takapuna, whether north via SH16/18/1 or south via SH16/1. Strangely, Google doesn’t include trains as an option, but bus trips (either route) take about 90 minutes. So, much quicker by car and possibly cheaper ($10/day direct costs).

    Or maybe just move to a Takapuna apartment. I recall a recent post extolling the benefits of living centrally to minimise transit time and costs. I support this argument, having moved some years ago from West Auckland to a central location near my then workplace. Although I now work from home, the centrality remains a benefit. A bonus is the enhanced capital gain (well, maybe not for an apartment, but certainly for a house).

    Of course, living out west and using PT may be lifestyle choices; I’m just canvassing options here.

    • bbc

      The purpose of Matt’s post was to highlight simple changes that AT could make to allow easier transfers and connections, in this case one from the train to a Takapuna bus. I don’t think Matt wants or needs any suggestions about moving house or driving a car instead.

    • Lena

      There’s very little free parking in Takapuna, and most of the streets fill up by 7am. Paid parking is about $10 per day generally, so that, plus petrol makes for a fairly expensive commute.

  • And the other option is to catch the NEX at Britomart and get off at Akoranga. It’s then about 20 minutes walk to the town centre.

    For me the NEX should be the way to Takapuna. The frequency on this route is tremendous and with the Takapuna passengers would be better. And from Takapuna it would be efficient to run at 10 minute intervals to either Smales or Akoranga giving a far better frequency than at present and far less cost as the route would be some 1.5km compared to the 10km or so to town.

    • The problem with that is the buses to Takapuna are generally pretty full in their own right, even counter peak they often have standees so that’s a lot of people that would be needing to transfer. At that level of patronage I think it deserves a dedicated service.

  • JimboJones

    At least your bus goes near Britomart – Dominion road buses, the second busiest route in Auckland, don’t get anywhere near Britomart, its a good 15 minute walk. Considering downtown is now the place to be, this isn’t good enough

  • Geogoose

    There are bus stops in auckland which have so many different routes running through them that its near impossible to figure out which one to catch.

    The complexity combined with the general unreliability means that even things like Google’s transit route planner is useless.

    • bbc

      Google Transit is more than hopeless because the timetables appear to be out of date for buses and well as trains and without real time it’s not much help.

  • Geogoose

    It’s been generally pretty good for me, although there have been times where the timetables get out of date. In the past I’ve resolved this by telling AT, who then have “sent a new file to Google” or something similarly clunky sounding. It is then OK for a while until it happens again… and it magically resolves itself after a while. I use it for route planning when going to places I don’t usually go to, and switch to the Auckland Transit app (not the AT one) for more regular journeys.

    Was in Tokyo not to long ago, where you could plan an elaborate multi-leg route with Google, and when you needed to change lines, the trains were so punctual, if Google said to get off at 4.17pm, you could, without checking the stop name.

    …I suspect that is a way off in Auckland.

    • Glen

      The Tokyo PT system is not only punctual, it’s amazingly well organised (I suspect the two are related ;) )

      For example, sites such as http://www.navitime.co.jp will tell you not only the quickest/cheapest/easiest (in terms of train changes) route, but also which car on the train (subway minimum six cars, most lines are eight or ten, suburban trains up to 15 cars!) you should get into the to be close to the exit when you get off.

      This is what you can do when PT has been an integral part of the city for years and years, and has been suitably refined. Given time and commitment from those in authority, it could happen in NZ…

  • Simon H

    Lack of a real CBD bus station is ridiculous. Trying to explain to someone where the bus might stop and where they might catch it from, without using phrases like “it’s the stop near Showgirls”… Have had the same problem as the OP on Symonds St.

  • On the opposite side of the street, 7072 and 7074 are very similar to Matt’s problem, for outbound trips to Ponsonby-Newton-Grey Lynn and beyond. Western, isthmus and Link buses stop at random along what appears to be a contiguous bus stop / loading zone / driveway.

    Consider also 7022 and 7093 on Victoria Street, divided by Queen Street. If you’re outbound to either anywhere up to Kingsland, or just heading to New Lynn, you’ll want to learn to dance. The 249 and 233 services stop by Whitcoulls, while the 22x services stop by ANZ. Luckily, the Queen Street Barnes dance is double-phased, so it’s often possible to pirouette between the stops while buses dwell or queue at the lights.

    Britomart itself is a maze of just-missed buses if you’re travelling outbound a short distance (say, city fringe, Newmarket, etc). There are loads of services combining to a theoretical frequency so high that if it was represented acoustically only a bat would hear it. The effective frequency, though, is sliced down to what a regular suburban commuter attached to a particular service would experience, because the bus stops are spread out and there is no useful real-time info.

    Probably all radial isthmus and western services that terminate at St James/Civic, Midtown or Wellesley, fail to connect with Britomart for trains, NEX, ferries, and several eastern services. The walk along Queen Street is not unpleasant, but often means missing a timely connection. It also doesn’t help with those inner-suburb effective frequencies for outbound trips.

    (I’m focusing on those relatively short outbound trips because it involves mounting the geographical ridgeline around the CBD by bus, making multi-modal integration with walking and cycling more viable.)

    Final pet peeve: inbound at Kingsland, stop 8211 only serves the 22x line, and the 249/233 line frustratingly merges with it only 70m ahead, yet the first shared bus stop is hundreds of metres away (and without real-time info).

  • Sailor Boy

    Actually says 900m, and yes walking. 15 minutes to cover 900 metres is outrageous. 10 minutes at a comfortable walk, 4 minutes at a very big push.

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