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The tyranny of the peak

Recently Thomas Lumley, a Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Auckland and author of statschat and Biased and Inefficient, created a bot that follows Auckland Transport’s real time feed between 6am and 10pm and tweets every 15 minutes how many buses it can see active in the system and how many of them are on time.

I thought it might be interesting to track the results for a week to see if there were any trends with on time performance, such as during the peaks. The data I collected for on-time performance was interesting but what turned out to be more fascinating was the overall bus numbers. The graph below shows how many buses are active in Auckland throughout the day based and you can see that weekdays have a very similar and distinctive pattern to them.

I’m not sure the peaks could be any more visible if AT tired.

As you can see, the AM peak is by far the strongest with over 800 buses on the road at the highest point which occurs around 8am as people go to work, school or other activities. There are more than double the number of buses on the road during the peak than throughout the interpeak period. The evening peak is more spread out though reflecting that schools finish at around 3pm and that workers finish at a range of different times and/or have other activities after work.

But being so peaky, especially in the AM, is a bit of a double-edged sword. On one side, it’s a positive as it reflects a lot of people finding PT the best way for them to get around to work, school or their other activities and of course we want to encourage as many people as possible to use PT. On the other side of the sword, being so peaky means AT and its operators need to commit a lot more resource to the system than they might want or otherwise need, just to serve the customers they already have. That pushes up costs to run the network.

A queue of buses at Akoranga Busway station (and more were out of shot) – plus an airport shuttle van in the mix

To get an idea of the impact, let’s consider what would happen if could knock the top off AM peak during the weekdays and spread it out more. During the AM peak, bus numbers top out at about 830 buses while the busiest period in the PM peak is about 710 buses, a difference of 120 buses. From what I understand, an average bus can cost around $400,000 (even more for double deckers), that’s potentially $48 million of capital operators have tied up in bus that might only get used once or twice a day. On top of the capital costs of the buses there is also costs for larger depots, maintenance facilities – 120 buses take up a lot of space. On top of the capital costs are of course the operational ones and they can be substantial.

Trying to spread out the peak could have a lot of positive impacts for the overall PT network. Here are a few suggestions we could implement.

1. Add more bus lanes and bus priority
Adding more bus lanes and other bus priority measures is vital as they are able serve a number of purposes. Faster and more reliable buses help to make buses more attractive to users, growing ridership, but they also improve bus operations because they can mean a single bus might be able to run more services in the same amount of time. This means fewer buses are needed to provide the same capacity/frequency or alternatively more capacity/frequency can be added to the network for no additional cost. In effect this isn’t likely to reduce the peakiness but it can help reduce some of the additional cost associated with it. As we reported the other day, it appears AT are looking at more bus priority across the region.

2. Extend bus lane hours
This is kind of related to above but is worth highlighting on its own. Many bus lanes have very narrow windows during which they operate, often 7-9am and 4-6pm (although there are some other times). Outside the bus lane hours the road space is often handed over to the driving public for carparking. It’s common for drivers to target these hours in order to get a good space but given the roads are often still quite busy, it can cause havoc on buses driving around the city, making them less reliable. As such means passengers often try to catch earlier buses than they otherwise would just to ensure they get to their destination on time. Extending bus lane operating hours would help address this and make travelling on later buses more viable, spreading the demand.

3. Off-Peak discounts
Along with extending bus lane hours, it’s common for cities overseas to offer discounts for travelling off peak. The purpose is to use pricing to encourage people who can to travel at times when it’s not so busy and there’s spare capacity available. There are a couple of different ways it could be implemented, such as having it automatically apply when you tag on/off or having people buy a pass that is loaded onto their HOP card and entitles them to the discount. AT staff have told me in the past they want tools like this so we’ll just have to wait and see if it ever happens.

4. Improve Frequencies off peak
Along with improving bus priority and offering financial incentives to travel off peak, we also need to ensure that our transport network has the services needed to encourage use. In other words, not having half the buses disappear back to the depot at 9am. This is one of the key reasons the New Network is so important, as it creates a lot of strong all day network that people can use to get around.

5. Change school hours
As mentioned, everyone rushing to work and school at the same time of the day is why the morning peak has so many more buses at any one time. One option could be to shift the start times of some schools to later in the morning in a bid to spread out the demand. High Schools would make a perfect candidate for this, giving teenagers a chance to get more sleep and perform better. This is obviously outside of AT’s control but is a discussion we should be having as a society.

For those also interested, this is what the punctuality data looked like, you can see the peaks in some of the days but it’s not as defined as the bus numbers above.

58 comments to The tyranny of the peak

  • Excellent post Matt.
    Earlier in the week I found myself driving on Gt Nth Rd by Westen Springs just before 9am. It was fascinating to watch drivers take over the bus lane completely from 8:55. On one hand I was impressed how they mostly kept out of it till then (except of course where it disappears) as this is not always the case in AKL. But also I whatched the buses suddenly get trapped. Now if I was a bus user on that route, with its 7-9am bus lane, I would make sure i only used buses that were through there well before 9. So wouldn’t changing the span of the lane to 6 to 10, and increasing the spread of services alter this demand? It’s certainly possiblle. Surely driving demand doesn’t suddenly rise after 9? Or if it does that could only be because of the bus lane hours..?
    Is this another case of design creating an aspect of demand yet it appearing like demand is inflexibly fix, ie the peaky peak in the morning…?

    • Bigted

      I couldn’t agree more about the times, the old 7-9 and 4-6 are what is officially classed as peak but anyone in Auckland knows they need to be extended and hour each side. The same peaks are quoted to the transport industry that allows over dimension loads before 7am then between 9 and 4 and after 6 within city areas (Auckland is Albany to Drury and Whitford to Westgate) but those times only really make sense in the inner suburbs and even then AM peak is till nearly 10 and it starts again in the after noon around 3, at the outer limits it is more like 6am to 8:30 and 5:30 to 7pm.

      • Arum1i

        I wonder if 6 to 9:30 am might be better? How many jobs exist with a post 10 am start. I also wonder do retail shops in Newmarket and CBD need to open at 9 am. Perhaps, if somehow shops could do a 10 am to 6 pm, or something. That might allow the peak to be more spread out plus allow office workers time to do some post work shopping. ( I probably have not thought this through enough so I imagine that there is a fatal flaw in it somewhere). But if something like this could be done with extending peak services to 7 pm or later at night then we might get better use of PT plus a more livable city.

        • 01anthony

          I think retail hours your bang on … I noticed in Vancouver many malls and shops aren’t open until 10am and close at 7pm or later. Perfect for after ‘office hours’ shoppers.

          I strongly agree that bus lane hours should be extended. They are moving more people more efficiently / effectively than cars. And if the ‘peak’ is the reasons for the bus lanes, then why do other vehicles need two lanes after the ‘peak’ because then surely all traffic is reduced????

        • I don’t think there is a fatal flaw at all, it’s an idea with plenty of merit. I imagine inertia is one of the biggest challenges to this, by changing from 9 – 6 to 10 – 7, a business will loose customers that usually come between 9 and 10, but may not gain customers who would come between 6 and 7 as they may not be aware of the new hours and also if other shops are not open then there wont be a walk-up crowd.

          • Sailor Boy

            I can understand this is many places but Queen Street confuses me. 1,000s of people walking past at 6pm and all of the retail stores have to kick customers out in order to close.

          • There are over 100,000 employees in the city centre, and shops close just as they all start to head home. Crazy.

            I think the city business association wanted to shift hours to closing at 7 or something… but got shot down by the unions saying that shop workers had to get home to cook dinner for their kids. I don’t think they have the right demographic in mind. If they need people to work late shifts, there is an army of university students in the city centre who would be happy to do a half shift of retail in the evenings.

          • Roger W

            @Nick R – but .. how many of that 100,000 are working in the shops and hence would NOT be leaving at 5 or 6 if they were open until 7? After all, that is “spreading the peak load”

          • Bryan

            Gucci Queen St is open 10am to 7pm. Glassons Queens St 8:30am – 7pm. Smith & Caugheys 9:30am – 6:30pm.

          • nonsense

            At Nick R. Stop blaming the Union the only unionized places in queen st are the ones that do keep open till late like MC Donald’s and the supermarkets! More likely risk averse business owners

    • Tom Jackson

      I was dumbfounded to observe that the Mt Eden bus lane operates from 4:30-5:30pm.

      • That’s the best! Manages to perfectly miss both the post school rush and the post work one… which no doubt was the thinking; can’t have buses holding up drivers, oh sigh.

        That there is still road side parking in the Mt Eden shops also shows the power of whinging shop keepers too.

        • Out in the sticks. Um, out on the North Shore it roughly goes like this. Say you’re in Milford, and you want to go to the city. There’s an hourly bus, scheduled departures are 17:50, 18:50, 19:50. But when will a bus actually show up? Maybe at 6pm. More likely around 6:30pm. Nobody can tell beforehand, since there’s no bus lanes on East Coast Road. All you know (thanks to track-my-bus) is that your bus is still somewhere around Browns Bay at 17:50.

          You isthmus dwellers don’t realise how spoilt you are 😉 .

          That said, I’m not sure which one is more stupid. No bus lanes, or spending money on bus lanes and then restricting them to 4:30-5:30pm. D’oh.

          Speaking of shops, contrary to popular belief, driving and finding parking can be a lot less convenient than getting off a bus, and waiting for the next bus 20 minutes later. Assuming you’re waiting for a frequent service.

          • Yes the Shore is certainly crap. I came back from Albany today and caught a connection at Smales Farm. Not surprisingly the first two advertised services were showing as being late: 15 minutes and 6 minutes respectively. And then bizarrely a bus arrived that was not showing on the board.
            I took the 891 to get from Takapuna to Albany in the morning -51 minutes to go 12.3km (is my maths right 14.5 kph?)
            And this will never get better without bus lanes. It is a waste of time just putting in a new network next year if it going to be on the same congested roads.
            The really galling thing is that AT are taking the urine. Month after month they are publishing bus reliability figures that they must know to be wrong. And if they don’t then they must surely be incompetent.
            I am sure that there are some good people that work for AT, but the top echelon is past their use by date. Yes their PR releases look great , but from a customer point of view they simply don’t deliver.

    • Greg N

      Patrick all bus lanes [and clearways] are like that in the morning. Swamped by parking and other traffic well before 9am. some places it starts after 8:30am!

      I’d also venture to suggest that anyone aiming to be at work [or a lecture] for a 9am or so start would not be on a bus passing Western Springs at 8:55am, unless said bus was running very late.

      The short term fix for the “by 8:55 the bus lanes is no more” issue is to extend the bus lanes operation by an extra half an hour to 9:30am and enforce it – better.

      The longer term fix is to make all bus lanes 24×7 within the isthmus. Then people don’t get an idea that bus lanes are just a form of clearway.
      They’re not, they’re for buses.

      When we get joined up thinking from AT, we might get joined up bus lanes, but until then, there is no chance in hell of meaningful progress.

  • For drivers I’d say that peak starts at least half an hour earlier, simply as a result of people who a) either try to beat the peak or b) can’t get PT to where they need to be. At 6:20am the NW was gridlocked. You could make the argument that the weather played its part but a transport system shouldn’t melt down because it rains. Improving off-peak travel is important but we need to get our head around what is and isn’t peak; the 9 – 5 is dead and transport needs to reflect that people work longer hours (and generally have a lot less to throw at transport costs too, frustratingly).

    • The North Western will be regularly gridlocked because it has essentially, if unwittingly, been designed to be so. I can’t repeat enough just how much of an enormous failure by our transport institutions, processes, and politics it is to have spent all that money and done all that work yet not actually addressed the problem at all. The failure to include Rapid Transit on this route with this work is extraordinary and shows that the standard view on urban transport, in govt., in MoT, in NZTA, is flat plain wrong. And has been for decades. We have been severely let down by a sector governed by ideology, intellectual laziness, and clubby agreement among interested parties, which has given us such poor leadership, and so expensively….

      • Feijoa

        It would make a good Metro (or transport blog!) article – the quality vs. rapid route planning failures by the bureaucracy in Auckland and how they were exploited by our elected leaders in Wellington to suit their motorway agenda. So short sighted.

  • That last graph is worth highlighting too… so on a couple out of the five weekdays, punctuality dropped to around 40% during both peaks, and in the interpeak it’s consistently around 70%. Lots of room for improvement, with all the methods you suggest…

  • JDELH

    I wonder if there’s a bit of self-fulfilling prophecy here

    If we had greater frequencies pre 8am, pre 7am, even pre 6am, in today’s modern digital world, wouldn’t we see people in office roles at least (where flexibility is mostly guaranteed) taking these earlier options and working 7-3 (or some variant thereof?)

    In my butcherin’ and bakin’ days it had to be a car for that reason (definitely for baking, but a 6am butchery start was feasible with the first bus usually)

    I think it’s more likely people can get awya with starting an hour early than starting an hour late.

    • Harriet Gale

      I work 7-3 but my mode of travel is walking however if it rains buses at that time very few & far between, they often run ahead of timetable where you can miss them. Having better frequencies would allow a more spread out peak.

      • Lindsey

        The motorways start filling up about 5.30am as people head to the CBD for an early start. I used to get the bus to the CBD at about 6.35am to catch the 7am to Takapuna. Traffic is still streaming along New North Road at 9am and at 6pm. The “peak times” are way bigger than 7am to 9am and 4pm to 6pm. PT must be given the priority, so those bus lanes need to be extended in time and distance.

      • Simon

        I work 7 -430 but do full time hours over a 9 day fortnight which is great! I bike which is also great but if I wanted to bus I can’t as my commuter service doesn’t start until 7.15. Agree that transport agencies are out of step with the variety that people want and individuals choices are constrained by this reinforcing observed peaks.

        • Big SDW

          9 day fortnights or 4 day weeks (with the same hours) are something that should be promoted more – especially by AT and AC (perhaps something they could try to lead on). Obviously it wouldn’t suit every org and specific role but it has the potential to reduce demand on one day a week and by requiring slightly longer days for the rest of the time helps to spread the load. There is also the benefits of reduced fuel consumption for those travelling by car, reduced energy use at workplaces etc.

    • Definitely some self fulfilling prophecy. When living in the bowels of the north shore I had the choice of a sporadic express bus with a last departure at 6.20pm, or using the northern express and getting a connector bus at Constellation station. The problem was at 7pm the connector went to hourly frequency, miss the 7pm and there was an hour wait to get home, so I would have to be on an NEX no later than 6.30 to be sure I could make it.

      Now I prefer to work later hours as it is, and in some cases deadlines force me to work late even if I start early, and I often do stuff in town after work… but if I wanted to use public transport, I was effectively forced to leave work or wherever at 6pm. Asking about why they don’t have better service later the reply I got was “nobody uses the later buses”.

      Well derp, if one doesn’t run at all and the other only goes hourly, who exactly would be using them?!

  • Bigted

    Great post Matt it would be good to see passenger count for both buses and trains done too, I would pick it would look much like your top graph showing that there is only a capacity problem for a short time during the AM peak.

  • nonsense

    still plenty of old school micromanager raptors roaming the office savannas with their obtuse brains thinking that the only productive time for a worker is 830 to 5.

  • DavidByrne

    I was surprised to see that for punctuality, Monday and Friday are the BEST, while Tuesday and Thursday are the worst. Intuitively, I’d have thought the exact opposite would be the case. Best not to rely on intuition!

  • curioustill

    Studies have actually shown that long school days are not beneficial, but harmful, for students. School days should be shortened to something like 10am to 2pm, with a quick 10 minute morning tea and half-hour lunch, just like in the actual workforce. Schools can take out a lot of ‘fluff’ in the education system and the same amount of content can be taught in a shorter time. This gives students more time for ‘extra-curricular’ activities which make them more rounded. My child often has 7:30am-5pm school days due to these ‘extra-curriculars’ which schools force students into and it is absolutely madness.

    This means that in the mornings you have:
    7am – workers leaving 8am – uni students leaving 9am – school students leaving
    And in the evening: 2pm – school students going home 3pm onwards – uni students going home 3pm-7pm – workers going home

    Actually shop hours can be changed to 11am to 8pm. On Thursdays we can have 11am to 10pm. I’ve never seen anyone think at 10am ‘oh I need to pop into smith and caugheys to get meself a blender!’

    • mfwic

      A good chuck of school is simply crowd control and reminding the students who is the boss. Get rid of assemblies, form class and all the other pointless bits put in to fill the timetable out. Start them all at 1am and let them go at 2pm if they have finished or keep them as late as 4pm if they haven’t with staggered finish times for each. Problem is the whole education system is built around an outdated industrial model. Rather than having a central aim of educating young people it has been set up as a form of childcare to suit parents timetables. Schools are basically a form of incarceration for people whose only crime is that they are young.

      • I am reminded, of the industrial education video (Ken Robinson’s) but this is saddening for it is laughable and a large reason why it’s laughable is the idea is like the prison parallel… superficial, and generally paraded by the minority of (ex-)pupils who really loathed school. Yes, it is a minority. (see, for instance, https://www.nfer.ac.uk/publications/91064/91064.pdf … in fact, I think that suggests even dislike is a minority, but I can’t recall the report exactly and it’s quite long)

        Form classes, for instance, can be structured in several different ways (horizontally, everyone is the same age) or, as it was for me, vertically (six to two pupils from each year level) and only one of those structures is friendly to Ken. But are they really needed? Well, the alternative is disrupting actual lesson times for administrative tasks like notices… and in larger schools assemblies are rotated, but are they needed? Well, probably not but I can see reasons why schools houses are an interesting thing and the fortnightly assembly is useful in this respect. Indeed, the school assembly is a means of retaining cohesive operation, which I think is useful, even if it is part of the superficial comparison.

        Whether or not a 9-5 workday is really adequately aligned with a 9-3 school day is a nice orthodoxy that doesn’t stand up to rational thinking. 1) A lot of parents leave the house at 7am. Schools don’t like pupils arriving before 8am. 2) You’ve got two (realistically three) hours at the end which somehow need to be accommodated. If you were going to develop an education system in an era of “little adults” you’re hardly going to create such disparities are you? This suggests something else is going on.

        The (other commentator’s) suggestion to do away with proper morning teas and lunches is a great example of “little adults” thinking, children are children (not adults, not teens, not infants) and the value they get out of 30min/60min is a lot more than their parents who might find their lunchbreak a bit long, boring and just pointless expenditure on expensive food options close to work. There’s also the health angle… and I used to live across from a school so I think they do still get out and play even in the era of BYOD. (Yes, compulsory extra-curricular activities is moronic.)

        But these are relatively superficial areas and even they only somewhat live up to Ken’s Picture. What matters more is what goes on inside the classroom. And the truth is, pupils are often in little groups, generally skills based (whether horizontally for teaching or vertically for learning, i.e. sit the smarter pupils apart so they can help their fellows) and they do all sorts of activities. They might, it is true, rote learn times tables or spellings but the truth is that instinctive unthinking recall of those things is good. In practice, learning will be based through a multitude of strategies and approaches. Generally interrupted by the Power that pupil exerts over teacher (I am sure we played a lot more sport/games than my teachers intended when they got to school on Monday mornings). Nothing at all like the industrial production line Ken would have us believe in (and, lo, the Google Docs everyone can write on it approach is but a digital version of newsprint and vivids). Hell, list-orientated brain storms are weird.

        At college, it is true, things can get a bit more homogenous and production-liney. Streaming is more common (normative?) and I vaguely remember the secondary pupils in the aforementioned survey are less positively disposed to school (but, and this may be key, they’re not at the back end of college). In my own personal experience, we wrote a lot of stuff off PowerPoints (I can’t even remember, now, how much my teachers talked). But it is also true that we had class activities, exercises and variety in the forms of assessment (sometimes with a degree of control). Yet, it is also true that we were not very happy with an exercise in year twelve that asked us to creatively convey some lesson. This sort of thing is almost the crux of Ken’s alternative and here we have an anecdote demonstrating a dislike of this. But classrooms are often very social. Indeed, one might even discover that a teacher ships Destiel (a Supernatural thing) because the pupils were talking about this. This sort of communable character is antithesis to Ken insofar as it is what he advocates but insists is not present.

        Schools, quite simply, aren’t like prisons at all. Unless a prison is all about the spiky gate… and in AGS’s case, a postcode. (And, in terms of this blog’s direction, the pursuit of some other school has transport consequences. Prisoners don’t tend to commute. Commuters, of course, do, but they also knock off, whereas a pupil goes home. If they were more than superficially similar, there would be more language drift.)

        • mfwic

          I will read your link later. My point is that the school system we have inherited was based on the German industrial system where it was necessary to sort out the few who might go on to higher study while drilling the rest on the skills they would need for factory work. Rigid start and finish times, enough ability to read instructions and communicate with other and above all the ability to do as you are told by superiors. That is our high school system. As for being a form of detention centre my evidence is that we didn’t have many public high schools in this country back before farms were mechanised and our economy depended on child labour. Mechanisation came in so the leaving age was raised from 12 to 15. Schools are not designed for learning, although learning can happen there if you meet a good teacher. Primary schools are built around a care model, they transform children into literate and numerate people who can think for themselves. The problem is secondary schools which are run like shipyards. There first goal is to be a place of employment for their heavily unionised workforce, secondly they are there for the benefit of parents so they don’t have to look after their children during the day. Students needs come last and are only really met if you learn to comply -or more likely learn to appear to comply. Your point about vertical forms struck a note with me. We had those, they were simply a means of divide and conquer. Kids in the form hung out in age cohort but because of the vertical structure were denied the opportunity of mixing with 30 of their cohort. Vertical forms are just another tool for crowd control.

          It is now even worse than when most of us went through. Back in the day as a senior you formed an alliance with your teachers who were your coaches for external exams. Now the teachers are not coaches they are referees who decide your score. Teachers like this system as it gives them more control but students have lost an impartial coach.

          • Harry East

            The irony of your complaint about Vertical Forms struck a note… you see dear old Ken (who is getting a very short stick from me today, most unfair for a non-participant) sees the production line as being centred around age-based cohorts. Yet, here you are saying this is what people actually want and, woah, maybe there is a social dimension going on in an education.

            Perhaps, mfwic, my reference to Supernatural should’ve clued you in.. I am describing not schools from before the turn of the century, nor even schools prior to the turn of the decade. But it must be said, “friend teachers” are a very mixed bag and my suspicion it is a model that doesn’t work. Friendly teachers or, rather, teachers with personality, are much more common and much better. They are also abundant absolutely. And, apparently, have been for some time. Except they joined Teh Union and so are Teh Evul. To be frank, the teacher union narrative? It’s all wumbo.

            The question of structure is an interesting one. On one hand, it is important that people learn that a certain coherency to the course of events is conducive to smooth functioning, i.e. the rebel without a cause is a ninny. On the other hand, Daddy Day Car makes a persuasive point. But the thing is, The History Boys or Seven Periods With Mr Gormsby show that individual flair, personality etc. are not stifled by the rules, but exist. I find them, despite obvious issues, a far more realistic representation of the contemporary school than mfwic’s characterisation (or, for that matter, literally anything American, e.g. The Perfect Score or Better Luck Tomorrow, not that much time is spent in school in the latter of those two).

      • curioustill

        Beautifully written, mfwic. I remember the hours wasted at school on ‘uniform checks’, ‘detentions’, ‘physical education’, ‘art and technology’ etc. There’s no need to attend some compulsory assembly to hear about notices. Do adults get put into a room at 12pm in the office and get forced to watch the news? Also school is very long because schools insist children study a ‘variety of subjects’. What nonsense. If a child doesn’t like science in year 9 they’re not going to like it in year 13. Let children see what they enjoy and let them pursue their dreams and interests, rather than subscribing to the PC crap that is “all children must be well rounded”. Better to be excellent at one thing than average in all things.

        • Harriet Gale

          The end of my school years was during the rise of the smartphone, most people played games/music on phones during class, teacher didn’t care kept troublemakers quiet, and knew would get most through during revision period at end of year, and using practice old NCEA tests.

        • Roger W

          Let’s see.
          Once a monthly
          12:00pm 45 minute meeting for company update
          Attendance compulsory if you are in the office.

          Sounds like it to me.

        • Sailor Boy

          We have weekly meetings at work with our workgroup and monthly with the wider organisation, attendance is about as compulsory as it gets in the corporate world.

        • Dave B (Wellington)

          “… If a child doesn’t like science in year 9 they’re not going to like it in year 13.”
          This is not necessarily true. The subjects a child likes or dislikes can be strongly influenced by the teacher teaching them, and the individual rapport the child may have with the teacher.

          In forms 1,2,and 4 (under the old British system) I hated history and usually placed 31/31 in the class. Our teacher was an elderly, highly-acclaimed head-of-department who bored the pants off me. In form 3 we had a much younger guy who exuded enthusiasm for the subject and somehow managed to transfer this to me. I placed 6/31 in the class that year. By form 5, I concluded once more that history and I didn’t mix, and I dropped it to concentrate on maths and science. However in later years I became aware of my innate interest in the subject and wished I had come out of school less of an ignoramus at it. I would have learned all about the tyranny of the peak through the ages..

          • Harry East

            curioustill I must direct you to Minding the Campus, that bastion of PC and defender of the overly specialised education. No, wait, PC-ness is almost universally associated with an obsession with individuality and the demise of the “well-rounded” or even Classical Education. This, of course, would explain why it is a frequent critique of NCEA (which, it must be said, is not a curriculum, but as a mode of assessment, unless you do the vaguely related scholarship standards, NCEA is all about the silos… i.e. what you learn there is nothing to do with your leaning here).

            The thing, I am a product of the above Siloness and one of the things we came across in Classical Studies was a quote about education, which I remember as arguing that the point was to make the child “as good as possible”. This is, I believe, from Aristotle (so says Google) and I believe the point is about moral instruction, but it is pretty much bang on if we give it a new context… we want an education system to make its “products” (one must use scare quotes in case ACT reads this) as good as possible for the life they’ll have to live. To this end, we cannot, in good conscience, allow Steve the Wannabe Fireman, to close all other doors and thus preclude Steve from discovering the delights of, say, mitosis. Because that’s what too much specialisation leads to… all doors are closed and experience greatly restricted. Thank God, though, that everyone expects the future to involve jobs for life by the dozen, few career shifts and limited need for adaptability for the future worker. Not to mention the complete irrelevance of specialised knowledge of accounting to the majority of voting decisions, but, thankfully, we don’t expect anyone to do that either.

            “Mad, bad and dangerous to know”… are we talking about a romantic poet or Romanticism in general?

    • Ari

      The school system is good compared to other similar school systems, but the whole system itself is obsolete and not preparing people for the big changes coming.

      I was homeschooled. I did my studies from 8-12 then spent the rest of my time doing whatever the hell I liked(excluding chores). Usually playing computer games or building go carts. Started a maths/science degree just after I turned 17. My siblings started their own businesses in areas of their own interest around the same age. Of course we didn’t have normal parents who worked 9-5 jobs and couldn’t handle their children 24/7.

      • It’s interesting in Germany its very different: Homeschooling is illegal. Quite different hours too, kind of primary age start around 7:30 and 8:15 a.m. and can end between 12 noon and 1:30 p.m, but apparently expected parents to help with homework when they get home. Pretty normal here perhaps re the expected homework as they don’t learn anything at school?). I guess their society with part time jobs etc works around all this and copes well. Children get directed to the more university/intellectual or technical institute direction early on (around age 10?). Land of the engineers I guess).

  • Ben10

    New Zealand remains stuck with the 8-5 rostering schedule. I recon New Zealand company and business need to change their rostering schedule. Spread the starting time between 6am – 11am and finishing time between 3pm – 8pm. If companies did this, they would spread the peaks and reduce the interpeak.

  • Cavalcante

    Curious to know what a similar chart measuring train ridership throughout the day would look like. AT seem to have got the peak services pretty well covered (weekends aside…) from what I observe, so the fact that bus lanes don’t follow the same time slots just doesnt compute!

  • Dave B (Wellington)

    One way to reduce “peakiness” is to boost the service-offering during the off-peak also. Few other countries I know have such a marked drop-off in frequency between peak and off-peak as NZ does. By providing a more consistent high frequency throughout the day, more people are encouraged to use public transport for more purposes than simply peak-hour commuting. This makes for better utilisation of the infrastructure that otherwise sits around idle outside of peak hours.

    Urban Transport 1.01

  • Colin

    While changing school hours is a great idea, it may cause problems with students getting to school. There are many High school students (including myself) that have to rely on public transport due to either a lack of a school bus service or a poor one. Namely the school buses operated by party bus who charge $6 for a service that would be $0.99 using HOP, often do not have air conditioning, cram passengers in like sardines (There was once an entire usually-crowded double decker worth of students crammed into a small bus with blacked out windows), leave doors open and probably only clean their buses once every 6 months. In the mornings during peak it is usually quite easy for us to get to school (with some issues).While in the afternoons it is extremely hard getting home when it is off-peak due to extremely low bus frequencies and some buses that are scheduled only a few minutes before the end of the school day. AT give very low priority to bus services on the north shore when it is not peak and this is something that MUST be changed if more people are going to be moving around off-peak.

    • Dgd

      The problem solution where schools are concerned is that all schools in major population centres should be closed, sold off and education completely distributed. Instead of classrooms every child should be provided gratis with the computer technology with appropriate electronic communications to enable complete academic education at home.
      Where physical education/development is required then sports centres/clubs etc should brought into use. Education camps, perhaps specialising in specific subjects would fulfill the need for group activity.
      Other advantages, no commuter transport required, hoardes of schoolchildren travelling ceases, road congestion reduced, child safety increased, less diesel RVs and people movers on road, fewer teachers required as CAL becomes more refined.
      (teacher shortage goes away too!)
      Govt can fund this by selling off school property and reduced running costs or education
      I suppose the major disadvantage is that parents and care takers would complain at having to do their job of child care and monitoring during school hours.

      • insane view. School is as much about socialisation as education. Also it’s day care, enabling parents to work.

        • Dgd

          Au contraire, you have not yet realised the role of technology in future education.
          Education institutions have little to do with socialisation unless you count bullying, peer pressure, victimisation, ostracism, and the sad increasing numbers of students who consider suicide as the only solution to life – as some sort of necessary social learning.
          I know many home schooled people who missed nothing by not attending school or college.
          Incarcerating young people in schools may indeed enable both parents to work but really? A raison d’etre for school?
          Just MHO

  • The Real Matthew

    I don’t agree with any of the 5 suggestions made.

    1&2 The writer forgets transport usage is demand driven and supply needs to be matched to meet demand. The above graph shows the demand curve has a narrow peak period, indicating users starting work/school all around the same time. It is fanciful to suggest additional bus lanes will make any difference. Due to the narrow time frame there isn’t time to turnaround a bus regardless of covering our roads in bus lanes.

    3. It doesn’t matter what off-peak discounts are instituted. If you have to be at work at a certain time you can’t take advantage of the discount! With shops nit open until after 9am in most instances it is again fanciful to suggest demand is going to materially change.

    4. Another silly idea. It only takes one bus to make a journey. I’ve never heard of anyone changing a 2:30pm trip to 5:00pm because frequencies are every 10 minutes vs 20 minutes.

    5. We are now scraping the bottom of the barrel. Start school later, thus pushing finish times into the evening peak. A classic case of robbing Peter to pay Paul.

    This article reads like the writer wrote the conclusion before writing the start. Whilst some of the suggestions may have merit none are going to assist with the core problem. Unfortunately there is little way to mitigate peak travel. It’s the nature of transit that it has peaks which means split shifts for staff and high capital costs. That’s the nature of the industry

    • Jezza

      I think you have missed the point a bit on 3 and 4. Reducing fares off peak can only grow demand, while it may not take many away from the peaks it will help fill in the gap, which makes the peak less dramatic. Similar for increasing frequency, it will make PT more popular off-peak even if absolute numbers during the peak period don’t change.

    • Sailor Boy

      “4. Another silly idea. It only takes one bus to make a journey. I’ve never heard of anyone changing a 2:30pm trip to 5:00pm because frequencies are every 10 minutes vs 20 minutes.”

      I did literally this exact thing the entire time that I was at university, albeit the frequency was hourly vs 20 minutes.

      “3. It doesn’t matter what off-peak discounts are instituted. If you have to be at work at a certain time you can’t take advantage of the discount! With shops nit open until after 9am in most instances it is again fanciful to suggest demand is going to materially change.”

      This argument is based on the assumption that only trips currently on PT can ever be on PT. Someone who drives to the shops at 11am may choose to take the bus which allows us to better utilise the existing bus assets. If the return journey is at peak, then this has the added advantage of reducing peak driving demand.

  • Try looking at data for long distance buses!! The punctuality is shocking, mostly because of the impact of Auckland Motorway traffic at the beginning or end of a trip. Dealing with Auckland Traffic at the end of a 12 hour day is horrendous. No bus lanes on Southern M’way and motorists try to move over and give buses room, but everyone is sitting in same gridlock. It ain’t pretty and it’s a waste of resources, time and effort. :/

  • Steve Cable

    it would be interesting to see a graph with vehicle travel graphed against bus travel to give (an admittedly imperfect) comparison of demand for travel over the day against the bus service, I suspect that such a graph might suggest that bus travel is constrained by supply, rather than reflecting actual demand, i.e. the “if you don’t build it, they can’t come” argument, or if there’s no bus, you can’t catch it, supporting past tautologiacl arguments that there’s no PT demand at nn:nn hours because there’s no service to catch therefore we won’t put a service on

  • Kelvin

    Definitely need to extend the bus lane hours after 6pm. There is still so many traffic after 6pm now days.

    It makes PT very unusable for late starter: people who starts working at 10am and finish work at 7pm.

    For example after 9:30am, and after 7pm, bus and train has big gap between frequency. So missing a bus means need to wait 30 minutes.
    Also bus tend to move slowest between 9-10am, and 6-7pm. Because the bus lane are closed, but the roads are still very congested.

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