Guest Post: March Madness Marches On

This is a guest post from reader Stephen Davis and was originally posted here.

Regular readers of TransportBlog will be familiar with March Madness. With workers, students and kids all trying to use public transport simultaneously, it’s the busiest month of the year. In rush hour, trips can take an hour longer. People stand helplessly at bus stops as bus after bus sails by packed to the gunwales, with their headsigns proclaiming “BUS FULL”.

Once you do get on the bus, scenes like this are fairly common. The “no standing” line is completely ignored, and it’s your turn to watch from inside as your bus now leaves other people behind.

Now, Auckland Transport treat this as a temporary, transient thing. It’s a problem for a few weeks, but we can’t afford to run enough buses to solve the problem when we’d only use them for a few weeks of the year. To quote an AT spokesman, “The numbers travelling on buses and trains does increase but settles back again as students work out their schedules. The best advice is to plan ahead and try to travel outside peak times.”

Now you can debate whether that attitude is justified. Our friends at Generation Zero compiled a rather nice report on the issues people reported, and it’s been ignored by Auckland Transport. But at least it’s over now, and those of us who haven’t given up on public transport entirely can at least get on our buses.

Except for one thing: these pictures aren’t from March. They’re not even from peak time. All of them were taken between May and July, this year, after 10am and before 4:30pm.

Welcome to New North Road.

I live in Kingsland, and study at the University of Auckland. I head in and out at all times, peak, interpeak, and evening. So this gives me a good chance to see how the buses are getting used, all day. There’s a lot of students, but the crowds aren’t just timed on the hour as people try to get to lectures. There’s also lots of non-students on the buses, too – judging by the number of beeps on their Hop cards.

The last week is typical. I’ve travelled in during the peak once, and interpeak four times. Of those four, twice I was left behind by a full bus, with the next at least ten minutes behind. Three of the four times it was standing room only. Twice the standing room was in front of the line saying “no standing in front of this line”. And this is at Kingsland, not even the end of the run – so as we go through Eden Terrace, those buses are no longer picking anyone up.

On a personal level, it doesn’t matter too much being a little late. I aim to get in well before lectures so that I’ve got time to do some work. I’m also young and not travelling too far, so standing doesn’t bother me.

But none of this is helping anyone else. Auckland is trying to grow public transport use, but in order to do so it needs to actually have some capacity for growth. We’re also trying to improve the reputation of public transport, and this sort of unreliability isn’t going to convince new people to try it.

So why is the crowding so bad? Have a look at the frequency of buses between Saint Lukes and the city. The hours are the times they arrive at Victoria Park at the end of their routes.

The frequencies are fairly high in the peak from 8-9, naturally, and are still high as late as 11am. But during the middle of the day they drop as low as 3-4 buses per hour. All that needs doing is to extend the frequency of buses throughout the day to be closer to the level during peak: 6 buses per hour or more. That’s what we run on Dominion Road, and less than what runs on Mount Eden Road. Some of the services can also keep running as expresses during the day, for example the 224 which starts all the way in Henderson. If it’s not going to stop in Kingsland anyway, it might as well be called an express.

You can also see that we need to extend bus lane hours and lengths. The few bus lanes along the route end at 9am – but the second-busiest hour, by the number of buses, is 9-10am.

The most infuriating part is that overcrowding off-peak is actually a good problem to have and a relatively easy one to solve. Full buses make money. Adding a new bus is expensive, but we already have them – there’s extra buses running during the peak hours, so all that’s needed is to run them at higher frequency a little longer. That’s good for business. It’s good for drivers, who can avoid split shifts or short shifts. And it’s good for passengers, current and potential.

Increasing frequency off-peak also helps with peak crowding. If the service is more attractive, more people will try to move their travel to avoid the peak.

Solving the overcrowding during the peak and in March is harder. There’s issues with the buses bunching once they get too frequent, for example. It’s going to take double decker buses, more frequency, more bus lanes, and maybe even light rail. But crowding in the interpeak? We could fix that right now, and it’ll make money, not cost money.

Central and East New Network Outcome

On Monday, the Auckland Transport Board are expected to rubber stamp the outcome of the final and biggest of the major consultations for the new bus network, Central and East Auckland. The consultation was held at the end of last year and AT say they received over 3,700 pieces of feedback for the Central network and almost 1,200 pieces of feedback for the East Auckland network. For the Central network 60% of people were in support or not opposed to the proposed changes while in East Auckland that number was 64%.

As a result of the feedback AT say they they have made changes to 29 out of the 52 routes in the central area while in the east 10 out of the 15 routes had changes to them and timetable changes for 8 of them. That’s a lot of changes and not all of them appear to be good, in fact some effectively break the principles behind the new network which I think will undermine the success of it. The biggest concern is in the central area where there now appears to be much weaker cross town services thanks to most of them rerouted, downgraded, truncated or removed entirely. In the end it feels much more like an extension of the status quo than the revolutionary connected network we were promised.

Next I’ll step through the central and east networks separately. Perhaps it’s just the way the image looks in the board paper but one immediate observation of both central and east is the maps feel more cluttered and harder to read compared to those used in the consultation. This seems to be in part due to some of the changes that were made.

Central Network

Some of the major changes include:

  • The outer Link has been retained – although on a modified route between Mt Eden and Newmarket.
  • As a result of the Outer Link, the Crosstown 6 route along St Lukes/Balmoral Rd/Greenlane West has been had it’s frequency downgraded and at it’s eastern end, it no longer connects to the Orakei Train Station meaning there is no longer a frequent all day service service there.
  • The Crosstown 5 route which also served Orakei as well as proving a connection between Ponsonby, Kingsland, Valley Rd, Mt Eden and Remuera and Mission Bay town centres has been removed. Both this and the Crosstown 6 are suggested to be in part the result of people from Orakei not wanting to transfer to get to the city centre.
  • There are a number of new peak only services to the city centre
  • The frequent service along Tamaki Dr and a new route through the eastern suburbs will be branded the Blue Link

There are many other many other changes but it is hard to list them all here.

Here’s the final network

New Network Central - Final

As a comparison, here’s the network that was consulted on

Central Proposed New Bus Network

To clarify which roads have at least one frequent service to the city all day, AT have the map below. They also say

The final New Network will mean that the arterial routes listed below will continue to have all-day frequent service to and from the City Centre, with enhanced capacity and levels of service (including in most cases 15 minute or better frequencies in the evenings and on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays), to support the increasing level of economic and social activity in the city centre outside normal business hours. Most of these routes will also operate every 30 or 60 minutes between midnight and 3.00 am on Saturday and Sunday evenings to replace the Nite Rider services. Routes anticipated to utilise double-decker buses within the next 2 – 3 years are underlined:

  • Jervois Rd (Outer Link)
  • Ponsonby Rd (Inner Link)
  • Great North Rd as far as New Lynn
  • New North Rd
  • Sandringham Rd
  • Dominion Rd
  • Mt Eden Rd
  • Manukau Rd
  • Ellerslie Panmure Highway and Ti Rakau Drive
  • Remuera Rd
  • Parnell Rd (Inner and Outer Links)
  • Tamaki Drive


New Network Central - Final - frequents to city


East Network

As mentioned earlier, there have been a number of changes in the east, the two big ones are:

  • They’ve swapped the frequent service that will go all the way to the city from being the service from Howick (route 55) to the service from Botany (route 53). It will be interesting to see how the latter route performs in the future given that it could make services on the busway AT want to build less reliable.
  • The route down Te Irirangi Dr (35) has been upgraded to a frequent.

Here’s the final network

New Network East - Final

As a comparison, here’s the network that was consulted on

East Auckland Proposed New Bus Network


As part of the new network networks AT will need to roll out around 100-150 new bus shelters across both central and east. That’s not all that much more than just the South Auckland network which I guess is in part due to many of the main routes on the Isthmus not needing to be changed.

There is also talk of bus priority being added over the next 2-3 financial years. Where bus lanes are or are expected are shown below. AT Also say this which is promising.

bus lanes will be added on Pakuranga Rd and a start will be made on the South-eastern Busway between Panmure, Pakuranga and Botany


New Network Central - Bus Lanes


I know there has been pressure from a number of sources to roll the network out sooner and positively the document says they plan to roll out the networks in two separate stages in the second half of 2017 which is promising as previously they had been saying early 2018.

I hope that AT are able to revisit some of the poor decisions they’ve made around the new network in a couple of years’ time, perhaps when the CRL opens and that they don’t just assume this is complete and doesn’t need changing.

Photo of The Day: Signs of a Better Auckland on its Way

Cranes. Lots of cranes on the Auckland skyline at the moment. Many of them are building apartment projects, especially in the shot below.


I particularly like this view because it shows that an area that long been dominated by one type of dwelling; detached Victorian houses, is now getting this resource complemented by a good volume of a different kind of dwelling. This is especially important as these old buildings have recently become extremely expensive through both further investment [massive upgrades] and good old fashioned scarcity plus neighbourhood desirability. So more people and different kinds of households are now entering this lovely neighbourhood with its existing infrastructure and great proximity to the city.

While the prices of the apartments reflect these qualities of the location [naturally] and therefore are not as cheap as those out at the end of the motorways, they are still easily under half the price of the surrounding done-up detached houses, and even many that are entirely uninhabitable. And therefore will help to add to the range of price points in the local market as well as the total number of dwellings.

Additionally, and something that’s dear to my heart as an existing resident of the area, all these additional locals mean new and better local amenity; more cafes, restaurants, and employment opportunities as more businesses move in to serve them [all three of my children work locally]; essentially more choice and vibrancy, because there’s simply more people on the streets. And it means that our neighbourhood will earn the right to better social services too, like more frequent bus services, street and park upgrades, and more funding for cultural events. In particular the new intensity along Great North Road is making a strong case for this route to both to be upgraded to a real boulevard, and to one day perhaps providing sufficient demand for the transit route west here to be upgraded to Light Rail.

It is especially pleasing too that these new apartment buildings are clearly better designed and built than those of the last boom in the mid-2000s. And what are they displacing? Car yards. Low land value, slow turnover carparks; what could be better?

This is picture that makes me a very happy urbanist and an even more happy local.

Waitakere Ranges public transport survey

You may recall the new bus network to be implemented for West Auckland will see the removal of service to Waiatarua and many other parts of the Waitakere Ranges have never had any public transport service. If you live out in the Waitakere Ranges you may want to take part in a current consultation Auckland Transport are running looking at options for PT in the area.

Waitakere Ranges residents are invited to submit their feedback on what public transport services they may require or use, in a public transport survey open from 18 March to 29 April 2016.

Potential destinations, routes, and frequencies are being explored, as well as how popular any services are likely to be.

“Working with the Waitakere Ranges Local Board, this survey is the first step in investigating the level of demand for low-density west coast communities such as Piha, Karekare, and Te Henga (Bethells), as well as the urban fringe areas beyond Green Bay, Titirangi and Glen Eden” says Anthony Cross, Public Transport Network Manager.

“It will help us to understand if a tailor-made solution, such as the Kowhai Connection service which currently serves Warkworth, may be a viable possibility.”

Aimed at residents of areas that currently have no scheduled public transport, have limited service, or that will have services removed when the new West Auckland bus network is introduced in early 2017, the residents’ survey follows on from a survey targeted at visitors to the west coast beaches and the Arataki Visitors Centre, undertaken by the Waitakere Ranges Local Board over summer.

Sandra Coney, Chair of the Waitakere Ranges Local Board, says “We’re pleased with the level of feedback we received from the visitors’ survey, which ran during late January and early February, and obtained 541 submissions. This next stage of research will give us an overall picture of what the community’s needs are.”

Mr. Cross adds, “Although we’re starting the conversation now, due to the implementation of the New Network for the urban and suburban areas of Auckland, any new public transport services for the Waitakere Ranges are unlikely to be submitted for funding before 2018. Starting the process early gives us time to work through what might be multiple options for an area such as the Waitakere Ranges.

“We want to thank the community in advance to those who participate and send us their feedback,” says Mr. Cross.

The results of the survey will be made publicly available once feedback has been analysed, and the next steps have been clarified.

Go here for a little more information and a link to the survey.

Clusterbus, Busageddon, Busapocalypse

It’s a perfect storm really. The CRL works plus other street and building works are combining with the recent sharp increase in pedestrian and bus numbers to pretty much infarct the Central City at any time of the day. The City-sandpit is not going to get better until the CRL is actually running in 2023, which seems a very long time away.

Victoria 5:40pm

Victoria 5:40pm

Sure some important improvements loom large; the Wellesley St bus corridor and better stations and priority on Fanshawe St will clearly help. But it’s also certain that both pedestrian and bus demand will continue to rise because 1) the number of people living, learning, and working in the City Centre is growing rapidly and is likely secular* 2) PT uptake is currently running at about 3 times population growth across the city.


Wellesley 4:40pm

Time and Space

In the medium term AT is keen to add Light Rail in a ‘surface rapid transit’ pattern down the length of Queen St, which certainly would add significant high quality PT capacity on a route that, aside from the CityLink and Airbus, is not used much for PT, nor does it provide substantial private vehicle volume [properly understood, and executed well, LRT on Queen offers new capacity on a route that is currently hiding in plain sight].  This is a good plan, but like CRL, not a quick one. It’s only just begun its battle for believers in Wellington. And anyway, delivering this system would involve even more street works and therefore further disruption, which alone could significantly stand in the way of it happening in the near term. So sorting Centre City street allocation should be front and centre of AT’s senior management group’s attention. Perhaps, in this sense, the CRL works are a test of this group’s attention to detail and creativity?

It seems plain things have to be done now and probably every year until the big PT improvements are finished ready to do their heavy lifting. Bus vehicle supply is clearly a problem which is being addressed, albeit in a Dad’s Army kind of way. But other operational issues must follow too.

AT and AC need to immediately address the allocation of roadspace and signal settings in City Centre. Currently both exhibit legacy private vehicle privilege over other modes, which is completely at odds with the strategic direction of the city centre and the efficient running of all systems. Crossing cycles and crossing opportunities have improved for the dominant mode: pedestrians, but this has been been additional to other priorities rather than substitutive. The throughput of people and goods on these streets is not what it could be; there are simply too many space eating cars preventing higher capacity and value transport modes. Cars are given too many options and too much cycle time at critical intersections, which in turn requires more road width to be used for dedicated turning lanes.

Streets in the city centre are increasingly inaccessible for truck and trade vehicles and, importantly, also for emergency vehicles.

Our pavements and crossing cycles are pumping ever more people through on that brilliantly spatially efficient mode; walking, as can be seen in the shots here. Less visible, of course are the numbers of people in the buses. In the photo above we see 12 or so buses. As it’s the afternoon peak they’re likely almost full so together will be carrying approximately 500 people. The cars maybe a total of 10-15 people. So why is so much space dedicated to cars?

Buses that are not moving are not only belching out carcinogenic diesel fumes for us all to inhale, and C02 to help fry the biosphere, but they are also wasting our money; buses stuck in traffic cost more. On proper bus lanes or busways, buses can do much more work. Average speed on the Northern Busway services, for example, is 40kph, whereas other buses average 20kph. Faster buses not only cost less to operate but they also attract many more (fare paying) passengers because they are more useful.


AT really need to make some clear decisions about private vehicle priority in the city centre. Right now it’s a dog’s breakfast that is neither working well nor reflects policy.

The City East West Transport Study highlighted the importance of east-west traffic movements between the north-south routes of Symonds St in the east and the unlovely couplet of Hobson/Nelson in the west. Queen St is actually not that important for private vehicles, it is cut off at each end by Customs St and K Rd, neither of which supply it with either motorway traffic nor major bus routes. Outside of Hobson/Nelson all motorway traffic from the rest of the city arrive perpendicular to Queen before heading across the valley to parking structures, and the major bus routes likewise all are on either side of it, save some recent additions and the Airport and City Link service. The critical mode on Queen St are the pedestrians, and the cross town vehicle movements that need to traverse the street, albeit briefly. Driving along Queen St needs to be diminished as it is largely pointless [no vehicles entrances on Queen St], and because it disrupts these more valuable movements.

Wellesley 5:32pm

Wellesley 5:32pm

So what can be done ***immediately*** to assist the east-west direction without compromising pedestrian movement on Queen and it’s smaller parallel routes?

The obvious first step would be to remove the near useless right turns at Wellesley and Victoria. Restricting general traffic to straight ahead and left hand turns would greatly simplify the cycles to only three: Ped Barnes’ Dance, east-west traffic, and north-south traffic each running concurrently. Clearing these intersections more efficiently and reducing the addition of pointless traffic onto Queen St a little. Such an arrangement will likely happen post-Wellesley Street bus corridor so why not make it happen now?

CEWT Roads

Two other moves on smaller streets would help too. The right hand turn out of Lorne St looks particularly disruptive for its utility, and using High St to exit the Victoria St parking building is still a terrible thing and really needs fixing, too much space is stolen from pedestrians there and the resultant traffic blocks the mid block of Victoria St East.
High St 4:32pm

High St 4:32pm

Anyway it is policy to get the cars off Queen St one day, so why aren’t we working more deliberately towards that in increments? Do we really have to wait for Light Rail to achieve this? Let’s get the important east-west road priority happening along with complete bus lanes on Queen St as a way to prepare for the glorious future; because for the foreseeable, glamorous or not, buses will have to do most of the heavy lifting in the City Centre.

Light Rail in Queen St 1 - Nilut

A strangely people-free picture of a future lower Queen St.


  • secular = Economics (Of a fluctuation or trend) occurring or persisting over an indefinitely long period: ‘there is evidence that the slump is not cyclical but secular’

South Auckland Bus Contracts: More service, Lower Cost

Auckland Transport yesterday announced the results of their tender for the new bus network in South Auckland and it appears they’ve achieved a very good outcome by both increasing service and reducing costs. The winners of the of the contracts are

  • Go Bus (owned by Ngai Tahu and Tainui) have picked up just over 50% of the services.
  • A joint venture between Ritchies Transport Holdings and Murphy’s got another 40%
  • Howick and Eastern got 5%

*I assume rounding accounts for the missing 5%.

Go Bus is new to operating in Auckland – other than running rail replacement buses some years ago. They say they’re investing $40 million their bid through new buses, equipment and depot facilities. They’ll be using 89 buses most of which will be brand new and built in New Zealand. Ritchies and Howick & Eastern haven’t said if new buses will be used for these routes.

It comes after the incumbent in the area, NZ Bus, announced a few weeks ago that it hadn’t been selected as the preferred tenderer for any of the South Auckland routes.

The new network is of course a big step forward with more frequent and direct routes. With it AT say there is “a 21 percent increase in hours of operation and a 15 percent increase in kilometres covered by the services” Despite this the net cost to AT of running the services will decrease by $3.1m per year, or 15%. That’s obviously quite a significant saving and pleasing to see. Some rough calculations suggest they could be saving up around 20% per service km. AT’s explanation for the better outcomes is

Dr David Warburton, CEO of Auckland Transport, says the cost savings were achieved through a mix of economies of scale, greater efficiencies in the way routes are organised and a modern fleet that is fuel efficient and maximises the number of passengers per trip.

On the other side of the ledger, he says, a modern, comfortable, fleet getting people where they want to go faster and more conveniently, will all contribute to attracting more passengers. This has the double advantage of increasing revenue share opportunity for the operators and reducing the cost in subsidies.

Interestingly this result puts it in the realm a benchmarking study done by Ian Wallis & Associates in association with MRC suggested was needed some years ago. It said:

Without the benefit of a detailed benchmarking appraisal, our judgement is that the AKL unit costs would need to reduce by around 20%-30% to achieve good/best practice levels.

Below are some figures on just what the buses will cost to operate.

The current public subsidy is $20.3 million each year. From October, when the new contracts come into effect, the contracts will cost $36.3 million resulting in $17.2 million public subsidy with about $19 million in passenger fare revenue being paid to Auckland Transport thereby reducing the overall net cost by more than $3 million.


New Network - South Auckland


It’s also a good win for the new Public Transport Operating Model (PTOM) contracts now being introduced and which have long promised to improve PT costs and outcomes – and which many operators opposed. You may also recall this post from last year looking at the quality level of buses operators will be required to use.

Getting better outcomes from contracting has recognised as an issue for a considerable amount of time and it’s taken possibly a decade or more to get to this point. With PTOM the contracting is done using “units” which contain one or more routes with a full timetable – unlike in the past where operators could cherry pick the best individual services to run commercially leaving the rest to be subsidised. You can see the units for south Auckland and which routes are in them on this AT document.

Under the old contracting scheme, the operators would collect the revenue and Auckland Transport would pay the operator the net cost of running the service. Now with PTOM all fare revenue goes to AT who will then distribute it based on the contracts with bus operators with bonuses or penalties depending on performance. This is much closer to the gross contracting used successfully in many other cities (and on the Northern Express) but which the government opposed.


If savings like achieved in South Auckland can be replicated across the rest of the city that could have some profoundly positive effects for our PT network. It will see farebox recovery go well above the 50% target the NZTA have set and that could give AT a greater ability to further improve PT in Auckland. Some examples of what it could allow are

  • Further increase services, perhaps raising more routes to frequent status
  • Spend some of the savings in infrastructure like bus lanes or perhaps light rail.
  • Lower fares
  • Not do anything and reduce the level of subsidies required.

Of those I would favour the first two options as they can help to make PT in Auckland even better and attract more usage.

Overall this seems like positive news and well done to AT for the result.

Central & East New Network consultation closes tomorrow

Tomorrow is the last day to submit feedback to Auckland Transport on the new bus network for central and east Auckland. You can see some of my thoughts in this post from when the consultation was launched. The maps for each are shown below (click to enlarge)

Central Proposed New Bus Network

East Auckland Proposed New Bus Network

One reason it’s important to submit if you have a view is that there are bound to be many submissions like the one below. This comes from the Grafton Residents Association and was provided by reader Logan.

Grafton Residents on NN

Arguing that bus volumes should be removed because there are too many cars is one of the most arse about face arguments I’ve ever heard. But just how many bus movements are there going to be along Park Rd.

You can see from the map below (and even easier using this map), using Park Rd there are a couple of frequent routes – the inner Link, Remuera Rd and Gt South Rd/East Auckland. There are also some less frequent routes such as the NEX3 and buses from around Manukau Rd – although they can be frequent in the peak.

NN Park Rd

Handily AT provide an idea of the frequencies each route will have. From that we can work out that there are around 41 buses an hour in peak directions at peak times using Park Rd – roughly a bus every 1½ minutes. But how does that compare to what’s there now. Well the current map is such a jumbled mess it’s difficult to work out just which routes use the bridge. Of the routes I could make out I wasn’t able to find timetables for each of them but based on what I did find it would appear the number of buses currently using Park Rd would be at least the same as what’s proposed if not more. In other words, it appears even without cutting routes like the residents association want there will be fewer buses on Park Rd.

Lastly our friends at Generation Zero are pushing for better night buses. They’ve created a little quick submission form on the issue if you don’t want to include it in your own submission.


So if you use buses in the central or eastern parts of Auckland and want to make a submission make sure you do so.

Impact of last weeks bus changes

Last week saw two big changes to buses in Auckland. In the city bus routes changed avoid the area where the first of the CRL enabling works will happen and on the Hibiscus Coast the new network was launched. At the end of last week Auckland Transport provided some information on the changes.

On the Hibiscus Coast they say there was some initial issues with connections between buses but they believe those are now sorted. In even better news they say patronage is already up 10% on what it was prior to the new network. That’s not bad for the first week of a completely new network as I’ve heard that places like Brisbane the changes in the western suburbs initially saw a 20% drop before recovering and ending up 20% higher. While we will see a unique trend on the Hibiscus Coast the initial results are promising and I’d say there are much bigger increases to come as people get used to the network.

One aspect that will definitely be helping is the extension of the Northern Express to Silverdale. Unsurprisingly the park n ride is already full and I suspect many of those users are people who in the past have driven to Albany to park. There are currently only around 100 formal carparks (seems a lot are parking on the grass) however AT eventually plan to extend that to 500 spaces but were delayed in doing so due to their consent being challenged in the environment court. The photo below is from reader Bryce P.

Hibiscus Coast PnR

The other change saw bus routes mainly from the North Shore and West Auckland change in the city centre along with the introduction of new 24/7 bus lanes. AT say the changes affected around 10,000 customers and involve over 3,000 trips per day. They are claiming the changes have been a success with only a handful of inquiries from people – mainly about North Shore routes. They also claim the bus lanes are successful and that drivers have adapted to them quickly.

I’m not quite so sure the changes have been as gone as well as claimed and I suspect many people have accepted the changes but are frustrated by them. My personal experience has been mixed. Last week I tried what I described as the third of my options for getting between Britomart and Takapuna. In the mornings this meant jumping on a Northern Express bus, taking a trip along Fanshawe St before getting off at Victoria Park and catching a Takapuna direct bus. Of the three times in the morning I tried it last week one time it worked well, another the NEX was held up by someone taking an age to pay cash and I watched as the bus I needed to catch got the light ahead of us at Halsey St meaning I missed the connection and a third time the Takapuna bus was 15 minutes late. There were similar results on the return journey in the afternoons.

One thing that would be useful to improve the situation would be to increase the frequency of buses to Takapuna, of the connection that did work well the bus was packed (which is common for these services). This was likely impacted by the fact that in the past a bus going to the Hibiscus Coast via Takapuna was a few minutes ahead. Now one bus is doing the role two did with the following results. Some extra buses would both make connections easier and address the frequent crowding these services experience.

Full Takapuna Bus

It will be fascinating to see the impact the city changes have on patronage.

It’s bus change day

Two major changes occurred to the bus network yesterday – although most will be only have started to experience them today.

The first and most important change over the long term – although the one with the lesser impact – is the launch of the new bus network for the Hibiscus Coast. This sees some key changes such as introducing simpler more legible network and extending the Northern Express to Silverdale. The new and old networks are shown below.

Hibiscus Coast New Bus Network

Hibiscus Coast Old Bus Network

One issue with the new network that I’m sure reader Bryce P will mention is that the Northern Express stops in an isolated field for which the only way to access it is either by driving (a large park & ride will eventually be built here) or via one of the connecting bus route – which in the absence of integrated fares means it will cost users extra unless they are using a monthly pass. Bryce has suggested adding a set of traffic lights making it easier to connect buses to the developing town centre.

One aspect I doubt will be missed by many is the routing of buses to and from the city via Dairy Flat Hwy rather than use the motorway – only some express buses in the morning and afternoon peaks took the more direct route. Now the main service between Silverdale and the rest of Auckland is the Northern Express which will run at least every 15 minutes at peak and every 30 off peak all week.

With the shift to the NEX another detour that has been removed is to send those non-express buses via Takapuna. That’s personally a bit disappointing only because the 895 was one of the services I often used in my commute. Not that it would have mattered now anyway thanks to the other major change – the city centre bus stop changes.

In order to accommodate the upcoming City Rail Link enabling works Auckland Transport are moving buses off part of Albert St. The actual works to dig the tunnel won’t begin until about May next year however in November works starts on moving a water pipe that is in the way.

Temporary City Bus Routes

The changes mean many buses – primarily from the North Shore, West Auckland – will be affected. If you work near the middle of town the changes will probably mean a quicker journey compared to what exists now however if like me you transfer from a train to a bus or if you work in the northern parts of the city centre then the changes will not be great. As said when these changes were first announced, I see myself as having three main options

  • Walk the ~800m between Britomart and Wellesley St and then catch a bus to the Takapuna – another factor is that these buses run about every 15 minutes.
  • Catch the Northern Express from next to Britomart to Akoranga and walk about 1.6km to work from there. During the peaks the NEX runs every 10 minutes counter peak.
  • A combination of the two above, catch a Northern Express bus to Fanshawe St then transfer to a Takapuna bus. The risk here is in introducing yet another transfer to the journey.

I’ll have to try a few options to see what works best.

Given this is the first real day I’m expecting there to be a bit of chaos and confusion as people get to grips with the changes. I’m also not convinced that AT have done enough to explain the changes and make people aware of them. I’ll obviously be keeping a close eye on them but I’m also keen to hear your thoughts and hear your experiences so fire away in the comments.

Lastly it will be interesting to see the impact both sets of changes have on patronage. One of the big advantages AT have now over a few years ago is a rich set of trip data from the HOP system so they should be able to see just what impact these changes have.

CBD bus changes from Sunday

Auckland Transport are reminding people that from this Sunday the changes to bus routes in the city centre takes place. That means changes to both bus stops and also the start of the new bus lanes that AT have been installing in recent weeks.

Maps of the new bus routes are below:

Temporary City Bus Routes

There are big changes coming to the central city from this Sunday 18 October with more bus lanes and some bus stops moving.

Auckland Transport has added more than 1.2km of new 24 hour a day, seven days a week, bus lanes to the city centre to minimise effects on bus timetables when construction starts on the City Rail Link (CRL).

In November, a new stormwater main being tunnelled under the eastern side of Albert Street between Swanson and Wellesley Streets for the City Rail Link will affect traffic lanes at these and the Victoria Street intersections.

Some bus routes and stops are being moved to new locations away from these construction works.

The new bus lanes are on:

  • Fanshawe Street between Daldy and Halsey Streets.
  • Halsey Street between Fanshawe and Victoria Street West.
  • Victoria Street West between Graham and Queen Streets.
  • Wellesley Street West between Sale and Queen Streets.
  • Mayoral Drive between Cook and Wellesley Streets.
  • Hobson Street between Wellesley and Victoria Streets.

On Street changes for CRL works

General Manager AT Metro Mark Lambert says the bus lanes separate buses from other traffic, enabling them to bypass traffic congestion so they have shorter journey times and can keep to their timetables. “This encourages more people to use buses, which in turn, means fewer cars on the road.”

The new bus lanes operate 24 hours a day and motorists who are turning left can only enter a bus lane 50 metres before the intersection.

There also changes to bus stops in Queen Street, Quay Street, Lower Albert Street, Albert Street, Victoria Street, Mayoral Street, Vincent Street, Fanshawe Street, Sturdee Street.

The InnerLink will no longer travel along Albert Street. It will use Queen Street instead.

AT has ambassadors out and about in the city to help people. Affected bus stops have posters with information detailing the changes to that particular stop.

As I’ve said before I think these changes are going to cause a lot of disruption and frustrated people – both public transport passengers and those that drive. This is will likely be the loudest over the coming weeks and be heightened by it appearing that not that much is going on as most of the works initially won’t be that visible. It’s not till around May next year that the actual physical work starts to build the tunnels.

It will be interesting to see how Auckland Transport responds to the public over it all.