Missed news wrapup

Every week we receive numerous press releases related to transport and we only tend to comment on a few of them. Here are a couple that piqued our interest but not quite enough for a full post of their own.

Recently Auckland Transport announced they had put the first tender out for the rest of the CRL project (after the early works currently underway). This week they announced they’ve put up the tender for the construction of the tunnels and two new stations.

Largest City Rail Link tender process starts

The largest component of the City Rail Link (CRL) project – the construction of the tunnels and new stations – took a major step forward today with the release of its first tender documents to the industry.

The project is picking up speed with Expressions of Interest sought only a fortnight ago for the design, procurement, installation and commissioning of all tunnel track work and rail systems between Britomart Station and the Western Line at Mt Eden.

There will be two new stations as part of the build of the underground rail line linking Britomart with the existing western line near Mt Eden. The new stations will be near Aotea Square with entrances at Wellesley and Victoria Streets and a station in Mercury Lane, just off Karangahape Road. The present Mount Eden train station will be extended and redeveloped.

Tender documents sent out today are for the tunnel and station works that involve:

  • Aotea Station:  Cut and cover construction of a 15m-deep, 300m-long underground station and plant room box, including platforms, lifts and escalators to street level, plant rooms housing station and tunnel equipment, full station fit-out and entrances at either end at Victoria and Wellesley Streets.
  • Karangahape Road Station:  Mined construction of a 32m-deep underground station, including platform tubes and 150m-long platforms, lifts and inclined escalator to street level, plant rooms housing station and tunnel equipment within two shafts, full station fit-out, entrance at Mercury Lane and provision for a future entrance at Beresford Square.
  • Tunnels:  Twin-bored tunnel construction (circa 7m diameter) between the Mt Eden station and the southern end of Aotea Station.
  • The provision of maintenance services for the new stations.

CRL Project Director Chris Meale says today’s development shows the considerable progress being made.

He says that as well as the tenders rolling out for future construction, current works are well underway. The 2m-wide tunnel boring machine simultaneously excavating and installing a new stormwater pipe under Albert Street has finished the first leg of its journey.

The nine-storey-high piling rig working in Albert Street has already dug more than 140 of the 376 piles required.

“What will be a highly efficient and reliable transport choice for Auckland is now visibly taking shape.”

The tunnels and stations contract being sent out today will be procured using a Design and Construct model with a lump sum price based on a bespoke contract.

They also put out a few new high quality images of the stations.

Aotea Station – Wellesley St

Karangahape Rd – Mercury Lane

Mt Eden

Hot on the heels of Auckland Transport announcing it was going to trial two electric buses in Auckland, operator NZ Bus announced they were trialling some BYD electric buses in Auckland and Wellington

BYD’s all electric battery bus, with fast re-charging

NZ Bus to begin trial of BYD electric bus

NZ Bus to begin trial of BYD electric bus in Auckland and Wellington

NZ Bus will this week begin trialling its new BYD eBus in Auckland and then in Wellington, as another part of its strategy to lead the transition to electric-powered public transport in New Zealand.

NZ Bus Chief Executive Officer, Zane Fulljames, said that the trial will enable NZ Bus to assess whether this fully electric bus, which is proven in other markets across the world, can meet the challenges of New Zealand’s unique topographical landscape and the specific requirements of bus networks in Auckland and Wellington.

“As a business we are committed to leading the industry towards an electric-powered bus fleet, as was reflected in our announcement last year to invest NZ$43m in Wrightspeed electric powertrain technology to be retrofitted to buses in our existing fleet.

“Trialling BYD eBus technology is about looking at options for the future in terms of our ongoing fleet replacement programme,” said Mr Fulljames.

The makers of the eBus, BYD Company Limited, operate across 6 continents, 48 countries and regions, and 200 cities. They are the suppliers of the largest electric bus fleet in Europe and are in fleets across Canada, USA, Chile, China, Singapore and Australia.

NZ Bus’ trial of its BYD eBus is expected to last up to three months. The BYD eBus may not attract attention as it travels Auckland and Wellington bus routes, given that it looks much like a conventional diesel or diesel-hybrid bus, but people might notice that it is significantly quieter.

In parallel with the BYD eBus trial, NZ Bus is also well underway with the process of retrofitting Wrightspeed electric powertrains to its existing bus fleet at its workshop in Wellington.

“As a major transport operator, NZ Bus has the scale for investment of the kind these initiatives represent. We are committed to continuing to lead the industry and contribute to reducing New Zealand’s carbon footprint through innovation,” said Mr Fulljames.

And finally, Mayor Phil Goff has kicked off The Auckland Bike Challenge

Mayor Phil Goff challenges Aucklanders to get on their bikes.

The Auckland Bike Challenge kicks off today and Mayor Phil Goff is encouraging Aucklanders to join the 2,500 people who have already registered for the free month-long event.

Bigger and better than last year, the Auckland Bike Challenge run by Auckland Transport is now part of NZ Transport Agency’s nationwide Aotearoa Bike Challenge.

The Auckland Mayoral Office has two electric bikes and Mayor Phil Goff is looking forward to getting on his bike during the challenge.

“Living out in Clevedon means cycling to work’s a bit tough for me, but I enjoy getting to meetings and events in the city on my bike, and use it when I can,” he says.

“Cycling’s a great way to get around our city. It’s a joy being out of a car in the fresh air, getting fit and reducing our carbon footprint.”

The Mayor says Auckland Council is committed to helping more people get out of their cars and on to bikes, and is investing in new world class facilities to make cycling safer and more accessible.

“The Quay Street Cycleway, the first stage of the Glen Innes to Tamaki shared path, the Mt Roskill Safe route and the award-winning pink Lightpath on Nelson Street are very popular,” says Mayor Goff. “We will continue to invest in safe cycleways across the city to reduce congestion and pollution and make Auckland an even better place to live.

“The 2017 Bike Challenge is your opportunity to explore our beautiful city and to see it in a new way. I look forward to seeing you out and about and on your bike this summer.”

The Auckland Bike Challenge is a fun, free workplace competition that encourages people to give cycling a go during the month of February 2017.

More than 270 Auckland organisations have signed up and will compete against similar-sized businesses within the Auckland region and nationwide.

Run by Auckland Transport and supported by the Sustainable Business Network, Healthy Auckland Together and Auckland Regional Public Health Service, the event supports workplaces encouraging staff to ride for at least ten minutes during the month of February.

Rides are recorded online, and there are prizes up for grabs for both businesses and individuals.

There’s still time to register for the Auckland Bike Challenge at www.lovetoride.net/auckland. The website includes a live leader board to track results, information on prizes and easy ways to encourage others to participate.

Mt Eden Rd Double Deckers from Sunday

As we found out from Generation Zero’s Better Buses campaign, Mt Eden Rd is the most complained about route and during February, March and April we also heard tales of people waiting for 10 buses or more to go past before one with enough space came along. From Sunday some relief will arrive with NZ Bus rolling out the first of their double deckers on the route with more arriving in the middle of June. AT say the first batch of buses will add about 10% more seating capacity during the peak while the second batch will increase that to 15%. By the end of June there will also be double deckers on the 881 route too.

NZ Bus double decker

More double decker buses are about to hit the roads and that means more seats on busy routes.

This Sunday 29 May, the new larger buses will start operating along Mount Eden Road on the 277 route Waikowhai to the city return and the 274 route Three Kings to the city return.

Auckland Transport’s Bus Services Manager Brendon Main says there will be 12 double deckers on the two runs with three more joining from the middle of June. “This means 450 more seats for the peak morning and evening runs, an increase of 15%.

“These routes are busy so I’m sure people will be thrilled with the extra capacity and they will love the new buses which have USB chargers, better climate control and, of course, great views.”

The services will be operated for Auckland Transport by NZ Bus and Zane Fulljames, CEO of NZ Bus is welcoming the addition to their fleet. “We are proud to put these buses on the road, they are a game changer raising the level of comfort and service for our customers.”

Mr Main says at the end of June double deckers will also join the popular 881 service that operates from Albany to Newmarket via downtown and the university. “There will eight new double deckers on this route adding an extra 150 seats at peak time and even more seats at off-peak. This is an overall capacity increase of more than 10% at peak times. ”

Double decker buses already run on the Northern Express and on some services operated by Howick and Eastern.

This is good news people on Mt Eden Rd but I do have a few thoughts/concerns.

  • While the double deckers are bigger, it seems AT are also taking the opportunity to scale back the timetable a little so there are fewer buses overall. For some trips that might means slightly longer waits for buses. Here are the current and new timetables
  • The flip side of that though is that fewer buses but with more capacity means cost recovery – which is likely to already be fairly high on Mt Eden Rd – is likely to improve further.
  • Given that buses on Mt Eden Rd were already seriously under capacity as evidenced earlier this year, I’m concerned that only a 15% capacity increase isn’t going to be enough. That feels like it could only just be keeping up with the demand that already exists let alone future growth. Just the presence of double deckers is likely to encourage more people to try catching the bus so we could end up in exactly the same situation next March, albeit with more people on buses overall.
  • Unlike the Northern Express with just a handful of large stops, it will be interesting to see what impact the double deckers have on dwell times, especially on the bus heavy parts of Symonds St.

The capacity increase is well overdue and we’ll be watching with interest to see what impacts the double deckers have.

Bus strike thoughts

Our transport agencies and media spent much of the last week working themselves up about the strike by bus drivers affecting around 70% of Auckland’s buses. Traffic would be terrible they said, it’s going to be carmageddon.

Then Friday turned up, the bus drivers went on strike and for many the opposite happened.

Auckland has survived the first hurdle of the bus drivers’ strike with commuters reporting “dream runs” and lighter than usual traffic thanks to many opting to walk or take alternative forms of transport.

Of course this immediately led to calls from some to ban buses permanently.

Ludy Colenbrander drove from Mission Bay to Albany and said he arrived in record time because it seemed there were no buses “to clog up the roads”.

Matt Hancock said it was a “wonderful day on the roads” this morning. He rides a motorbike and his wife drives a car and both noted traffic was lighter than usual.

“We didn’t use the motorway, but if a bus strike can clear the roads of Ellerslie, Remuera, Newmarket, Mt Wellington, Kohimarama, and Grafton I suggest a ‘bus free day’ once a week for Auckland?” .

This was all actually fairly predictable and I had even said to some journalists earlier in the week that this response is exactly what would happen.

The reason of course is that the whole point of talking up carmageddon was to get people to change behaviour. It’s a tactic that’s been used all around the world to manage disruption. Some of the most notable have been in LA when they’ve needed to close freeways for major works. Perhaps the aspect that surprised me the most wasn’t that we saw people calling for buses to be removed permanently but just how well our media reported it, like in the first quote making it clear that the free flow conditions were a result of people changing behaviour.

But while the bus strike was hopefully a one off, I think it probably provides some really useful information for the agencies planning and running our transport system as well as exercises like ATAP.

On Friday the NZTA were reporting that traffic built up earlier than normal and lasted for longer but was less severe. It’s not a fully fair comparison though as it appears that a lot of people took one off leave but many others worked from home. It’s not clear whether they could do this on a regular basis but in many ways the outcome is exactly what we would expect to see with a road pricing system that charged more during more congested periods to deliver behaviour change.

This is all quite interesting timing seeing as ATAP will be considering road pricing as a demand management tool (as opposed to a pure revenue gathering one).

Also on the bus strike, it was interesting to see reports of police officers enforcing bus lanes. I don’t think I’ve heard of them doing that before. Those on bikes reported it being surprisingly pleasant to ride on.

From some reports the afternoon congestion was much worse than the morning congestion. Perhaps having good runs in the morning people were lulled into a false sense of security about congestion and all tried to travel home at the same time.

Overall it seemed Auckland coped fairly well but that might not be the case if the disruption became a regular event or lasted for multiple days

Bus Strike Maps

With bus drivers set to strike tomorrow and throwing travel for thousands into potential chaos it’s worth remembering that not all buses are affected. After my post was published yesterday AT published a list of all routes affected. You can see them here:

NZ Bus routes

School Buses

Howick & Eastern where some but not all services are affected.

Reader Stephen Davis has helpfully put together these maps showing the routes that will have services (green), the ones that don’t (red) and the ones with partial service (orange).

As you can see, a lot of Auckland is going to be affected. The areas that aren’t are mainly the North Shore (except for the East Coast bays), the Northwest, and the areas around Titirangi/Green Bay, with a few other pockets around.

Bus Strike 16.02.19 - Auckland

And some more detailed versions:

Bus Strike 16.02.19 - Isthmus

Bus Strike 16.02.19 - East

Bus Strike 16.02.19 - SouthWest

Bus Strike 16.02.19 - Papakura

Bus Strike 16.02.19 - West

Bus Strike 16.02.19 - Upper North Shore

Bus Strike 16.02.19 - Lower North Shore

Looking at these maps, one of the things that sticks out is just how much we need the New Network rolled out to simplify the route structure. There are quite a few places that look like they have service but actually don’t due to all of the overlapping patterns. Something that would be nearly impossible to display well on any sort of legible map.

Great work Stephen.

Bus Drivers to Strike on Friday

After weeks of increasing unrest, a large number of Auckland’s buses will be off the road on Friday as large numbers of drivers from both NZ Bus and Howick & Eastern strike for the day.

Many Auckland bus services won’t run on Friday because of industrial action so people should plan ahead.

Drivers employed by NZ Bus are taking industrial action from 4am on Friday until 4am on Saturday. In a separate dispute some drivers employed by Howick & Eastern will walk off the job from 5.30am on Friday till 5.30am on Saturday.

Services affected are Metrolink, Go West, North Star, Waka Pacific, CityLink, InnerLink, OuterLink, Howick & Eastern and school buses operated by NZBus.

All other bus, train and ferry services will operate as normal. There may be other bus options available in some areas including: Ritchie’s, Birkenhead Transport, Tranzit (Airporter), Bayes, SkyBus, Murphy, Northern Express, Urban Express, Waiheke Bus Company as well as train and ferry services.

Auckland Transport’s Bus Services Manager, Brendon Main, says: “We are sorry but services will be limited on Friday, the roads will be busy and there will be delays. People should consider options such as travelling outside peak times, sharing rides, cycling or walking. People should also talk to their employer about their work situation on Friday.”

Mr Main says AT staff will be on duty at some busy locations to assist customers with information and advice. Updates will be provided on the AT website, Twitter and on radio and TV traffic bulletins on Friday.

Customers are advised to check with the Auckland Transport call centre (09 3666400)

Separately AT have said to me

NZ Bus industrial action will commence 0400 Friday 19 February – concluding 0400 Saturday 20 February

  • No NZB urban or school services will operate during this period
  • NZB operate approximately 240 school services per day (list here)
  • NZB union membership approx. 85%. Remaining employees are unlikely to be able to get vehicles from depots due to picket lines
  • Indications are that work to rule action will continue post Friday with drivers electing not to accept cash fares from customers over the coming weeks :note this will not impact AT as fare revenue, whether from cash or HOP, under existing contracts and commercial services flows to operators

Howick and Eastern industrial action will commence 0530 Friday 19 February – concluding 0530 Saturday 20 February

  • H&E union membership approx 30%.
  • During peak this will result in approximately 50% of scheduled service on Botany and Howick services being cancelled (this is still to be confirmed)
  • All other H&E services including school buses will run as per normal

I’ve already seen some suggestions that without buses on many routes that people should be allowed to drive in bus lanes. AT have confirmed that the bus lanes are still in operation even if the buses aren’t running so if you drive, stay out of them. One of the reasons is that while NZ Bus are the main operator on many of the routes with bus lanes across Auckland, other buses do use them too. However, given those lanes will be much quieter they might for once make for ideal bike lanes.

NEX Double Deckers

The Northern Express and it’s new double deckers will still be running and will likely very busy.

There seems to be a lot of conflicting information on all sides as to the causes of the strikes and both the Union and the bus companies are obviously playing to the media and public to get support. As I said to the Herald, it’s a shame the public are being dragged into this dispute (which is obviously the point). Especially as confidence in public transport has been improving for some time and that has been showing through with the patronage growth. This year we’ve got both Simplified Fares in July and the new bus network for South Auckland rolling out in October and it would be a shame if this knocked the confidence of potential bus users once the changes go live.

One interesting aspect this time is that once the drivers go back to work they’re saying they won’t accept cash.

For 15 days over the coming months, drivers will refuse to accept anything but Hop cards meaning anyone trying to pay cash will get a free ride. The action is to urge Auckland Transport to better inform the public about cashless payments.

“We’ve asked them for pamphlets, so if anyone pays cash, they also get a flyer telling them that the Hop card is cheaper and faster.”

I wonder how many HOP users will just pretend not to have a HOP card on those days.

This seems to be almost a carbon copy of the action taken about four years ago which was the last time a strike was threatened. Back then the strike was averted with some last minute talks and I still hope the same can happen this time to avoid any additional chaos – although it wouldn’t surprise me if so many people changed or cancelled their travel that issues like congestion don’t become such a problem. If the strike does go ahead I’m sure AT and the NZTA will be watching the impacts with great interest. It could become a case study like the Wellington Rail network did following a storm that washed out tracks and shut the rail network for days.

South Auckland Bus Tender gets interesting

There have been a few bits of bus news recently

The first and most interesting is last week NZ Bus announced that that they hadn’t been short-listed for any of the routes as part of the new South Auckland bus network due to roll out in October.

NZ Bus advises that it has been informed by Auckland Transport that it has not been selected as a preferred tenderer for any of its South Auckland public transport services which were tendered for in late 2015. The NZ Bus services currently comprise 153 vehicles out of the total NZ Bus fleet of 1,070 buses.

NZ Bus Chief Executive Zane Fulljames said “Not being selected as a preferred tenderer in one of our incumbent locations is a disappointing outcome, particularly for our staff who work hard every day to deliver a high quality service and are part of the South Auckland community. However, as an incumbent we understand clearly the costs of operating in the South Auckland market and submitted a strong, high quality tender to reflect this.”

The tender outcome will have implications for NZ Bus staff operating in South Auckland. There is a 9 month transition period to the implementation of the new South Auckland contracts, and NZ Bus will be taking this time to work through options for minimising the impact on staff.

Mr Fulljames said it is important to keep this outcome in perspective. “While a number of contracts are being tendered across Auckland, other contracts are being renewed with incumbent bus operators through a direct negotiation process. NZ Bus has rights to negotiate a number of these contracts, representing in scale around 50 percent of its existing business in Auckland.”

A map of the south Auckland routes being tendered is below. They are split up into eight groups – called units – that were tendered for.

New Network - South Auckland

That NZ Bus didn’t make it to being one of the preferred tenderers from any of the eight is fascinating given they are the incumbent for the area. I’m told that AT are still negotiating with operators so there has been no decision yet on just who will run services so all we know for sure is that it isn’t NZ Bus.

There are a few thoughts I had upon hearing the news.

  • I think this is good news as it suggests there’s competition for services occurring and likely suggests we’ll be getting better value for tax/ratepayers out of the new PTOM contracts. This is some ways is expected because as I understand it, AT have been rolling over existing contracts for some time meaning bus companies are likely amortising their costs over a short time frame. As the PTOM contracts are longer term it will allow fixed costs to be spread out more easily.
  • It likely signals that companies will have to be more competitive for future tenders, NZ Bus have stated in the past that they want to about retain their overall market share so they’ll have to up their game to do so. Again this is good as it likely means we’ll get better value for money meaning either costs reduce or we can get more service for what we pay.
  • NZ Bus seemed to use their most clapped out buses for use in South Auckland. A new operator should mean newer buses – especially as we know AT had some fairly detailed requirements for bus quality under the new network. This will be good for people using buses in South Auckland.
  • It was interesting timing for NZ Bus to come out and say now that they hadn’t won the tender. I suspect part of that might be related to being owned by a publicly traded company while also them wanting to be able to tell their staff before they hear the news through other channels.

Stuff reports the Union claiming that Ritchies and Hamilton based Go Bus have won and that Howick & Eastern have also lost some routes but we’ll have to wait to see if that is actually the case.

The other piece of news is that Ritchies are now rolling out an additional 15 new Double Deckers to the Northern Express, adding around 15% more capacity – they may even be on the road already and join the 3 existing double deckers in service.

NEX Double Deckers

Other bus companies are getting in on the double decker act too. By the end of the year NZ Bus will have 23 of them and Howick & Eastern 15 of them.

 

Update: Auckland Transport have advised that due to a union meeting, there will be no NZ Bus services operating between 9 and 2:30 – although disruption will linger for longer than that (based on the last one there were still delays in the afternoon peak)

Heavily tinted windows on buses …

… are a pet hate of mine.

Why? Well, it’s rather straight-forward really: Heavily tinted windows make the outside world appear dark all the time. I find this to be rather gloomy, especially at night.

Indeed, the Airbus Express from the Airport to the City provides a very convenient ghost tour every time I return to Auckland from my new abode in Brisbane (image source).

haunted_auckland

Let’s get one thing straight: The look/feel of buses should be designed, first and foremost, to meet the needs of people who are actually riding the buses.

Not people outside the buses.

Logic suggests bus passengers who are sensitive to light will carry sunglasses. Why? Well, these passengers will tend to walk to and from the bus stop. In the sunlight. Hmm.

I happen to be one of these blue-eyed, fair-skinned, scottish-distilled, light-sensitive, bus-riding people. And I hate heavily tinted bus windows (I can tolerate light tinting).

There’s also a passive surveillance safety issue to consider. So much so that heavily tinted bus windows have actually been banned in some jurisdictions.

While this is thankfully not a major issue in Auckland, I would tend to eschew features that reduced public transport users’ perceived if not actual levels of safety.

What do others think? Are heavily tinted windows the bane of your existence? Or am I just an overly sensitive button?

 

 

 

More buses needed on weekends and evenings

Crowding on peak public transport is a well known occurrence in Auckland. This is a rather complex issue to fix due to bus congestion in the city, and high cost of adding extra buses and drivers to run one service a day. Working on bus lanes to improve efficiency and addition of double deckers is the best way to fix this issue.

However we are now seeing regular reports come in of crowding on off-peak services, notably on evenings and weekends. Even on popular inner isthmus routes, evening and weekend services are still stuck in a bygone era, not recognising that the city centre is now far from an 8am to 5pm destination. Weekend services also haven’t been updated to reflect the popularity of the CBD on the weekends and the regular special events that draw people in, especially over summer. Sunday services are usually a lower frequency than Saturday services, which may have been fine when the shops were all closed on Sundays, however it is not appropriate in 2014.

Services at off-peak times should also be able to be added relatively cheaply, as they just involve using existing buses and drivers more often, rather than pushing the need for extra buses and drivers. In some cases the issues may be able to be helped by running larger buses, instead of leaving these sitting in the depot at weekends.

They key services than seem to suffer the most from overcrowding issues are Dominion Road, Mount Eden Road, Tamaki Drive and the Northern Express.

Mount Eden Road

The issues on Mount Eden Road seem to largely come from the sparse evening services. Services drop from 15 minute frequency to 30 minutes after 9pm, which is much too early.

Mt Eden evening timetable

Mt Eden Road weekday evening timetable

 

This tweet from last Monday night shows the high demand for evening Mt Eden Road buses.

Andrew W 277 Monday

And from Julie Anne Genter last month, this time on a Tuesday night.

JAG Mt Eden Road

A few extra 274 services to give at 15 minute frequency until 11pm or so would probably sort the issues. An extra service at 12.10am would probably be popular as well.

Dominion Road

The issues on Dominion Road come from both evening and weekend day time services. Buses are often so full that they are leaving people behind, which is unacceptable.

On Saturdays buses run the 258 and 267 run at a 20 minute frequency, giving a 10 minute frequency along Dominion Road from Mount Roskill. However this doesn’t seem to be enough to meet demand.

Geogoose Saturday

However on Sunday the timetable is totally archaic, and belongs in the 1970’s. The 258 and 267 both run every 40 minutes, only giving a 20 minute service all day.

Dom Rd Sunday timetable

This is certainly not nearly enough to meet demand. This tweet from last Sunday shows this results in packed buses leaving people behind.

Kate Dom Rd Sunday

This tweet from a couple of weekends ago shows this is a regular occurrence.

Geogoose DomRd Sunday

Evening services are also an issue. I heard that Dominion Road buses were leaving people behind at the Symonds Street bridge last Friday night, and am told this is common.

Some of the issues seem to arise from the use by NZ Bus of small ADL Enviro 200 buses, which have much lower seating capacity than the bigger buses available. This is very poor customer service from NZ Bus, as they are sure to have plenty of empty large buses sitting at the depot on weekends, however choose to run small buses to save on operating costs. This is unacceptable.

Tamaki Drive

On nice days in summer the 15 mintue frequency and small ADL buses used on the service cannot handle the demand for trips to Mission Bay. Last Sunday afternoon I saw a bus packed full of people leaving town, and this meant it could not stop at the first stop on Quay Street near Countdown to pick up more beachgoers. I have heard this is a common occurrence on summer weekends.

James Pole MIssion Bay

Again NZ Bus is causing issues by running small ADL 200 buses on these services when larger buses are available.

Northern Express

Northern Express services running on weekends and evenings are often seen to be at capacity. The timetable for weekends and evenings has not been updated since May 2011, despite major patronage growth since this time. Buses leave Britomart every 15 minutes from 7pm to midnight, however demand seems to outstrip this. The NEX needs to run at 10 minute frequency for another hour or 2 to cope with the patronage.

As an example this was the queue for the NEX at 7.40pm last Thursday, nearly 50 people long.

B2TU_bPCcAAE7B4.jpg-large

And this is the bus leaving at 7.45pm. These 10 people were left behind as the bus was full of standing passengers.

B2TWrv9CUAAaKhr.jpg-large

 

Weekend frequency is also an issue. All day weekend frequency is every 15 minutes. However I have regularly seen buses leaving the city full of standing passengers. At a 15 minute frequency the Northern Express cannot handle special events. This is a scene from the Auckland marathon just over a 2 weeks ago where a surge in patronage left the NEX unable to cope.

Nick R NEX wknd

This suggests the Northern Express needs its frequency upgraded to 10 minutes on weekends, at least for the busiest parts of the day.

I am keen to hear more reports from readers about issues with public transport overcrowding, including stories that both confirm the above reports, as well as issues on other services that they have come across.

Fixing these issues would help raise public confidence in the bus system, and ensure people catching a bus have a good experience. It would also provide a great boost to public transport patronage.

Poetiquette

If you catch a bus tomorrow morning you may get a poetry performance for your trip as part of an NZ Bus campaign to improve bus etiquette.

National Poetry Day is being celebrated this year with poets in residence onboard some of Auckland and Wellington’s main bus routes this Friday.

In Auckland, leading national poets have been invited by NZ Bus to perform onboard services travelling on: New North Road, Dominion Road, Mt Eden Road and Great South Road between 7am and 10am on Friday morning.

The day coincides with the launch of NZ Bus’ etiquette campaign #busbetter with the Bugbears www.busbetter.co.nz so the theme for the poets is public transport etiquette.

At NZ Bus we want to encourage everyone to be more aware and considerate of each other when travelling by bus around the city. And we thought who better to do the talking than the people who live here, our local poets. We call it ‘poetiquette’.

“Getting on buses to perform to commuters is a great way to show every day Kiwis how accessible poetry can be. There’s no need for a stage or microphone, we just need an audience every now and then. Poetry can be performed anywhere for anyone,” says New Zealand Slam Poet 2012 Champion Ali Jacs.

Teaming up with poets is not new to NZ Bus having previously supported Poetry in Motion in the late ‘90s.

“Public Transport etiquette is just one way of saying that passengers on our buses should expect to have a comfortable and safe trip every time”, says NZ Bus CEO Zane Fulljames.

“We thought having cartoon characters, the Bus Bugbears, and their messages through the medium of poetry would be a fun way to get that message out there – that there are conditions of carriage we expect people to adhere to on our buses to respect the other passengers, our drivers and the actual buses,” Mr Fulljames said.

We have kick started the poetiquette campaign with Block the Way Ray.

There aren’t too many performances but overall it seems like a neat idea by NZ Bus so they should be congratulated for it. The campaign is also one that is similar to ones seen in other cities like this one from Queensland.

NZ Bus Bugbears #1

I guess my only concern is that this campaign is only on NZ Bus buses and it would probably be worthwhile being expanded to all operators and modes.

NZBus Comparison

A nice little video NZBus put together for a recent transport conference of CEO Zane Fulljames comparing getting between their Onehunga depot and the Wynyard Quarter  by car and by alternative modes.

I imagine Zane could have saved even more time if he took his bike on the train and rode from Britomart.

This does raise one question though, why don’t the PT operators do more to push the use of PT. Is it that Auckland Transport are controlling the comms? It would surely be in the interests of all the bus companies to pushing for PT use as all would benefit in a case of, “a rising tide floating all boats”.