A few days ago Nick R wrote an excellent post in which he applied Paul Mees’s “network theory” of bus routes to Auckland’s North Shore, to come up with a basic “grid” structure that could serve the whole area effectively, and potentially in a way that would use the same or less resources than are currently required. There have been enough posts about the network effect recently that I probably don’t have to explain the idea too much, other than to reiterate that it’s based around transfers between routes, simple route structures and high-frequencies – to create a system that can actively compete against the car for speed, cost and convenience in cities with dispersed residential and employment patterns.

I’m going to look at the Auckland isthmus area. Out of all parts of Auckland this is the area where I think a “network effect” approach could have the most advantages, because there is a basic grid street network structure throughout at least part of the isthmus, and there are a number of employment nodes – meaning that the current “suburb to CBD” route focus has its limitations.

First of all, let’s not forget that we have a three line (plus Onehunga, to be opened soon) rail network within the isthmus. Usefully, where a strong grid street-network is least evident (in the eastern part of the isthmus) the rail network offers an excellent line to base bus routes around. So let’s look at the rail network first:

If we had the Onehunga line extend through the Avondale, as well as the CBD rail tunnel of course, then we could run loop trains around the whole isthmus – which would be quite useful. Maybe some day I suppose…

Turning to bus routes now, I have added to the map what I think are the eleven key suburb t0 CBD bus routes throughout the isthmus. I suppose if I were creating a true grid I would make these ‘north-south routes’, but as a significant number of public transport users really do want to get to the CBD, I think it’s useful to have these routes, which are significantly simplified versions of the majority of the existing bus network (and very reminiscent of the old tram system). Each route would run at 10 minute frequencies, seven days a week, plus more frequent during peak times. They would be supplemented by less frequent feeder routes to main interchanges (Local Connector Networks according to ARTA). Hopefully some of the routes could be “through-routed” from one side of the CBD to the other: Obviously some of these routes would extend further, into Waitakere and Manukau cities. However, generally I would want to avoid the routes getting too long where avoidable, as hopefully most people travelling from the west and south would be using trunk RTN services such as the railways or (hopefully) a future Northwest Busway.

The key to making this a network is in the next step, where we supplement all these suburb-to-CBD routes with cross-town services, to truly create a system where people can go from anywhere to anywhere. Cross-town routes are less likely to be profitable that the red-routes shown above (at least in the shorter run), but they are critical in making the system more attractive and useful as a whole. Four main cross-town routes, plus the Link Bus, are shown in the map below: The inner-most cross-town route (aside from the Link) was probably the most difficult to settle on, but I think that the route I have ended up picking makes a decent amount of sense: being Westmere to Mission Bay via Newmarket. It would integrate well with the railway station planned under the intersection of Newton Road, Symonds Street and Khyber Pass Road as part of the CBD rail tunnel.

Put everything together and you have, what I think, is a fairly simple yet comprehensive network. I absolutely recognise that you would need to supplement these base services with local connectors – generally linking under-served areas with the nearest railway station or high-frequency bus route interchange. The system certainly works best in the western half of the isthmus than the eastern, largely due to the street structure I think. There might well be room for a north-south cross-town service in the eastern part of the city, although to some extent the railway line achieves that purpose, so having all the bus routes running east-west could be said to supplement that quite well.

Overall there are eleven red routes, four blue routes plus the link bus. That’s 16 routes to run at 10 minute frequencies (higher at peak times). I reckon that’s possible using a similar level of resource to what we have now. It’s got to be more easily understood than what we have now: Simplicity is important I think. Simplicity, better frequencies, easier transfers and more direct routes.

Share this


  1. Hmm, looking at it I’d remove a few things:

    First, I’d stop the Howick route at Panmure station for a transfer on to the trains and re-route cross-town route 2 to head into Panmure via Great South Rd and Ellerslie – Panmure Highway. Crosstown coming from GI is generally already sorted out by the 10 bus route.

    Second I’d remove the Great South Rd bus route as its simply just doubling up with the train.

    Apart from that everything else could be sorted out by feeders.

  2. I don’t think you can remove the routes doubling the Southern and Western lines till the CBD tunnel is built, capacity on trains will be reached by about 2015-2016…

  3. If I might be so bold, it looks like you’ve attempted to keep many of the existing bus routes unchanged and the ‘networkiness’ is perhaps less than it could be with a clean slate approach.

    For example, if we are talking about a grid of connecting routes then why maintain the existing ‘old habit’ of running all of the New North, Sandringham, Dominion and Mt Eden buses along the same section of upper Symonds St? From what I can tell this arrangement harks back to the day when the only good road across the Newton Gully was at Symonds St, and all the trams from south of the gully had to run down that same street. Two of the recommendations from ‘Transport for Suburbia’ are to avoid duplication of routes where possible and to ignore all the historic foibles still existent in routing.
    Why not, for example, run the Dominion Rd route via Ian McKinnon Drive and down Queen St, and the Sandringham Rd route over Bond St bridge and through Arch Hill? That would create more of a grid of interconnecting routes while still serving those key radial desire lines.

    Likewise with keeping the Link route exactly as it is today. If there are frequent links down Symonds St, Queen St and Albert St, is there the need to maintain the awkward diversion down to Albert Park and the universities? Wouldn’t the network, timekeeping and legibility be better if it just ran straight across K Rd and Grafton Bridge? Also on the otherside the Link and the No.1 radial duplicate each other all along College Hill and Victoria St. Why not route the Link a block or two over so it runs via Tank Farm and the waterfront?

    In the Auckland ithsmus any network is going to be more of a ‘spiderweb’ topography than a ‘grid iron’, with a series of core radial routes linked with circumferential ones. I don’t think this is a problem at all, but there is still a lot of scope to improve access and efficiency by ‘gridding out’ the routes a bit more and letting transfers do the work.

  4. I wonder about keeping the Link as a circuit (with all the problems that circular services have). Maybe split it with the Pt Chev – City via Herne Bay route extended to Newmarket via Parnell taking over part of it and the other bit done by a Ponsonby Rd – K Rd – Hospital – Newmarket service.

  5. Maybe the Link could be done away with completely if you had enough routes criss-crossing the central area. Perhaps replace it with a pair of cross town routes, say one from Ponsonby to Newmarket via K Rd and another from Ponsonby to Newmarket via downtown.

  6. I think if there was a “big changeover” getting rid the link completely would create more confusion initially than you would gain by reallocating the resource (need to change the livery too)…

  7. We are talking about a pretty revolutionary reorganisation of routes though. That does lead to one important consideration, how would one go about implementing the change? Risk massive disruption by change the whole lot over one particular day, or maybe introduce changes bit by bit and risk having a system that is neither here nor there for quite some time?

  8. I have gone for something of a “soft-transition” approach, although I certainly agree that changes to how the routes enter the CBD is a good idea. The reason for my “soft-transition” approach is that many existing bus routes work pretty well as they are, they just need to be supplemented to create a network effect rather than completely replaced.

    I guess it’s about being realistic as well as idealistic 😉

  9. I would love to see a angle map done with your maps – something showing the simplicity and joinary if your proposed routes. Then at least I can have something to hug and wimper into as Joyce decided to expand all the motoways to 8lanes.

Leave a Reply