Back in the middle of last year two “B-Line” routes were launched in Auckland, along Dominion Road and Mt Eden Road. I was a bit ambivalent about them at the time, mainly because they “undersold” the actual quality of those two bus routes. But I could see the point: raising the quality (or at least the perception of quality, which is equally important) of bus travel along high frequency bus corridors. One of the main reasons why the “quality guarantee” of a bus every 15 minutes, 7am-7pm Monday to Friday was set so comparatively low – Mt Eden Road buses operate at least every 10 minutes, Dominion Road buses at least every 5 minutes) was to enable further routes to be added as “B-Lines”, without the need to undertake impossibly expensive service frequency improvements.

By all accounts, the B-Line initiative has been reasonably successful. Mt Eden Road and Dominion Road buses are busier than ever – to the point that extra services needed to be added in recent times. However, nearly a year after the rollout of the first two B-Line routes – what’s happened to the rest of them? Not only have there not been any further B-Line routes, all of Auckland Transport’s reports seem to indicate that there aren’t any further ones planned for in the short to medium term future. Why not?

The particularly bizarre thing about the lack of progress on implementing more B-Line routes is that a number of routes would appear to have sufficient frequencies (with only mild alterations) to fit the criteria of being a B-Line. All Auckland Transport would need to do is even out a few of the intervals between buses, publish a few new timetables, get some fancy yellow signs on the buses and it’d be done!

So where could a few of the additional B-Line routes be?

Remuera Road:

By simply combining the, 655, 635 and 625 into a single route, and aligning the timetable so the buses ran every 15 minutes rather than at 10, 20, 10, 20 minute gaps, a B-Line service could be initiated along Remuera Road between the city and Glen Innes: In fact, in the not too distant past Remuera Road effectively did have a B-Line service: the good old “Remuera Rider”.

Onewa Road:

By aligning timetables of Beach Haven and Glenfield buses so they spaced the buses down Onewa Road more evenly, a B-Line quality service could easily be provided along Onewa Road, at least as far at Highbury Shops. Even the Beach Haven buses alone aren’t too far off providing B-Line frequencies. T3 lanes heading up Onewa Road in the PM peak would be a necessary improvement to accompany this route becoming a B-Line, but that’s an absolute no-brainer in any case.

Sandringham Road:

This is another fairly easy one, with just minor alterations to the timetable (as a result of the 233 being ruined by St Lukes’s stupid location) required to bring it up to a 15 minute frequency. It already has decent bus lanes along most of the route that would become part of the B-Line. I probably wouldn’t add in New North Road for now, even though it does have decent enough frequencies. The Western Line on the rail network mirrors New North Road’s bus service to a fairly significant degree, plus there is no existing bus priority measures west of Kingsland that would make a B-Line problematic.

Great North Road:

However, Great North Road on the other hand I think would be very suitable for becoming a B-Line route – between New Lynn and the CBD. This will particularly become possible when the Waterview Connection project creates a bus lane along a fairly critical section of Great North Road and hopefully eases a bit of the congestion along the “Waterview Straight”. A huge number of bus routes currently trundle along Great North Road from all parts of West Auckland. I’d probably chop everything at New Lynn, giving people the choice of transfering onto the train or onto a high-frequency B-Line service that serves quite a separate corridor to the railway line between New Lynn and town. It could even be called the “100 route” to make life extra simple: There’s even an existing dedicated timetable for the services.

Other possible B-Lines include Great South Road between Otahuhu and town, and the Ellerslie-Panmure Highway as well. The point being that there are plenty of fairly easy B-line routes to implement. So what have you been doing Auckland Transport? Or don’t you like the B-Line concept anymore?

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  1. Couldn’t agree more. Taking the Gt. North Rd. buses as an example, I used to catch the bus out to Pt. Chev from outside Skycity and even after doing this for several years I still had never got to grips with what buses I could catch and which I couldn’t (I could have spent time working out all the routes but that defeats the aim of PT being simple). If that whole bunch of what looks like 13 buses could be marketed as a single route/bus line, so to speak, between New Lynn and Britomart it would make it very easy to just jump any bus that shows up saying b-line to New Lynn via Gt. North Rd (for instance) – if you were going further than that you’d need to look for the specific bus but for large numbers of people, what is currently a confusing set of 13 (supposedly) different bus routes, could be seen as a single route.

    I think AT needs to find ways to simplify routes such that if people decide they want to go to X from Y it’s very simple at the bus stop to know which bus to catch – they don’t need to spend ages figuring it out. Places like Zurich were very easy to navigate because of the fact that the core tram lines were numbered 1 to 13, so in effect I only had to worry about 13 routes for a whle city (plus buses for finer grained connections). I always found that if you were somewhere in town you knew how to get there later because you notice a tram going past and it’s easy to remember one of 13 diferent coloured trams. This isn’t the case in Auckland where the dozens of bus numbers just act to add confusion.

  2. Based on the Mt Eden/Dominion road B-line routes they are just a big marketing push. I question the value of spending money on a big marketing campaign at the current time. The current B-line routes are struggling to handle demand, and AT had allowed old, non-air conditioned buses to run it to increase capacity. While a smart move short term, its not really the look we want for our premium routes long term. I think at the current point in time money should be concentrated on service improvements rather than marketing.

    Perhaps November would be a good time for a marketing push as with the uni students leaving the city for the summer demand is relatively lower. Just make sure more capacity is available come March/April.

    Yes a buz quality service would be awesome, weekends are a real weakness of our network. Plus the time for a separate sat/sun timetable is long gone, consolidate them into a single weekend/public holiday timetable.

    BTW i saw a new north road bus with a b-line sign today, didn’t get a photo sorry.

    1. “BTW i saw a new north road bus with a b-line sign today, didn’t get a photo sorry.”

      Most likely just running a route that it usually doesn’t run – the excessive branding of all the buses in Auckland which can’t easily be changed when running a different route is a major problem and cause of confusion IMO.

      1. “which can’t easily be changed when running a different route” It was a “redbus” with the only branding being the easy to change flip sign on the front. Prob the driver forgot to change it.

      2. Quite; but you have to remember all these excessively branded buses are owned by Infratil, the very same people who think that slapping up a schmaltzy ‘Wellywood’ sign at Miramar is a fabulous idea. Frankly I think AT should insist on a standard livery clause when the contracts come up; I rather suspect all this spurious and unnecessary branding is going to prove one of the many problems that will beset the rugby world cup. The main problem though will be the probable absence of any significant number of international spectators but, don’t worry; the government will be happy to cough up to cover up their non-appearance.

  3. On the Maxx website it states that you sit back and relax in air conditioned b.line buses which kneel on request.
    I don’t think birkenhead transport can provide that for an Onewa rd b.line. Most of their new modern buses are parked at the depot and used on school routes.

  4. I think setting up a B-Line on Great South Rd would be problamatic until HOP is rolled out on all buses as GS Rd is currently served by both Waka Pacific and H&E.

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