I caught a couple of “Outer Link” buses today, taking advantage of the new connection between Herne Bay and Pt Chevalier. Below are a few of my first impressions while there’s a good post over on the Campaign for Better Transport blog, outlining Cam Pitches’s first impressions of his trip between Westmere and St Lukes.
- The buses look really great, inside and outside. It really great being able to tell by the colour of your bus what route it is – while inside the buses have a nice modern feeling that oozes quality. Catching the bus is a nice way to ride.
- The “Loop” nature of the route means that many bus stops are likely to work differently than before, having a more even balance between being stops where people get off the bus and get on. Before the Outer Link, for example, the stops on the southern side of Jervois Road are mainly used by people getting off the bus, so don’t need much information like timetables, seats, real-time signs and so forth because they were 99% used by people getting off the bus. With there likely to be a more even split, Auckland Transport will need to look to add amenities to these stops – especially the basics like seating and shelter.
- The bus from Herne Bay to Pt Chev stopped at Westmere for about six minutes, to ensure that it stayed to time. While I understand that this is necessary to minimise the chances of buses bunching, it’s still damn annoying to sit there going nowhere for ages. It may be necessary for the timetables to be tweaked so that the fast running times of Sunday services (and evening services I imagine) are properly taken account of – so we don’t end up with buses getting well ahead of their scheduled times and therefore sitting around going nowhere for ages.
- I like that the buses have the same stop announcements as the old Link service, and that your progress is shown on a map on the TV screens. The Outer Link will hopefully attract people to catching the bus who normally wouldn’t, and provide for trips that people would previously drive, so making it easy to know where you are is very important.
- As a minor issue, the stop announcements along Meola Road in Pt Chevalier when heading in the clockwise direction seem messed up and out of order – first announcing the MOTAT stop, then the Garnet Rd stop and then a stop near Kiwi Road in Pt Chevalier – by which time the bus is well past there. A minor issue to iron out I think.
All up I’m generally impressed, though the big test will be how things go tomorrow and throughout the week. I’ve been in touch with the people at Auckland Transport who are monitoring the new services and they’re keen for feedback – so anything mentioned here can be passed on.