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.

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  1. Caught the Orange Link to University. Though it took me some time to figure out that AT are referring to the links as Inner and Outer Link whereas I suspect many will refer it to by colour. Reference to name explained the display signs; OUT Link and INN Link. I was thinking terms of colour, the display in terms of name, which threw me.

  2. Also caught the Red Link (City Centre Link) to get to Wynard Wharf, but at a stop down the bottom of Queen St I spotted a sign saying “Every Second City Centre Link bus goes to Wynard Wharf” !! I thought every bus did. This will throw tourists as you’ll need to pay attention to which bus goes where…

  3. I caught the outer link from uni to Parnell, A trip made much easier by the new route layout.

    The rear door is nice and wide, despite being a single door.

    Im really disappointed with the seat pitch. Im a little over 6 foot, and my knees were pressed against the seat in front. The molded seats must be good for smaller people but they weren’t good for me.

    Im surprised the 1×2 seating in the low floor was abandoned, I really liked in in the older link buses. For the loss of 3 or 4 seats it allows a much more spacious feel, more standing area, and enough isle room to easily get past standees. I felt the new buses feel cramped in the front isle.

    Other than this the new bus was really nice, it even had that “New” Smell.

  4. They never did sort out the “buses sitting around for 6mins” problem on the (now) Inner Link. The worst was their choice of Vic Park to do this – in the mornings just as the whole bus was coming into town for work, they’d stop! Apparently Vic Park will no longer be used for that as part of the new routes though.

    I would have thought the Outer Link will be worse, given the longer distances and more erratic traffic patterns leading to a larger variance in the run times.

  5. Also, do Outer Link bus stops have realtime arrival data available (i.e. the “Due” boards)? The Maxx website is useful for a quick check of your nearest stop before heading out and there really really needs to be propre smartphone-friendly version of that (someone has hacked together their own iPhone app using the data but it needs to be a little more broadly available and properly branded).

    1. There is a (not very extensive) mobile friendly version already. If you click the ‘on your mobile’ button on the live departure board at maxx.co.nz it takes you to a page with just the live bus info and nothing else.

  6. Well I find the new system very confusing. I need to travel daily from Customs Street to Victoria Street. I go to the MAXX journey planner and try entering Britomart to Victoria Park market. It tells me to cross the road and catch an INN bus from outside Queens Arcade. It says catch an anticlockwise bus but anticockwise based on what. I would have thought based on Britomart but that obviously will not work.
    Obviously MAXX was designed for people with a degree in Transport Planning and I am sure it must be my lack of understanding but there must be somewhere a simple view of the new routes showing which streets the buses go down and where the stops are. With all the colour on the map it surely would have been possible to use colour to mark out the route
    It seemed so simple up to last week where the Link bus ran from city up Victoria Street on to Ponsonby over to Newmarket and back the other way. One could ride all the way to Newmarket or anywhere in between for $1.60. Now it costs $1.80 to use what appears to be an inferior service.

  7. Thanks that’s the info I needed. Appears to be same as before except it uses Albert Street instead of Queen Street. I am curious how you found that as I have just gone back and looked at Maxx site and cannot see any link from front page to the Link stuff. Never mind thanks to you I have it now

    1. I had the exact same thing last week, couldn’t find the nice overview page which I thought must surely be there! Possibly only went up on the weekend…

  8. I caught the OuterLink from Pt Chev shops to Dominion Rd/Balmoral Rd corner.
    The bus stopped at Unitec for two minutes “to stay on schedule” and again for another two minutes between the St Lukes/New North Rd intersection and St Lukes mall. My friend who stayed on the bus through to Newmarket told me it also stopped on Valley Rd for 3 minutes, and Manukau Rd for 2 minutes.
    Why don’t they just put more buses on the route?

    Also, the rear door was non-operational, as was the Hop reader. Hope things improve.

  9. I caught the bus from AUT university to college hill today, before the Outer Link I would have to end up walking in town to the other end of queenstreet where the Green Link bus stop was, or even worse walk all the way down to Britomart to catch the Northern Express. So at least the Outer Link services provides a more direct route from where my work is in Freemans Bay on College Hill Road to the universities where I study during the evening.

    The only thing that lets the service down is the lack of bus lanes where the bus always seems to get caught in the general traffic. I also think the $1.80 bus fare is a little bit too high as it should be $0.50 to travel this distance, the Northern Express to Victoria Park cost this much.

    The Auckland Transport needs to knuckle down and stand up to the government and start removing more cars of Auckland city roads, this will make public transport more attractive and efficient. Other than that, the outerlink bus is the right step in the right direction!

  10. I tried to catch the Link from Broadway to Parnell but gave up and walked after waiting then finding out I was at a stop on the wrong side of the road (although it was the side of Broadway heading towards Parnell…).

    Auckland Transport has a huge opportunity to improve the bus system just by putting up some decent printed route maps and signs. The fancy electronic signs are great, but only if you know which bus you need. It’s time they took a look at the basics. Start with the Link routes and get good signage at every stop.

    As I’ve noted before, the bus system seems to ignore casual users, which creates a barrier to people ever considering using public transport. There is a steep learning curve to every bus route as there is no clear information showing where the bus goes. They need to do some blind tests — send people (not AT staff proficient in every route, but out-of-towners) to a location and get them to navigate using public transport to another place in the city. Look at what goes wrong and fix it.

    1. They need to do some blind tests — send people (not AT staff proficient in every route, but out-of-towners) to a location and get them to navigate using public transport to another place in the city. Look at what goes wrong and fix it.

      That’s an excellent idea actually. I must say that the location of the Outer Link bus stops on Wellesley Street weren’t particularly clear.

      Though it’s my understanding that Auckland Transport will be tweaking a lot of things like signage over the next few weeks. They were hurrying just to get the bus stops in place for yesterday.

      1. yes but tell them to take plenty of water and canned food because it’s going to take long. If you don’t study the routes before you’re lost forever.
        Tried to catch a Outlink from wellesley st to newmarket tonight. Couldn’t find the bus stop, I gave up.

    2. Actually, the Link bus stop on Broadway outside the Mac Store (now renamed YouBee for some reason) catches people out. Link buses at this stop are going up Khyber Pass, and not into Parnell. You could put all the signage up you like but people tend to operate on experience.

      I suspect you were at this stop. Correct me if I am wrong.

      1. I was outside the 277 shopping centre on Broadway, I’m not sure if that is where the Mac Store is. From what I saw, there was just a link ‘loop’ sign (the one with all the areas it passes in a circle) which wasn’t of any use.

        If you rely on experience it means barrier to people trying transport. Smart phones have almost made it possible to use buses in Auckland, but they are not the answer as a lot of people don’t have them or the data plans (eg. tourists). Clearer signs are needed. It may be tricky to design, but shouldn’t be expensive to implement.

  11. Admittedly the advent of Transit directions on phones with google maps has made a world of wonder, no you can simply say where you want to go and you’re told which bus to catch – only problem is that the buses don’t run to schedule so unlike somewhere like Switzerland or Germany it’s not so reliable.

  12. I just want to make everybody aware that if you don’t tag out on the orange link you’ll pay the full 3.40$ fare plus 80c on top to piss you off.
    Yesterday morning i took the Outlink from Parnell library to the Civic at 9.36. At the Civic stop the driver turned off the system before i could tag off (he was terminating the shift, I guess). When I asked him to turn it back on to tag off, he said I would be right and to get out. My Hop now doesn’t work because I have to pay 80c out of it and I don’t have money in it, but only trips, that I can’t use.
    This is so wrong. 80c for a driver’s mistake and they stop my card from working. Big shame.
    Ah, the solution from the Hop people? “Recharge it with emoney (and also pay 25c) and then we’ll figure it out someway”.
    No way.

    1. You could always just ‘tag’ yourself off at the next stop or two after the one you got on to avoid this problem. Would screw up passenger movements numbers big time but would solve the problem of drivers simply turning off the system without making sure everyone has tagged off.

      1. Don’t do that. You are likely to be accused be accused of fraud/theft. Hop conditions require you to tag off at the end of your trip so you can be charged for the number of stages you travel.

  13. Driver was most upset with me for presenting him with a ten dollar note. do these guys have a very small float to work with? even so, why should this be taken out on the passenger. thankfully i’m old enough not to let it upset me. rather, simply a dissappointing encounter with an otherwise really great transport idea.
    cheers, ursula

  14. Can anyone tell me how long it takes from Pt Chevalier to Newmarket on the outer link and how much it costs for adults and children. Doesn’t seem to be a timetable on Maxx. Thanks.

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