Several recent posts have extolled the merits of “better buses” for Auckland. These posts have generally focused on the following issues:

  • Corridor infrastructure – as discussed in this post, there are strong arguments in favour of expanding Auckland’s bus lane network so as to improve bus speeds/reliability.
  • Network structure – as discussed in this post, Auckland Transport’s draft RPTP has proposed a network of frequent bus lines which are designed to support the rail and busway networks.
  • Vehicle technology – as discussed in this post, bus operators in Auckland are just about to trial double-decker buses, while this earlier post discussed rapid developments in hybrid/electric bus technologies.

Improved corridor infrastructure, a better network, and newer/larger vehicles should all drive bus patronage higher. Complementing these bus improvements will be a vastly improved rail network – sporting fast, new trains that operate at high frequencies – and integrated ticketing/fares – enabling people to travel seamlessly across the network irrespective of mode or operator.  

The “take-away message”, as they say, is that many more people are likely to be using Auckland’s buses in 10 years time compared to now. And we’ll also be using buses in subtly different ways: Rather than staying on the bus for long trips, more people will be catching the bus for a short distance and then connecting to a faster rail or busway service. On the surface this all sounds like good news.

But hold on a second – all this seems to be overlooking something. More specifically, if we have more people using buses and they are using them for shorter trips, then does this not mean that the rate of passenger movements per bus-kilometre traveled will increase by a disproportionate amount? This in turn means, holding other factors constant, the time buses spend dwelling at stops will also increase. The irony here is that all of the aforementioned initiatives, which are designed to improve the attractiveness of the bus system, will – if they are successful at attracting passengers – tend to place inexorable downward pressure on bus operating speeds.

That’s the vicious cycle on which I think we should focus our collective attention.

In the last few years I’ve had the pleasure of residing in a number of cities. Two of these stand-out for the way they have treated their buses with dignity, namely Brisbane (pop ~2 million) and Edinburgh (pop ~600,000). Both of these cities have bus networks that carry over 110 million trips per year, i.e. twice as many bus passengers as Auckland. And for this reason both Brisbane and Edinburgh have had to grapple with gnarly issues  that Auckland may need to confront in the future.

In Brisbane they’ve gone for what could charitably be described as “infrastructure intensive” solutions. This has seen them spend not considerable sums of money on extremely high quality grade-separated bus infrastructure in the city centre. One of the most recent shining (if spending money is to be applauded) examples of this infrastructure is King George Square Station, which is illustrated below. This underground bus station connects via a tunnel to Roma Street and Queen Street Stations to the north and south respectively. KGS apparently has a design capacity of about 300 buses per hour, or 20,000 passengers per hour, however achieving this through-put would require modifications to the approaches and platforms.


Edinburgh, for their part, have opted for slightly less infrastructure. Their main trick has been to develop a network of on-street bus lanes on major arterial roads leading into the city, which converge on Princes Street. The latter then becomes a bus/taxi only mall at peak periods, as illustrated below. Edinburgh has in turn developed a network structure that enables them to “through-route” almost all services (NB: It’s worth mentioning that this kind of network structure, which results in relatively long routes, is aided and abetted by Edinburgh’s relatively compact and symmetric urban form and not necessarily something that can be replicated in cities like Brisbane and Auckland).

Princes Street

In terms of what’s best for Auckland, my gut feeling is that our bus sweet spot lies somewhere between Brisbane and Edinburgh. That is, as a relatively large and rapidly growing city we will need some high-quality, possibly even underground, bus infrastructure in our city centre. It’s notable that the two major bus corridor initiatives implemented in Auckland in the last decade, namely the Northern Busway and the Central Connector have piked out completely as they approach the City Centre. Right where you need the priority treatment the most is where we have waved the white flag.

And unfortunately the consequence of failing to provide adequate bus infrastructure has not been pretty: It has exacerbated bus congestion in the core central city area which in turn further detracts from urban amenity. Ironically, the congestion arising from inadequate bus infrastructure in Auckland has prompted some people to (naively) call for banishing buses from the city centre altogether. While our historical reluctance to provide appropriate facilities for buses says a lot about our collective unwillingness to recognise the contribution buses make to the city centre, it now creates an opportunity for us to develop something better – something that can support our existing bus corridors while accommodating those that we expect to develop in the future, as per the new bus network.

But enough about infrastructure! The primary point of this post was actually to identify a range of “softer” initiatives that have been implemented in cities overseas, which Auckland could adopt to maintain bus speeds as patronage grows, namely:

  1. Wider stop spacing – Brisbane’s high-frequency routes tend to follow a limited stopping pattern, which sees them stopping every 800m or so. Stop spacing is even longer on the the City Glider services, which provide an inner-city cross-town function. This typically means that you sometimes have to be prepared to walk a bit further, but when you do you have access to services that are frequent and fast. Moreover, these services are complemented by all-stop services operating underneath, which typically focus on providing local access and coverage. By way of comparison, light rail lines often tend to have stop spacings approaching 1km.
  2. Managing cash payment – Many services in Brisbane are “pre-pay only”, which simply means you have to have a smart card in order to board. Edinburgh has taken a slightly different approach: Passengers can still pay with cash on all services, but if you do then you don’t get any change. Instead, passengers paying by cash simply have to throw the money in an automatic cash counter, which then automatically tells the bus driver whether they have paid enough for the fare that they have requested. Again, this drastically reduces dwell times (customers paying by cash board almost as fast as those using a smart card) and also increases revenues.
  3. Vehicle configuration – This has multiple dimensions, but generally involves vehicle designs that enable much quicker loading and unloading. Key features include double-door entry/exit, so that passengers paying by cash do not block other passengers that are paying by smartcard. Similarly, double-door exit at the back enables quicker unloading of passengers, which is especially crucial when operating a tag-off system – as Auckland is doing. Another common aspect of buses in both Brisbane and Edinburgh is wider aisles, especially towards the front, which enables speedies loading – particularly for people with wheelchairs and prams.

Given that buses have a lifetime of 12-15 years Auckland Transport and the bus operators would ideally be thinking about these issues now, so that they can be incorporated into vehicle procurement and contracting policies from at an early stage. Some of this is happening already – as per the double-decker bus trial noted above. But on the other hand I do wonder if Auckland Transport should develop some form of operational plan (i.e. non-infrastructure) that analyses our current bus system, identifies where time is being lost, and identifies/prioritises some the issues that will need to be tackled to accommodate up to 120 million bus trips per year. Of course, there may be things that Auckland can implement now in anticipation of higher patronage.

As an aside, Auckland really needs to take a leaf out of Brisbane and Edinburgh’s bus book. As these cities have shown, appropriately sized and designed bus infrastructure will reduce the impact of buses on the city centre. Sure, some negative impacts remain, but that’s more the result of the eternal tension that exists in urban environments between mobility and accessibility, between movement and exchange, than something that is intrinsic to buses per se.

Be interested to hear what other initiatives people think could be used to make Auckland’s buses better …

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    1. Well found, Tony.

      While it’s clear buses will be part of the AKL’s future transport mix, I think we’d be making a big mistake by copying Brisbane or Bogota – or Edinburgh for that matter.

      The fact is, if AKLers thought buses were a good way to get around they wouldn’t make the vast majority of trips in their cars. The smoke signal has gone up over the last 40 or 50 years, we should probably take notice of it.

      The pro-bus lobby would argue that when you give people express bus services like the Northern Busway, then they will come.

      Some maybe, the majority will stay in their cars.

      I believe the qualitative profile of rail is vastly superior to buses for inter-nodal transit – and I also think AKL needs to – and has the opportunity to – be cleverer than resorting to buses – especially diesel buses.

      Essentially, you can’t yank people out of their cars by laying on more buses. You need to send a massive signal that things have changed.

      Here’s a pretty good topline summary by Hank Dittmar of how to approach the situation of transportation that fits with the new urbanism:

      Dittmar has got most of this stuff nailed – and it’s not hard to see where his thinking is skewed from this document – and it ain’t toward rows and rows of buses on giant concrete busways.

      1. Edinburgh has pretty bad traffic jams for a small and slow growing city given the large numbers of bus users…..and the flat fare structure means it is quite a bit different to Auckland.
        It is a good example of ownership (or management) and service levels though – the council owned Lothian Buses are pretty good (new buses, clean, well designed etc) compared to the listed operators which are mostly very grim – might be another post idea-which ownership model works best….

        1. I found inner Edinburgh to be so bus-ridden that it was pretty awful to walk around, particularly in the vicinity of St Andrew Square. Hopefully this will all change when the long awaited trams start running but I’ve rarely experienced such a pedestrian unfriendly environment (Hamilton trumps it) and buses were a major factor in this unease.

          1. Interesting – my experience was not that the buses were a major issue per se, more that the general pedestrian infrastructure on the roads where they operated was severely lacking. From what I know the trams will not solve anything (in fact they will probably make the bus congestion worse), but yes we can always hope.

          2. Very true – you try to avoid Princes Street after a while due to fumes. The queues of waiting bus customers make for an average environment. Danish architects Gehl recommended a while back that Edinburgh ditch the buses in Princes Street once the trams become operational. Plans were for a more European styled pedestrian space like Castle St which looked awesome – was supposed to start from 2015. They called Edinburgh’s high street a bus station which is not good when it already has a separate bus terminal!

        2. AA – yes it does have a lot of traffic, possibly because it’s so dense? The flat fare is an interesting one: Auckland’s proposed zone system will effectively be charged a flat fare for local trips, while radial trips will be priced higher (as they cross concentric boundaries).

          Agree with you that Edinburgh is a good example of good management – and all that from an publicly owned operator. Who would have thought?!?

      2. Ben S,

        The majority of people stay in their cars pretty much everywhere in the developed world. So why do you then go to argue for rail investment as opposed to road investment? If the majority of people decide to still use their cars post CRL (which I think everyone agrees will be the case in the forseeable future), will you deem rail a failure? Your argument doesnt make a lot of sense.

        And you are not weighing the cost factor. Bus lanes plus the soft initiatives that Stu has listed are cheap! This is very very important.

        1. Well put. The LRT poster child of Karlsruhe had a PT mode share of 16% (1992 figures – can’t find more up to date figures), whereas Edinburgh was at 20% in 2011.

          But as you note modest PT mode share overall is neither here nor there in this argument. As Edinburgh has shown this can still be delivered for little operating subsidy, and because most of the travel is undertaken at peak times to central city destinations (where congestion is prevalent) then the socio-economic benefits make some subsidy justified.

          What the rail foamers need to understand is that supporting some levels of subsidy does not automatically means that we can/should spend excessive amounts of money on rail infrastructure (capital and operating). That’s why most good PT systems operate a blend of transport modes whose cost structures are tailored to the underlying demands.

          For Auckland’s part I think the mix of rail, bus, and ferry in our PT network is shaping up very well. I’d put a big question over some of the proposed expansions to the rail network, because I think it should stick to its knitting by simply running higher frequencies on the existing network, at least until such time as demands warrant massive expansions in network coverage.

          1. Steve, I’m not being “selective”. I spent half an hour and could not find more up to date mode share figures, as noted above. Nor are there mode share figures in those documents you link to, from what I can tell.

            Maybe I’m not the best Google searcher but I’m definitely not selective.

      3. Ben – Can you please name a city that doesn’t use buses at all?

        What we are talking about here is making the buses that we do have better. Even if we changed our strategy and starting building light and heavy rail all over the place, there would still be buses needed, with some routes through the city centre. These suggested improvements are still going to be needed.

        1. Karlsruhe?

          They do have feeder buses but you can get by with quick cycle or walking to the trams. Smaller city though….

        2. I’ve not said zero buses – I said “it’s clear buses will be part of the AKL’s future transport mix.”

          However I do think diesel buses in particular are the past not the future, especially in an NZ context.

          1. My take on it is that 1) Auckland’s bus fleet will continue to grow in response to growing patronage; 2) in the short term these new buses will be diesel, but these will be vastly cleaner/better than the vehicles they are replacing and 3) over time higher capacity and/or longer distance services (e.g. NEX) will be delivered using diesel-electric hybrids whereas some form of electric battery bus with fast overhead re-charging (and possibly supported by some in-service induction charging) will be used for local services.

            So I tend to agree in part: Diesel buses are not the long term future, but I’m prepared to accept an interim solution where the operators phase our old diesels for new diesels, as seems to be happening. That’s because buses (of some form) will be an important part of the PT network for decades to come.

      4. Ben S, that presentation you linked to had the following quote: “Much time is wasted in the debate about bus or rail: both are needed, and it depends on setting.” The presentation also shows several images of Brisbane’s busways (RBWH and Queen Street Bus Station).

    2. Very poor form Tony – I could just as easily show you trains/trams backed up after an accident.

      Congestion at Brisbane’s Cultural Centre reflects more the current structure of the bus network, where all frequent BUZ routes travel through the Cultural Centre in addition to lots of coverage routes, than it does about the efficacy of buses in general. Congestion at that point also occurs because the bus station is not gated, i.e. passengers can access the platforms without paying first (unlike a rail station), which greatly slows down the boarding and alighting process. By re-structuring the network and gating the major downtown stations most if not all of Brisbane’s bus capacity issues would disappear.

      One final comment: People like you and Ben seem to throw up the “but the busway is congested argument” as if it were a killer argument against buses. I just don’t see how that is the case, not only can it be relatively readily fixed (through some of the initiatives I identify above), but also because all PT systems suffer from capacity issues at peak times, e.g. Britomart. And despite the reliability issues you seem so keen to shout fro the rooftops people keep catching the buses in Brisbane in droves. Finally, if you showed me a PT network that was not congested at peak times then I’d suggest it’s being under-utilised.

      The key question you guys seem to ignore is: Can the congestion be readily and cost-effectively alleviated? And the answer is yes, at least in Brisbane’s case.

  1. 1- “Given that buses have a lifetime of 12-15 years…” – actually more like 20-25 years if the past is anything to go by.
    2- Buses need to stick to main roads and let the able-bodied walk to the stop. Twisting tortuous suburban routes taking a long time to not go very far should be axed or at least minimised.
    3- Advertising that covers up windows, reducing visibility and light, does passengers no favours, seriously compromising one of the few postives the bus has going for itself, namely the spacious, superior view, and should also be axed.

    1. I don’t think our past management of buses is something we want to replicate necessarily :). But yes you’re correct, they can certainly be pushed for that long.

  2. I very much agree with the need for more wider stop spacing. It is far to close in Auckland which can really slow buses down. My wife caught a bus for the first time in ages on Friday due to the disruptions on the Western line thanks to a truck hitting the Titirangi Rd overbridge. It was a flyer service but after she got off the motorway she got really frustrated by how close the stops were as on average they were only every 300m. Here other frustrations were that the seat spacing which meant she didn’t have any leg room and the movement of the bus so she couldn’t read her book.

    1. close seat spacing is not an attribute exclusive to buses, I found Wellington’s Ganz units extremely uncomfortable if travelling from Wellington to Paraparumu due to lack of knee space, same for Air NZ’s airbuses across the Tasman

  3. My route, the 020 (the Otto as my kids call it) takes a rambling up hill and down dale, long, fume belching, uncomfortable, discursive journey from the Ponsonby ridge down to the depths of the Freeman’s Bay gully only to turn away from the city at Wellington St and strain its way up one of the city’s steepest streets to regain the ridge altitude at K’Rd. this late part of the trip for anyone not precisely using these stops, and there are few, perfectly describes why so many bus trips in Ak are the least attractive or efficient way of going anywhere.

    And this is a new route, so clearly coverage was considered more important that speed, comfort, efficiency, or vehicle emissions in planning it.

    And yet it crosses paths with the Green Link on P Rd so those heading to K’Rd could transfer there; once we have integrated fares (not just ticketing) would it not be possible to sort this horror of roller coaster journey out? Or will the loss of one old stop, as doubtless championed by all the enemies of change, mean this kind of ‘heritage’ will hang over the bus network interminably? The conflict between coverage and speed?

    1. I thought the 020 route route was originally quite direct but there were a lot of complaints and a consultation which produced the current compromise route. I don’t think a more direct route will work until, as you say, integrated fares arrive (and frequencies are upped all around).

        1. Yeah that’s completely stupid. Apparently some residents on Picton Street didn’t want buses going past their houses and Auckland Transport folded.

          1. That seems really strange. Surely it would be great to have a bus running outside your door? And in any case the 028 used to run down there several times a day anyway?

  4. The morning services of the 020 show what people (at that time of the day anyway) are looking for. The ‘X’ service (which skips the Freemans Bay tourist association part of the route) is packed, standing room only (if any at all) by the time it gets to my stop. The normal service is pretty much ‘pick whatever seat you want’.

    1. Passengers are often left behind. I found it was only an 020X problem, but apparently the 020 bus gets very crowded as well, possibly overflow from all the 020X buses that are too full.

      Really we deserved better. I can see why the 015 was axed, but why combine two once every 20 minute line into one? Shouldn’t we get at least a 15 minute day time frequency?

  5. On the bus infrastructure point – I think an underground bus tunnel from Fanshawe to Anzac Ave would be a sweet bit of infrastructure… Given the CRL seems like it will eventually be a done deal, could you squeeze this over the top I wonder? It looks like there is about 12m from customs st to rail level so sounds like enough room – just.

    1. That would be sweet. When I said underground I was actually referring to something slightly smaller and less glamorous, like developing a stop in the basement of a building (e.g. opposite Britomart). The only catch is ensuring is can be efficiently accessed by buses that are traveling through, rather terminating there.

      1. I hear what you are saying. I guess why I think my 200-300m “underpass” (Ill stop using the T word) would be worthwhile is because it would help to connect the northern busway with the central connector, and because you are going to need to ramp down over a certain length anyway just to get into a basement. The underpass could be connected to Britomart platform level by breaking through Britomarts secant pile walls. Would be doable.

          1. The place does get utterly snarled at peak. I think it is a candidate for grade separation.

            If you are just going to have a basement with steep ramps from the adjacent street, is there a point? Sounds like an expensive way to keep the rain off. Auckland never gets that cold.

          2. Vehicle underpasses do horrible violence to the streetscape; getting roadways up and down makes for nasty places that sever the historical and natural public amenity and should only be done with extreme reluctance. The biggest snarler of traffic flow on Customs is the unnecessary over provision of right hand turns. This important cross street just needs a redesign by a team other than Auckland’s seemingly retrograde collection of traffic engineers.

          3. Remember we are talking about part of the RTN here. Even a lane separated at grade solution is not going to be ideal for a very busy part of town. With regard to the streetscape, the Western portal could be aligned next to the existing ret wall and as such is not really going to do much severing. The eastern portal a bit more so but the ramps could be steep, not like an 80kph highway design.

          4. Yes it is part of the RTN but a very particular part; the destination point for many. This means that we have to think a great deal about place as well as about movement here more than much of the rest of the ‘line’.

            Probably the difference between our emphases here is around the fulcrum of that balance; place versus movement. It seems to me that we are coming to the end of a phase (I hope) where transport infrastructure is in the hands of people who only think in terms of movement; who have no training in or understanding of, nor responsibility to, place.

            Movement is, after all, merely a means to an end. No point in having efficient movement to a place that is then rendered pointless or unattractive to travel to.

          5. depends – I think Britomart is always going to play a role as a bus terminus even if you cater for the through movement as much as possible. Also the issue of long distance buses needing a new home at some point (assuming we don’t want them out the back of Sky City forever). Having some platform/layover space underground in that part of town would be very very useful from a wider network perspective methinks.

          6. But wouldn’t it be more beneficial to have the underground space for the through movement. I dont know that we are talking about that much difference in cost. Unless you have a site for this basement that isnt under a road.

            Patrick if you are really worried about severance from a little portal it could be done one way only to the Northern RTN line with portal next to the existing retaining wall and tying into Stu’s basement (at which point we are only talking about an underpass of Albert St. Everyone is a winner and all the RTN lines are underground at Britomart. How is that for legibility?

      1. I don’t know much about that particualr system but from everything I’ve heard Seattle is good peer city for Auckland: Similar topography/physical geography/urban form. Seattle has a more fickle and colder climate than us so we can probably expect people to walk slightly further to access the system.

        1. Seattle’s bus tunnels initially imposed significant inefficiencies on the buses, which operated on diesel engines away from the tunnel, then connected to trolley overhead and ran on electiricity in the tunnel, so they carried a complete redundant power train at all times, now they operate hybrid buses which overcomes that problem

          but diesel emissions from high frequency bus services and tunnels aren’t happy bedfellows

          1. So can the hybrid buses switch to running on electric only in the tunnel? That would be my solution for underground bus facilities of short to moderate length. Didn’t know it was already in practice though.

    2. Buses in tunnels are horrible, expensive, and inefficient. The best argument for buses is that they are a cheaper less capex intensive mode. If we’re going to build permanent long term high capex infrastructure lets do it properly and put space saving 100% electric higher capacity vehicles through them.

      Isn’t Stu’s post all about the ways that improving how we run buses can provide a whole lot more by spending less? This needs to happen, but where we can take a longer term view and actually build properly and not just for a few years, please let’s do it properly for once.

      1. “Buses in tunnels are horrible, expensive, and inefficient.”

        The good thing about buses is that they do not require expensive end-to-end infrastructure because they are so flexible. Hence while buses in tunnels may well be inefficient, my suggestion is about a limited level of infrastructure to support a far wider network.

      2. Yes that’s the point of the post.

        Don’t fully agree with your comment Patrick – developing an underground bus station in the basement of a building (preferably with a direct link to Britomart) would be a good way to remove complex turning movements from the surface. Underground bus facilities are not always horrible, King George Square and Christchurch’s old central station being prime examples.

        Beyond that I would not look to run buses underground, however, because I think buses are best left at the surface to provide local access.

        1. Yes Stu I agree but that is a different order of infrastructure than bus tunnels. And swan of course the CCFAS concluded that the CRL does exactly what you are saying; connecting to a wider already existing network. Horses for courses and in central Auckland we cannot keep adding buses at street level nor more accommodate them more efficiently underground than we can with rail.

          1. The point would not be to add more buses, but use the ones we have more efficiently and with less impacts upon the urban environment and other transport users (especially pedestrians).

            There are some 18 bus stops scattered around Britomart, with bus stopping or circulating on almost every street down that way (major arterials and little side lanes a like). That’s a lot of bus movements, a lot of hassle for bus users, and a big impact on the precinct.

            A fairly simple interchange could take all of those stops and circulation movements and layover (and delays!) and put the out of the way in a convenient place. Going to a single station with platform screen doors and a destination board (a la Brisbane) would be much more civilized and far less horrible than the current experience of traipsing around in the rain dodging buses trying to find the right stop.

          2. To be clear I would be talking about a 200-300m tunnel tops, connecting to median bus lanes on either side. Alternative would be to bus only Customs St. I think this would stack up fairly well against any rail tunnel. More people are going to enter the CBD on buses than on rail for the forseeable future remember.

          3. Seen how wide Customs St is? No need to dig it up, just take two of those 6/7 lanes… Cut out the right hand turning options for motorists, ie the painted median, and both general vehicles and buses will flow much better than now. If we’re going to dig, let’s dig for the most appropriate vehicles to send underground…. Best out of both modes.

          4. If you take that logic through though, we could bus lanes over the entire city with no need for the CRL at all. Hang on…

          5. yes, but that’s an illogical extension of a logical statement :).

            Logically, we know there is sufficient space on Customs for better bus priority.

            But it would be illogical, I think, to try and extrapolate that approach to the rest of the city centre, because every bus lane you create will reduce the space available for other vehicles. That makes the marginal (negative) impacts of bus lanes that much greater. So give the buses some good facilities where they really need it (on Customs and Wellesley), possibly throw in an underground bus terminus in the basement of a building close to Britomart, and call it a day methinks. Those few improvements on their own are probably enough to get us to 120 million bus trips per year.

          6. But how do we know there is enough room on Customs. Have you been down there at 5:30? You will be taking road space from other vehicles. I dont see why the argument doesnt hold fairly well for most arterials in or near the city centre.

          7. My hunch is that providing this facility would get enough cars off the road to compensate for the loss of space. The through-put of those vehicle lanes can only be 400 cars per hour max given the density of intersections/congestion. Side lanes will be even less capacity due to friction associated with turning vehickes. We only need to attract 8 bus loads of car-drivers onto the facility to make up that loss. Assuming a bus per minute at peak hour that would be 8/60 = not a very high diversion rate to break even,

            Also, there are opportunities for a lot of that traffic to divert via Grafton Gully to travel north rather than Customs/Fanshawe, so in this part of the network there would seem to be some “capacity” for better bus provision without stuffing things up too much.

            Of course the proposed boulevard/pedestrianisation of Quay Street would change that equation ;).

          8. Swan we know that the roadspace is currently inefficiently used. Painted median! We know from experience elsewhere that restricting roadspace for general vehicles often increases efficient use of that space, increases flow and utility; I know it’s counterintuitive but more is not always more when it comes to road width or vehicle freedom.

        2. OK, Ill leave my grand project to the side. Given we all agree that Customs/Fanshawe could be fixed with central bus lanes, why has it not happened yet? Why is the council not focussing on this project. The cost benefit ratio (including all the warm fuzzy stuff you like) must be off the scale.

          1. I think they are to scared to do anything which would be seen as removing road space, even if it didn’t actually do so, till after the CRL and Quay St projects are done,

            Also I wonder if side lanes are the answer rather than a centre one. Some modifications could mean that Sturdee St becomes busway only, feeding on to a northern side busway along Customs St. Fanshawe beween Albert and Hobson becomes two way (only needs some modification to the retaining wall along part of Sturdee St and changes to the entrance to Downtown car park.

          2. They are Swan, I believe there’s some big corridor management plan thing currently going on looking at the east west corridors in town.

            Not actually sure about centre bus lanes, especially not if you want the buses to stop on Customs St. Consider the requirements, two bus lanes, check. Then on such a busy corridor you’ll probably need offline stopping bays, so that moving buses can pull around stopped ones. (Currently the general lanes are used for this, and relatively few currently stop on Customs St). So that’s two more lanes you need for buses. But wait, then people actually have to get to the buses, so there needs to be platforms next to the bus bays with shelters and other bus stop business… so that’s even more width. We’re up to six lanes to put in a median busway that could handle the movements of Britomart. That leaves nothing for general traffic, when really Customs still needs to be a major east west road with probably two lanes each way for traffic.

            A north side pair of bus lanes would be better, you could arrange half the bus bays and bus stops along the existing footpath to save a bit of space. Still might be a tight squeeze though.

            I’m quite fond of these concepts of an offline terminal near Britomart. If all the stopping and turning and layover and passenger loading is done there, then maybe all you need is a pair of ‘bypass’ bus lanes on Customs to zip buses into the station. That way the street could still have good traffic capacity and also be a pleasant place for pedestrians.

          3. Actually now I think about it that above is only applicable if you have the stops in pairs directly opposite each other. You could offset the opposing stops and reduce the width needed. Still think it would probably account for about four lanes however.

          4. North side connects better with Britomart and with a Sturdee St bus way. Only question is what to do at the Fanshawe St Off Ramp…

          5. The busier inbound movement is fine. Outbound maybe drivers will just have to wait at the lights while buses to cross their path. Combined with the ramp metering there might be no real impact on flows.

          6. There is no need to wait for the CRL to be built before optimising Customs St for buses and through traffic. It is straight forward enough to retain and bridge the Albert st intersection for future excavation below for the CRL while reformatting the roadspace above. In fact it is probably essential to do so.

            I can see an argument for saving the de-caring of Queen St to arrive as a bonus of the CRL, but really wouldn’t be better to remove the cars now so the Albert St buses can use Queen while half of Albert St is out of action? Furthermore I see the de-caring of Queen St resulting in a decrease of vehicle pressure on the CBD street network, not an increase as one might automatically expect through displacement. We have observed a net decrease in vehicle numbers with the opening of the shared spaces (and huge increase in pedestrians) and I expect that to be repeated with any continuation of car restriction in the inner CBD. There is clearly a convenience quotient to driver choice in this area; in other words many of the journeys there must be elective as their removal results in no net loss of economic activity, quite the reverse in fact.

            The section of Albert at Aotea Station will be in bits for quite a while, the rest should be able to be recovered fairly quickly, and ripped up in sequence anyway. And whether the disruption of construction leads to work-arounds by drivers that they don’t give up, or the new driver de-privileged spaces work on their own doesn’t really matter. What matters is that lower vehicle access leads to a net improvement, for local businesses, and especially for essential traffic such as deliveries.

            Anyway we also know that there are fewer commuters driving to the CBD now than a decade ago, yet employment and business is up. There is no causal relationship between ease of driving and economic productivity in this most vital part of the city, so we must continue to improve non car access and place quality knowing that it can be done without fear and with the expectation of considerable improvement.

    1. I think you want to retain cash for particular circumstances:
      1) some people always forget their HOP cards and you din’t really want to make them buy another (card churn); and
      2) tourists and infrequent users will want to pay for cash.

      The best approach is, I think, to charge a large premium on cash fares to account for the additional costs/delays they incur. That provides a major incentive for people to switch to smart card.

      1. I disagree Stu,
        Once you offer a cash fare option, too many people will use it. I suggest that ten times more people will use it than would have a reasonable reason to do so. The answer is to sell people a smart card but later give them most of their money back. It is similar with instituting free on bus top ups – causes a problem.

        As for the Brisbane pictures, it is a daily occurrence to have a long queue leading into the Cultural Centre on a work day in the PM peak. There doesn’t need to be an accident. But it’s easily fixable.

        1. Disagree.

          Brisbane has retained a single cash fare and nonetheless has ~90% go card take-up, with an even higher proportion of people using go card at peak times (when you get most of the benefits of the smart cards’ faster processing times). Not only is cash fare charged at a 45% premium to go card fares, but it qualifies for none of the discounts (e.g. off-peak), and must be bought with every trip (unless you transfer). I’d guess that average revenue per fare from cash is now much higher than go card.

          And if you remove cash fares entirely then you have to support a very extensive and expensive network of automatic ticket machines and third party vendors, which most systems around the world have found is simply not cost effective, at least for buses. Rail is a different story …

          Yes queues at Cultural Centre are commonplace (as they are at Central Station ;)), and yes they are easily fixed.

          1. My viewpoint would be that 10% cash fare payers is still too high. Highest Go Card uptake figure I have seen is 83% but that is irrelevant to my point.

            The only additional infrastructure which would be needed for removing cash fares in Brisbane is selling Go Cards on buses.

            There are a number of reports in the media about people going to a train station, finding out the cash fares, then driving. Removing paper would help reduce that – mind you, you could still get people put off by the deposit, particularly if you raised it.

          2. It only takes one or two cash fare people with questions per stop to slow a bus down significantly. A simple $10 or $20 purchase with a card in a brochure would explain all

          3. 10% cash payers overall is not high when you consider that this is an overall system average. At peak times it’s closer to 2-3% and dropping over time (that’s why the go card uptake is approaching 90%, because people are gradually migratig to cheaper go card products). Plus Brisbane operate a lot of “prepay only” services, so large parts of their system is cashless.

            Otherwise every time someone forgets their go card the will go buy another, and then you have 3.5 million active go cards in the system, and each go card costs ~$10 to issue by the time you throw in third party vendor fees. Cashless sounds nice, but it has a lot of hidden costs … remember also that selling go cards on buses would slow the buses down too, because they would have to complete the transaction and then swipe on as well. According to some pre-loaded go cards would present a security risk and be relatively difficult to keep track of.

            I do think the best approach is to accept cash fares, charge shedloads more for the privilege (to compensate for the costs they impose on everyone else), and have double-door entry so that people buying cash fares don’t block people accessing with cards. I think Brisbane has the balance about right …

            And this is coming from someone who has previously advocated for cashless systems too :).

          4. P.s. There’s also a social element to cash fares – lil’ Jonny with the alcoholic divorced father may be able to scab $2 so he can catch the bus to see his mum, but asking him to pay $20 just pushes that barrier that much higher.

          5. Regarding social welfare, the Brisbane system is that a 1 zone single costs $4.80 vs $3.28 for a peak go card fare or $2.63 for off peak. There is a $5 refundable deposit on a go card. The $10.26 for a return 1 zone go card journey off peak outside of the 2 hour time a single is valid for is little different to the $9.60 price for two singles. I really don’t see the social welfare goal which is achieved by the Brisbane retaining singles policy – in fact it is quite regressive because it is largely the lower socio-economic people who don’t understand the imperative of getting a Go Card.

            Looking up the figures for Go Card use, highest week ever was the last one for which stats are available, ending 27 Jan 2013: 85.4% go card use.

            Regarding cash payers not being high a % in Brisbane – consider a (relatively) busy bus trip getting an average of 35 passengers. If 14% pay with cash and it takes 12.2 seconds to do so each, you need to add a minute to the timetable just because of them.

          6. You forget the concession paper ticket is half the price, so $2.40. Versus minimum $10 for people to get a go card.

            I think you miss the point – you and I both know that go card is cheaper in the long run. That said, if Jonny gets on the bus with $2.40 he can ride; when you take away cash fares it increases to $10 minimum and he has to get himself to a 7/11 in the first place. It does increase the barriers to low-income people who want to travel here and now.

            Your calculation of delays from cash paying customers is also off because you’ve assumed (I think) that other passengers can’t board using go card at the same time. The proof of this pudding is going down to KGS at peak time to see 1) just how few people pay by cash and 2) just how little it delays the services. I have – and it’s not much from what I can tell, or from the people I talk to.

            Finally, re: go card figures – yes what’s your point? I said “~90%” to indicate rounded to nearest 10% and I was right by 0.4% ;). It’s also increasing all the time with general fare increases, and as more travel discounts are delivered through go card, because people are migrating to cheaper products. I think we both want the same outcome – more go card use – I’m just prepared to stage our way there.

          7. I don’t reckon I’m missing any point. Yes little Johnny can ride if given $2.40 but isn’t it better to just give him a Go Card? I don’t see why you want to give him cash at all.

            As for your point about people being able to board while someone is paying cash – I guess that is true – sometimes others can squeeze past. BT buses aren’t designed for true double flow like STA buses are. Plenty of times no one can get past someone paying with cash, or they are the last person on anyway.

            I still don’t reckon an average delay of 12.2s per cash payer is all that unreasonable. A lot of people take a lot longer than that and talk the drivers ear off.

            I think enough time has been spent staging in Brisbane. It was supposed to be 3 years ago at one point. Melbourne started late and eliminated cash sooner!

            Personally, I won’t be satisfied until cash fares are gone AND the timetables are tightened up.

      2. Real cost of cards is VERY cheap, it’s no biggie if you get an extra (put a ticket and card recycle box on exit of bus anyway)

        Cards bought on bus can be “no credit” style until activated via a top-up. So a $10 card has a card fee of say $2 and the rest is usable to zero

  6. Yesterdays lantern festival gave a glimpse Into Aucklands proposed high density future, it was packed!
    The buses did a fantastic job of grid locking Auckland last night. Special mention goes out to the air coach that blocked the queen street victoria street junction for more than one whole traffic light cycle, with additional cudos to the loop bus that only managed to kill the junction for a half cycle. Granted there were cars about but they weren’t the ones blocking the junctions and stalling movement.
    If this is the high density utopia trumpeted as the way forward I wish you good luck with it, personally I’ll avoid it like the plague. Even the best public transport experience in the world wouldn’t compensate for the over crowded streets.
    As an aside how will seats smaller than the average adult due to the proposed wider aisles make the experience more pleasant?

    1. The wider aisle does not require changes to seat size, just the seating configuration. E.g. seats along the side face in and/or one row of single seats on one side.

    2. Kevin, I disagree. The whole city was choked with cars blocking intersections and queuing up in all directions. Absolutely outrageous that such a small number of car drivers could hold up all those buses and tens of thousands of pedestrians.

      If only we had a Queen St that was closed to all but pedestrians and buses. Then those thousands would have been accommodated just fine without the drivers ability to snarl everyone else up.

      1. Only reporting what I saw….!
        No car is long enough to close that junction but the air coach did it very convincingly. Whilst progress was slow all over the place by and large car drivers tried to avoid blocking junctions from what I saw

    3. I think that air coach was the one dropping us off, there was a number of them on private hire to bring people back from the winery concert and they dropped off all of the tourists at their various hotels along queen street. driver was very friendly and the tourists loved it.

        1. No, I got off at quay street. The place was manic even at 11pm, cars all over the show and pedestrians walking all over the place. However, it looked like everyone was having a good time with no trouble.

    4. Yes thats what cities are like, things happening and pesky people everywhere wanting to go there.

      You should go and live in a small provincial city. There wont be much happening but you will be able to drive there no problems.

  7. “… you sometimes have to be prepared to walk a bit further” and

    “Buses need to stick to main roads and let the able-bodied walk to the stop.”

    Important point there. I support wider stop spacings in general. However some people will always be unable to walk 500-1000m to their nearest stop. That includes those with temporary injuries or too many young children to manage on their own.

    Has anyone conidered combining fewer stops with an on-demand local door-to-door shuttle like the airport service, to/from the nearest hub? Auckland has tended to ignore that most granular level of local service, but it could make the tradeoff work in this case.

    1. Re: The conflicting impulses of straighter routes versus maintaining short walk distances for the less abled:

      You just need to make a clear distinction between efficient routes and ‘coverage’ routes in your network planning. Let the ‘coverage’ routes be different, less frequent routes BETWEEN the frequent routes. The folks who need them will probably tolerate lower frequency. As you suggest, you should then consider whether some of the ‘coverage’ services might be better done by some sort of more on-demand council minibus.

      Running EVERY bus in the day down some scenic detour where it may or may not pick up one passenger is silly.

    2. Yes, you and John are both correct in my opinion. The coverage versus patronage distinction is essential to understanding how PT networks are developed.

      The next step (which not many places have taken) is acknowledging that fixed-route buses are often not the most efficient way to provide a coverage service. In many of these places a more demand-responsive/shuttle service to their local shops (from where they can access the wider system) would be the way to go – both because it provides a better level of service (door-to-door, on request) and for a lower cost.

      I’d love to trial this in Auckland and think splitting off the coverage function would really help to improve the economic/financial viability of PT. So much so that those blasted Tories might actually start to acknowledge the value PT adds to a city ;).

      1. distances between stops should be considered not from stop to stop, but from the midpoint between stops, i.e. 600 metres (the upper practical limit) between stops equates to a maximum 300 metres walk to one or other stop,

      2. Stu, smaller buses are not necessarily cheaper and they can act to suppress demand because people are wary of catching them because they’re worried the bus will be full

        small buses are not as cheap to own and operate as it would seem, the purchase cost of a quality 20 seat bus might be two thirds of a big bus, but the main on-road cost is paying the driver, as capital, fuel and tyres are a relatively small part of the cost equation, thus a smaller bus can limit the revenue earning potential of the driver

        1. I’m not talking about small buses. I’m talking about a centrally-coordinated, gross contracted, on demand taxis/shuttle van service with online booking service.

          1. Stu – talk to the bus operators about relative size of buses versus taxis or shuttles and relative economics per potential passenger. Someone once told me that the break-even payload for an inter city bus was 6 passengers.

            Fundamentally a standard full-size bus, if designed and engineered properly is one extremely economic-to-run piece of machinery. In most areas of your post I agree on the importance of buses in an age of austerity.

            However, I believe that going to shuttles may provide faster and more maneuverable vehicles, and arguably a better image, but they won’t be any more economic to run than full size buses…….the trade-off will be measuring the cost of transporting a handful of passengers versus the lost opportunity cost created by constraining the size of the vehicle that can support the cost of the driver and single vehicle.

            The cost of a typically expensive taxi fare and “mid-range” shuttle fare reflects the costs involved in running these things, and associated booking service. Are you advocating that taxis and shuttles should be subsidised?

          2. Meh I talk to bus operators quite regularly and DRT is not their forte. To get a feeling for those costs you need to talk to taxi operators.

            Unfortunately you can’t measure “breakeven” in terms of passenger loads. If those 6 people have individually paid an average fare of $3 each to sit on a bus for an hour then it definitely ain’t breaking even. On the other hand, if 40 people board the bus during the course of an hour and then you might be breaking even. So average fares and passenger turnover are the crucial variables, rather than passenger loads.

            Anyhoot. More important to this discussion is the relative costs of fixed route buses versus taxis. We’ve analysed a situation where a (low patronage) fixed-route bus service was replaced with a DRT type subsidised taxi, where users paid $2 flat fare to travel to destinations previously accessed by the bus.

            Overall costs to tax-payer went down, customer satisfaction went up. Win-win.

            Won’t work in every day, however, but could be useful in the fringes as it were. And in responding to requests for service expansions – rather than going to the hassle of trialling a fixed-route service (bus train etc) why not trial a DRT service initially and get some demand data? Lower fixed costs and easier to pull …

  8. Re vehicle configuration: it’s important to put touch points where people pausing to touch don ‘t slow the rate of flow through the doors. Ie not right at the door, but further inside. Melbourne trams, recently adapted for smart cards, are a good example of what not to do.

  9. Just to also clarify something: The point of the post was not to suggest that Auckland should look to copy all aspects of Brisbane/Edinburgh. But it is to note that there are some key features of their systems that we could readily adapt as we grow.

    One of the key differences between Auckland and Brisbane/Edinburgh is that we actually have an (increasingly) functional rail network, which provides an attractive connection between major town centres and the city centre. That is not something that Brisbane/Edinburgh has – and for that reason Auckland will always be less bus dependent than those other cities.

    And while that’s a good thing, we can nonetheless learn a lot from those cities about cost-effective measures for improving the efficiency of our bus network. That’s the point of this post.

    1. Would say Edinburgh is a poor example for Auckland…
      “As these cities have shown, appropriately sized and designed bus infrastructure will reduce the impact of buses on the city centre” Edinburgh is very unpleasant in the city centre during rush hour with bus fumes and bus passengers blocking footpaths. It also has a functional rail network which is being expanded due to some of the bus issues.

      1. Hi Steve,

        In the post I suggest that Auckland can learn from some of the initiatives that Edinburgh has implemented on its buses. I’m not saying Edinburgh is a good peer city for Auckland in general. In terms of their pedestrian environment they are probably a good example of what not to do. Not that Auckland has much of a leg to stand on here …

        That said, let’s think a bit more carefully about the “counter-factual” situation, i.e. Edinburgh without buses. Put another way, can you conclude that Edinburgh is less pleasant because of buses, if in taking the buses away you put 30-40% of people back into cars at peak periods? From where I’m sitting that would make the streets even more congested and polluted and worse for pretty much everyone, including pedestrians. So I don’t think you can conclude on the basis of what you’ve observed that the buses in Edinburgh have negative impacts. Of course, you could suggest that the appropriate counter-factual is putting everyone onto rail, although that does not seem possible given available budgets, so my expectation is that Edinburgh without buses would mean quite a few more people back on the roads.

        And do you think Edinburgh’s poor pedestrian environment is solely attributed to buses? From my time living there I’d say it’s more dependent on how the streets are configured in general. i.e. to favour vehicles. If the footpath was wider, for example, the impact of bus users waiting for the bus would be diminished.

        Finally, your comment about “bus passengers” blocking the footpath hints at some of your underlying values. Would you not say that “bus passengers” – especially those standing waiting for the bus – are pedestrians too? Do they not have as much right to that space as much as anyone? Have they not likely worked/visit the city and walked around and in the process bought stuff and contributed to the atmosphere of Edinburgh as much as anyone else?

        I’d suggest they do – certainly more so than tourists, who tend to “block” the footpath while they take photos ;).

        1. I apologise for assuming you were not a regular bus user.

          Fully agree with putting pedestrians first – just hope Gehl and their ilk embrace a wider definition of pedestrians that encompasses people waiting for buses, or any PT for that matter. It may not be the highest and best of space at that moment in time, but those people are also pedestrians at other times in the day too so their needs as PT users should be respected.

  10. Stu, I don’t understand why you think Brisbane doesn’t have a functional rail network? Last time I was there the rail system was pretty functional if somewhat overcrowded.

    1. I guess Brisbane’s rail network functions as a commuter network to a degree, which is probably why you experienced crowding. Unfortunately however it has a number of structural issues that are hard to remedy:
      1. It does not hit the major town centres (Chermside, Carindale, and Garden City) and so gets very little off-peak, non-CBD travel, whereas Auckland’s hits most of the major town centres in the region; and
      2. The way the network is structured (branching of lines) means that frequency dissipates very rapidly as you get away from the city centre (again probably explaining the crowding that you experienced); and
      3. The concentration of lines approaching the city centre has created major capacity issues. While everyone likes to go on about the bus capacity issues, the rail network is approaching capacity too – and in the case of the latter the proposed “fixes” are very expensive indeed.
      4. Brisbane’s rail network is also very expensive to operate – AU $850 million per year for approximately 55 million trips, versus revenue of about $3-4 per trip.

      Ultimately I think Auckland’s heavy rail network will outperform Brisbane’s, primarily because of our urban form and physical geography,

      1. Brisbane has 4 tracks approaching the CBD – Auckland has one, which will rise to two with the CRL. It’s going to be good going for Auckland to pass Brisbane in terms of patronage even in two decades time – although some of the right noises seem to be being made about that.

        1. yes, although I would caution again measuring the merits of a rail network by the total number of trips it generates.

          Auckland will always, I expect, generate less rail trips than SEQ if only because the latter has a population approaching ~3 million. But Auckland’s rail trips will be generated from a much smaller network for considerably lower operating spend per passenger. So In terms of economic efficiency/effectiveness I expect Auckland will compare relatively favourably.

          1. Yes, the predictions I have seen on the CRL is that with it by 2021, by 2041 we should be seeing 40-50m trips on the rail network. That was before the bus network redesign which feeds more people to the rail network so it is quite possible we could see that number sometime in the 2030’s. Any extensions during that time, like to the airport, or a Mt Roskill Branch would obviously also have a fairly positive effect. Still less in total than Brisbane but likely doing it with much less physical infrastructure.

          2. How do our figures compare to Melbourne, which I’ve always felt is a big, dumb and sloppy rail system that is probably horribly inefficient. According to the oracle of all knowledge: “Melbourne’s suburban railway network consists of 16 electrified lines, the central City Loop subway, and 200 stations, with a total length of 372 km of electrified lines. In the 2011–12 financial year, the Melbourne rail network recorded 222 million passenger trips.”

            222 million is a lot of trips, but from a network that has *sixteen* lines and 200 stations? From our four lines and 39 stations, we’d only need to hit about 40 million before we’re doing better relative to the size of the network.

        2. No probably not. It’s actually quite hard to find good rail benchmarks in Australasia … Perth’s runs well, but cost a fortune to build so if you incorporated the cost of capital it would not come out very flash. Wellington is perhaps the most effective? IN terms of pass-km per $ subsidy.

  11. this is an adaptation of a late post I put on “the brilliance of buses”, but I think that thread was stale by the time I got to it, but first I think that this discussion needs to be firmly grounded in the draft RPTP and what it’s likely to promise for Auckland. In this context I was gobsmacked to find a report to the AT board on bus and transit lanes that treats these lanes as road operational matters and doesn’t reference the RPTP in any way!

    buses aren’t the answer, light rail isn’t the answer, heavy rail isn’t the answer, the answer is a multi modal network where the available modes each work to their strengths in a complimentary manner to help people move around

    Clearly any fixed route mode is still subject to delay and possibly greater delay in the case of a breakdown or in the unfortunate event of a level crossing incident or similar, in this case a bus can be rerouted around the location, a railed vehicle can’t.

    The technique known variously as “quality bus corridor” “overground” or “bus rapid transit” (as distinct from “busway”) is well established and entails continuous bus lanes and signal pre-emption so that buses only stop to pick up and set down.

    Edinburgh is cited in other responses (in the original thread), add Manchester and Dublin in the UK and interestingly the reviled Great Satan of automobilia, Los Angeles, which has several rapid bus corridors that have proven remarkably successful:

    “Los Angeles County has several roadways that have many aspectsof bus rapid transit (BRT). The 12-mile San Bernadino (I-10 El Monte) Busway, built at a cost of $57 million, carries more than 18,000 bus riders each day at speeds of over 40 mph [65 kph]. It also carries an additional 25,000 high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) users. The 11-mile [18-km] Harbor Transitway serves over 9,500 riders each day at speeds of over 30 mph [48 kph]. In addition, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) initiated its demonstration Metro Rapid service on the 26-mile [42-km] Line 720 Wilshire/Whittier Boulevard and the 14-mile [23-km] Ventura Boulevard line. Implementation coincided with the extension of the Metro Red Line subway to the San Fernando Valley. BRT elements included simple route layout, frequent service, headway-based schedules, less frequent stops, level boarding and alighting, color-code d buses and stations, and bus signal priorities. (Stations with“next bus” displays were completed in 2001.) Implementation costs were about $31 million, including previously ordered buses diverted to the project.” from

    See also:

    So “scratching around for the benefits of bus lanes” doesn’t reflect a failed imagination, but rather an appropriate response to the need for appropriate PT along routes where capacities are higher than a suburban street, but where LRT isn’t appropriate or affordable.

  12. “This underground bus station connects via a tunnel to Roma Street”

    Just an aside… But Roma Street has got to be my least favourite public transport station. It’s an ugly 1960s looking building. It takes up a vast amount of space, and cuts off Roma Street itself from a pleasant inner-city park. The intercity buses (like Greyhound) arrive and depart from a grim carpark on the roof of the station. There are too many platforms, so the walk from platforms to the street is too long. There are long curved concrete ramps taking buses and vehicles to the roof and other levels. They’ve sort of amalgamated several buildings to form a single complex, and the result is that the station presents an unpleasant monolithic face to the street. I think the whole place is an ugly mess.

    1. I’m with you Obi, and it isn’t an irrelevance to be reduced by cost benefit analyses, ie ignored, but train stations are much more often places of splendour as well as utility but I have never experienced that in any place where there are buses in quantity, especially inside, and especially especially underground.

      1. What do you think of Britomart as architecture? I think it is a superb conversion of the original building that also works as a transport hub. The materials used all seem to be of high quality. I like the pedestrian circulation and the open space inside the main entrance. In seems to have regenerated a neglected corner of the city and spawned a handful of excellent new buildings or restorations of existing buildings. In my opinion it is a rare example of Kiwis building something to last and to look good when it is old, rather than opting for a low cost mess. Or for a high cost mess, like the Beehive. Or Te Papa probably… if I understood it.

        1. Oh I agree, Britomart is grand. Really good and quite visionary when you think of the state the rail network was in at that point.

          I am concerned that the same level of vision is not being employed with the design of the CRL stations, so much fiscal pressure is likely to make for short term compromise and the need to expensively rebuild in the medium term. Especially Aotea. That station is going to be mental busy.

          Don’t start me on Te Papa…. Like a stranded 1970s Soviet missile cruiser…. Or just a really well constructed and over spec’ed airport building. A good example of design by committee. Wrong location too: Your treasure house should be on a hill. Just like the Ak museum.

      2. hold on Patrick, you’re misinterpreting things here. The main issues with Roma Street are due to the barrier effects associated with trains and car-parking facilities, not buses. Check it out on Google Earth:

        The Inner Northern Busway, for it’s part, actually squeezes into a remarkably small foot print.

    2. yes Roma Street is an abomination, where all modes contribute to an almighty disaster. Pedestrian environment is terrible through there.

  13. Patrick, I think that you will find that many of your endeniably splendid stations are inter-city terminals and were built when rail was a grand (and indeed only) means of quick intercity travel

    that said, I was mightily impressed with the vaulted ceiling of the underground station at Hollywood and Vine that was studded with movie reels, I don’t recall if it was the LRT or heavy rail station, one was beneath the other

    1. Yes of course the grandest are the big intercity ones, but no I’m thinking of many an intra city station too. I confess to being irretrievably sentimental about the Tube and the Le Metro, but that’s cos they are completely brilliant. Even the NYC subway which has suffered appalling lack of maintenance and care and anyway always had a lower level of design (except the signage) still manages a certain quality amid the human traffic. I’ve not been to Moscow, or a lot of the new world systems, but have so often seen these utilitarian public spaces transcend their practical purpose and become something so much more for their city (Budapest!).

      Not so with a bus station, ever.

      1. but Patrick, I can’t see how the grandness of the facilities relates to the appropriateness of the technology to a particular situation, the only reason you’d put Grand Central Station on Dominion Rd would be because it made sense as a property development, not to serve PT,

        that said, I’d rather wait in a Northern Busway Station than your average Auckland rail station!

          1. not a bit like Auckland train stations, I must admit I’m shocked at the faux bus shelters that ARC/ARTA/TA have been foisting on the poor rail users, wouldn’t temp me at all

  14. what a sad bunch we are, shackled to computers, debating PT on a glorous day such as this 🙂

    mods, we need editing facilities and emoticons!!!

  15. Obi, the Roma Street busway station is slightly different from where the intercity buses depart. The busway station is on the ground floor and quite new, and the intercity buses on the top floor. Twenty-five years ago I used to think the intercity terminal was fantastic, but last time I went it looked badly dated. Infrastructure like this needs a major refurbishment every 10-15 years. The busway station is one of the few busway stations that are designed for good connections with the rail network – the others being Southbank and Boggo Road/Dutton Park.

    There were political reasons in the early days of the busway network that led to minimal integration between the networks. Rail was controlled by the State government, while the busways were instigated by the Brisbane City Council (but I believe had some capital funds from the State government). There was no integrated ticketing until recently, so the 2 modes had separate networks, and in many cases duplicated each other. There were only a few bus routes that were clear rail feeders and had integrated ticketing. Auckland can avoid many of these problems through the overarching role of AT.

    1. Malcolm, Yes. But can I say that parts of the London Underground are over 150 years old and have repeatedly had multi-decade periods of less than no investment yet have still managed to not only function day in and day out for millions of people at a practical level, but also have provided an incalculable service of branding, identity, and certainty in the midst of continual urban change and crisis for its host city.

      Dunno how you show that on a BCR.

      1. it would be fascinating to discover what the projected life of the London Underground was when construction commenced, if it was estimated at all

        1. It was probably built with a Victorian attitude of the Empire going on and growing forever, and the infrastructure sustaiing the empire also needing to go on and grow forever. The likes of The Forth Bridge, the Rotherhithe Tunnel, and indeed all the bridges, cuttings and tunnels would be forever in use, albeit with a need for maintenance and component renewal. I have a real sense of them building things to last and things that would stand as their legacy. I think the concept of building something with a design life well short of the expected useful life would have been an anathema to them.

    2. I’m not sure I’ve seen the busway station. I’ve certainly never ridden on a Brisbane bus. The last time I visited was about five years ago, and I used Roma St to go to the airport, and to pop down to Surfers on the train. Was the busway open then?

  16. Question re: (AT) HOP readers on buses.

    Should consideration be given to removing the HOP readers off the buses completely (when AT HOP is rolled out) and onto the bus stops?
    I am not sure, but surely provisioning a mini-HOP reader at each bus stop would not be a bigger task than putting them on buses?

    As for the revenue protection element of having people on buses who might not have paid if they scanned on before they got on the bus.
    Well you have that problem now – no driver has time to check everyone who doesn’t buy a ticket actually scans on do they – especially if folks are buying cash tickets on bus too.
    Plain clothes RPOs will sort that out, especially once word gets around due to visible enforcement.

    The only issue then is then the case fares, I don’;t think its practical to have HOP card/cash ticket machines everywhere. So on board cash fares would remain.
    This would also mean boarding and alighting times will be reduced as people tag on before they ride and tag off when they get off.
    Like you do with the trains now. Which gives everyone a consistent method of using their HOP cards.
    Only issue is that for some folks they’d have to walk back to the bus stop to tag off if they exited the rear door, hardly a major problem.

    1. one of my first tasks when I joined Auckland City 12 years ago was a trial kerbside prepay cash ticket system, we had everything pretty much ready to go when a disagreement arose between the council and a major bus operator as to who would collect the cash from the machines, it was their money but they wanted the council to collect it and, by implication, be responsible for any cash shortfall

      it was a shame we couldn’t go ahead because it would have sped boarding by a significant amount

      one of the sanctions taken against misbehaving bus and cablecar drivers in Wellington was to put them “on the bag” selling cash fares and clipping 10-trips at busy bus stops, as a driver seeing one of these guys at busy stops like the Karori stop at the end of the City section on Lambton Quay in the evening was brilliant, because the passengers just walked on without any delay

  17. Stu – Good comments about “Better Buses”.
    I would like to show how the increased use of the 881 Bus is an example of “Principles” mentioned in Better Buses (881 goes Torbay to Albany then via Northern Busway, past Britomart/ Auckland Uni, Grafton Bridge to Newmarket). The 881 was used by 2,000 people per day in 2012 up from 400 people per day in 2010.
    Corridor infrastructure- The opening of the central connector via Grafton Bridge – meant the 881 provided access to/from the front door of Auckland Hospital and the Medical School from/to the North Shore.
    Network Structure- The 881 is a North Shore bus which travels to three railway stations. Britomart, Grafton and Newmarket.
    Vehicle technology- the 881 often uses articulated buses. Not exactly modern technology but often the 881 has 115 people on it so it carries more than any other road transport technology in Auckland.
    CBD bus congestion–At a similar time to increase frequency of the 881 the free CBD bus no longer serviced Auckland University. This means people bound for Auckland Uni from North Shore could either walk 15 minutes from Britomart or catch another bus. The catching of another bus would slow buses leaving on time and increase their time on Symonds Street. This would also apply to the Northern trip rather than catching the 881 from Auckland University.
    Sometimes a full capacity 881 bus does not stop at all at Britomart. This seems much more efficient than a bus fighting for a bus stop, waiting for people to get off, and then having to re-enter traffic.
    Wider stop spacing- The 881 has unusual qualities – which can be viewed negatively, but on reflection of speed being so important, makes sense. The bus from North Shore does not pick up at all in the city and the bus to North shore does not drop off in the city. Taking the philosophy of “do the most benefit for the most people” this makes sense. Stopping a bus with 115 people on it at Britomart to pick up one person who could catch a variety of other buses does not make sense. Also people can catch many other buses from Auckland Uni to down town.
    Managing cash Payments- Whilst no doing anything new here the 881 dies have very quick on /off time. 881 can often load 30 people at Constellation in 90 Seconds. It does this as most students have a weekly bus and know to flash this with their student ID in front of the driver. Simultaneously the Hop Card users Tag in- so loading is fast (Possibly faster than the Northern express at Britomart with 2 people doing it!).

  18. Perth expensive to build? The entire Mandurah line was built for less than the ECRL in Sydney and a similar price to the Kippa-Ring line in Brisbane. RRL in Vic is over $3bn too.

    1. Perth’s Mandurah line from just south of the Swan bridge was built for about $300m, the inner section with 2 underground stations and a bridge over the Swan River for about $300m, and another $300m for trains. It was the “steal of the century”.

      These figures were on the New Metrorail website during construction, but the website was inactivated after opening. There were a few smaller projects on other lines that took the total price of New Metrorail to just over $1b.

      Construction costs of the Mandurah line were helped by using a freeway median, so very few extra bridges were required.

      Perth is one of the best examples of how to integrate buses and trains, and is much better than any of city in Australasia. The networks are complementary, with a good feeder system and good interchange facilities at key stations. Trains do the high-speed long distance role, and buses and cars the short-hop and distribution roles. The daytime frequency on all lines is every 15 minutes 7 days per week, which means it’s a relatively short wait until the next train when transferring from a bus. At some stations the peak frequency is every 7.5 minutes or less, which is great for bus connections.

      1. Thanks Malcolm that’s interesting background info. For some reason I was under the impression (from talking to another consultant) that Perth’s rail network was relatively expensive to develop (not sure whether that’s capital or operating wise). They certainly have a reputation for having a very good feeder bus network, plus informed ticketing/fares and enlightened parking policy.

        One thing I’ve always wondered from looking at their rail network is why they don’t through-route any lines? Fremantle – Midland and Joondalup – Mandurah line seem to be likely pairings, but there’s probably a good reason why they don’t …

  19. Did anyone see the “take back the streets” on Saturday night?

    Friends of mine got stuck on Queen when half a million people poured out of the Lantern Fest. The cars all freaked out and stopped and the peds just swarmed the footpaths and entire roadway. Apparently it took some time before the crowd thinned out and normalcy returned for the car drivers.

    Would the Council security cams have high angle pics? would make a great ‘pedestrian power” poster..

    1. Would love to see some photos of that … also a good image to use in the upcoming campaign to pedestrianise Queen Street.

  20. “And in responding to requests for service expansions – rather than going to the hassle of trialling a fixed-route service (bus train etc) why not trial a DRT service initially and get some demand data?”

    Totally agree. Suggested to ARTA about 5 years ago using Layer 4 patronage to model finer-grained demand. Glad to hear those services can be delivered more cheaply than I expected.

    1. They can – but they require some effort from PT agencies to set up. I think technology is helping here, especially in terms of managing the dispatch process so it may not have been so viable 5 years ago, but should be so in the future. At a hunch the worst 20% of the bus routes in Auckland would carry 1% of the patronage – that could be delivered more effectively another way.

      In my mind it is still council planned, coordinate, and subsidised then it’s still public transport of a sort, but many people disagree.

      1. Demand responsive services also require a driver who has a flexible attitude, is patient and is people rather than task orientated. I planned and implemented a flexible route service on the Kapiti Coast more than 20 years ago, which was based on the Swedish “service route” concept. These services can become a small community, reducing isolation for people.

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