The current bus network is a convoluted mess, akin to someone having thrown spaghetti onto a map. Last year in the draft Regional Public Transport Plan (RPTP), Auckland Transport announced that they would be fixing it with what I think is a fantastic new network. Thankfully I wasn’t the only one who thought this way with around 70% of the submissions to the draft plan supporting the idea. Crucially the consultation in the RPTP focused on the overall concept rather than the specific routes. Later this week the next major step in the process to rolling out this network begins with Auckland Transport launching the consultation period for the South Auckland parts of the network. This is the stage where every individual route is being consulted on and the point where there is the most opportunity for people to be upset by the changes being made.
While we will have to wait until the launch to see all of the material that AT have created to explain the network, we can get a glimpse of some of it from a presentation to the Transport Committee last week. To highlight just how much of a difference the new network is, this is an image from the current network map of the area around Mangere, Otahuhu and Manukau. The map is cluttered and confusing with around 50 different routes on it, many doing only slightly different things and all running with poor all day/week frequency.
And here is roughly the same area as it is covered by proposed new network.
There are quite a few things that immediately pop out. The first is that because there are considersbly fewer routes, each route is able to be given its own colour which greatly enhances the legibility of the map. It also means that each route only needs one or two labels along the entire length rather than having to constantly re-label each section of route when there is a change. There are a few other things which also make the map easier to understand. The frequent routes – which will run at least every 15 minutes between 7am and 7pm, 7 days a week – have a thicker route line compared to the secondary network which has a minimum of 30 minute frequencies over that same time period. The peak only services have a thinner line again and it is also a dashed and dotted line. To me the different styles of line really make it easy to understand the hierarchy of routes that exist.
The next thing to note is the route numbering, the frequent routes have just a two digit number and if they have a tail that splits off, they are labelled as A or B rather than be given a new route number. By comparison the secondary and peak only services have three digit numbers. Again the numbering is something that helps to differentiate he really high quality services from the rest of the routes. Keen eyed observers will also note that the key interchange points all little symbol.
And here is the map showing the new network between Manukau and Papakura. In addition to what is mentioned above, you may notice that AT are proposing to close both Westfield and Te Mahia Train Station. Like Waitakere both have had almost no patronage growth over the last decade and in the case of Westfield, patronage is likely to drop much lower once the trains are being run out of the new Wiri Depot. One of the advantages of closing these two stations is that it means passengers from south of them should be able to get faster ride with each one saving 1-1½ minutes per trip.
As mentioned above, there are a couple of key interchange points around the network. Some exist already while some will need to be built, one of those is at the Otahuhu Train Station. The network proposes that all buses passing through Otahuhu will stop at both the train station and the town centre, hopefully fixing the severance between the two as with integrated fares there will be no extra charge for the transfer. Further with two frequent and one secondary route passing through, that is at least 10 buses an hour so there is never likely to be much of a wait for passengers transferring. The presentation includes an image of what the interchange may look like. It will be built on land next to the station that is currently being used to store containers.
All up things are looking good so far and when it comes to the network maps I like many of the visual techniques that AT are using to really highlight the frequent services.