The new bus network aims to revolutionise the bus network in Auckland turning it from a network that resembles spaghetti thrown on a map to a more legible and customer focused one. It provides a lot more routes that run with decent frequencies all day and is able to do so in a revenue neutral way by stopping stupid stuff like bus routes that duplicate and compete with the rail network and by having a greater use of transfers. Below is a map of the frequent network that will have services at least every 15 minutes between 7am and 7pm 7 days a week. It is supported by a secondary network that provides greater coverage with 30 minute frequencies as well as peak only and other localised services.


To me the full roll out of the new bus network can’t come soon enough and that was highlighted again last night with the problems that occurred on the rail network. A water main burst at Fruitvale Station and apparently undermined the tracks. As a result the network was closed for a large portion of the day including the evening rush hour. There were a number of services cancelled outright and those that did run on the western line terminated at New Lynn with a shuttle bus taking passengers between there and Henderson.

Given how poorly these types of impromptu shuttle services have run in the past I didn’t hold out much hope that they would be any better this time. As such I decided to catch a bus home. The experience highlighted two things

1. AT need to have plans in place to make better use of the bus network when events like yesterday’s happen.

I don’t mind using an alternative service – even if it takes a little longer than the train does – if it means I don’t have to worry about mucking around with an hastily organised shuttle service. However while I’m someone who catches PT frequently I don’t have much idea about which bus alternatives I can catch.  AT could make it easier for people by having some prepared information telling people alternative options. For example some posters they can quickly pull out of a storage room telling people their options without having to wade through little pamphlets.

Fixing their journey planner would also help with this. When I looked on it half the services I could have caught didn’t show. It also might not be practical for a lot of people. Further it’s not just about which services but the myriad of potential bus stop locations around Britomart which makes everything confusing, something that will hopefully be addressed as the new network is rolled out.

2. Get the New Network Rolled out.

After fumbling around I found a service that would at least get me home – the 079 to Sturges Rd. I knew the route would be convoluted but that turns out to be an understatement. The map below shows the route the bus takes to get to Sturges Rd. The red part indicates the part of the route where most of the 20-30 people on the bus hopped off. The handful of people who remained on the bus in the blue part were mostly the rail refugees.

079 Route

By comparison if the new network was in place it would have been super easy to find a different way home. I could have jumped on a frequent bus along SH16 and transferred (at a Lincoln Rd interchange) to a bus down Lincoln Rd and had a short walk to Sturges Rd, an excellent alternative.

So bring on the new network with its more frequent and legible services along with the added resilience it provides.

Note: AT are starting consultation on the Hibiscus Coast services in just over a week and Warkworth services a week after that. They are also expecting to consult on West Auckland later this year.

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  1. Wow. You have to wonder who drew that 079 route and considered it in any way efficient. Looks like it may be possible to walk from Hendy to Ranui faster than the bus. Makes sense to run staff shuttles when your own route planning somehow lost its way this badly!

    To AT’s credit at least AT does have the plan to move forward with the new bus network. I happened to skip lasts night’s rail fiasco, but every time something like this occurs it is apparent AT and Veolia don’t plan for or respond to ‘situations’ very well. Lots of room to improve, so let’s see some action there please AT.

    1. Indeed, it looks like they could have gone through border rd and palomino dr without losing any coverage, probably shaving 10min off the journey time.

    2. Grrr. Last night. Trying to get to Kingsland from Britomart (after a pleasant trip from Albany on the NEX). 1st train got cancelled. Looked buses. Next one left from Vic St 30mins later. Decided to await next train. Then AT ambassador pointed me to line 1 for Westbound train (I figured in the confusion platforms could have been changed). Train left and then next minute I’m looking at water. Get off at Orakei, wait for train back to Britomart. Next western train delayed by another 18 minutes. Hop on NEX and go home. Totally p’d off. 3 1/2 hrs wasted. Totally wasted.

      1. That happens a lot. I want to go to newmarket but then find myself in orakei. There’s the train sign, the platform sign, and the announcement. And what the driver says. They often say different things. I have asked veolia transdv many times to sort it out and they haven’t even replied. People always give them slack because they say the trains are old. But this problem is just basic organizational stuff.

        1. I’d like to know why they stopped scrolling the trains’ individual stops on PIDs.

        2. I concur Tamaki. I missed my train out west because the platform information board said it was going to Otahuhu and there was nothing over the loud speakers clarifying this stuff up. Such little things so easily managed one would think make a huge difference to using public transport or abandoning it altogether. I assumed whoever was supposed to update things had gone home!

  2. The new network only looks more legible because most of the services are not shown! Could you please upload the full network map that shows all services, which is the relevant map to make a comparison with the current day one.

    1. Isn’t the point that if you are using a secondary service you will be getting on a primary/frequent service first? Therefore, in this situation (“I’m in town, how do I get home?”), the question you want answered is “what frequent service(s) are available, and where do I get on?”? Which should be easier to work out than the current “what services (of many) can I use, and what location(s) do I catch them from?”.

      1. when talking about legibility I think it’s important to keep in mind that approximately 80% of patronage will occur on the frequent network. Hence, 80% of passengers only need to know about the 30 or so odd routes shown in the map above; what the rest of the routes do is never relevant to them.

        Instead, the 20% of people who need secondary/tertiary routes can look up more detailed area maps showing these services. That’s what Geoff misunderstands: The New Network is more legible overall (for everyone – because it involves fewer routes), while being much more legible for the majority of passengers, who use only the frequent network.

        1. There’s no misunderstanding, you could just as easily make a frequent service map right now, and it will look even simpler.

          The valid comparisons are frequent now with frequent 2016, and full network now with full network 2016. There’s no point in comparing the current full network with the frequent-only for 2016.

        2. Here’s a comparison of the existing network in the South with what is happening with the new network including all services. New Network way simpler to understand.

        3. Yep seen those maps Matt, although the new one should be drawn in the same style as the old one, as the old one is clearer in that regard. All routes should be drawn with the same thickness lines, and clearly numbered, as per the old one.

        4. Geoff the different thickness of lines is part of the key to making the new maps more readable. On the old map you have routes which might only run once a day made to look the same as a route that runs every 15 minutes. On the old map that’s not easy to know without further study of a timetable. Don’t know what you’re on about with the numbering, it absolutely clutters the existing maps and is still on the new maps but isn’t needed as much due to the different routes being clearer which is only possible due to the reduction in the total number of routes thanks to the New Network.

    2. Geoff you’re fibbing again about the New Network. It’s *considerably* more legible than the current network, even when all the routes are mapped, because it has approximately one-third of the number of routes that exist in the current network. This results in considerably less duplication, which in turn makes it clear which bus(es) you need to catch to get from A to B.

      Bear in mind the current network is so complicated they need four sub-regional maps to illustrate it, i.e. you can’t even get it on one map.

      1. What fib? Quit making unfounded accusations Stu. The reference to “spaghetti thrown a map” is a reference to the current full network, which is then compared to the proposed frequent-only network. Obviously that’s an invalid comparison.

        1. Well the old one looks more readable to me. The new one shows a lot of routes with very thin lines making it harder to see. I get the impression that this has been done on purpose to make the frequent routes stand out more, thereby giving a false impression of simplicity.

          Lets compare like with like, and have the new ones drawn in the same manner as the old ones from now on.

        2. Why would we want to go back to confusing maps. The ones for the new network use many best practice elements for showing a PT network. The old ones are an example of exactly not what to do.

        3. Each to their own, I find the old style clearer. If I do, many others will too.

          The elderly in particular will have a tough time seeing those thin lines, especially the thin grey lines on a grey background. As as if the designers don’t want it to be seen.

        4. The grey lines are for parts of the network not consulted on yet.

          Funny you should say others will too, From memory one of the most common pieces of feedback on the new network was how much easier it appeared with people saying they could now see how they could use PT to get around.

        5. On legibility of complex route maps:

          You need to distinguish:

          1. the higher level ‘friendliness’ of a map *at first glance*
          2. the cleverness with which the map puts over complex information

          The first is important. If I were a tourist or occasional user, given the existing map, I would probably think within five seconds ‘I’d better call a taxi’. I wouldn’t waste my time trying to find out how well the map achieves point 2.

  3. There’s a viable alternative to that convoluted 079 from Henderson to Sturges, and it’s also faster – commonly known as a “10 minute walk” 🙂

    1. your defense of poor public transport network planning is “it’s faster to walk”? Interesting argument.

      1. You obviously don’t understand what smiley faces mean Stu 🙂

        But for the record, the 079 is not poorly planned, as it’s not intended to link Henderson and Sturges. There are trains and other buses that do that. It’s a distributor that maximizes coverage of an area, and wouldn’t ordinarily carry people on the route in the manner that Matt used it for, so there’s no point in criticizing it for such unintended use.

        One of the interesting things to watch for about the new network will be whether simplification of distributors will grow or diminish usage. PT is funded by ratepayers on the basis that it will be accessible, thus the meandering routes to get most ratepayers covered. Hopefully those ratepayers who find themselves more distanced from PT routes under the new structure, will have a reduction in rates.

        1. I’ve had a rates discount for living on a bus route that actively avoids making useful connections to the train network? Can’t say I’d noticed that.
          Or is it more likely patronage will go up because buses concentrate on where more people are now and where they want to go (rather than these factors 30 years ago), with increased frequency.

  4. One of the problems with the bus stops is bad signaling, it’s difficult to figure out which bus stop you’re supposed to use when you use a line for the first time, because the line numbers are not clearly marked on the side of each bus stop as they are in almost every other city in the world. So you need to read the small posters with schedules and there isn’t a concise list of lines anywhere, you have to look for each line number that a bus stop serves to check if yours isn’t part of the list… Fixing this would be very easy for AT. I’ve sent them feedback about this, but hard to believe they’ve never thought about it. They really need to lower the barriers to adoption for first time users if they want to increase their ridership! One way to do that would be to assign commutes to complete to a number of foreigners just arrived on a work on holiday visa and get their feedback. Another low hanging fruit for them would be improving the signaling of the next bus stop for passengers inside the bus. If you’re new to the city (or to a part of the city), you should be able to tell which stop you need to get off at and right now the only way is to ask someone else, hoping that they’ll be correct.

  5. Hi Matt, The 080 or 090 would have been a far better option.

    I do agree that the 079 is a very convoluted route and should have been subject to pruning many years ago. I don’t think that route has changed since prior to Border Road and Palomino Drive being connected. As you say the new network can’t come soon enough.

    1. The 079 isn’t the result of outdated road network, as bus routes were run along Border Rd and Palomino Drive after they were connected. It continues to run out to Henderson Valley for good reason. The 079 is basically two feeder routes that are operated more efficiently by joining them at one end. But more importantly, Auckland Council is obligated to provide the people in the area with a PT service. Henderson Valley has school and the New Zealand Bahá’í National Office in addition to the homes out there.

  6. Poor you Matt, tough experience. I can’t agree more that the Frequent Network needs to happen sooner rather than later. (I have mentioned in my recent submissions to AT that they should just get on with it).

    BTW does anyone have any idea why AT is moving on Hibiscus Coast and Warkworth services next? With the greatest of respect to the people of those areas, there are a lot more residents in the west/central/shore etc. that would benefit from the Frequent Network happening sooner…

    1. I think it’s because their more likely to be quick and easy ones. West is due for later this year and so that’s the next big one before they get on to the even larger ones of the central and north shore networks

      1. Makes sense then. With luck the little ones will go smoothly so AT can focus their efforts and resources on the big jobs…

    2. Hibiscus coast has only one operator in the entire area of consultation (north star) and the worst routes, easiest and biggest improvements to be had there.

    1. Consultation? Seriously? If no one uses the bus, I would suggest taking another look.

      They already know where all the people live, if not, why not? Connect them.

      If the people who plan routes and PT in this city , need to ask people how to do this, perhaps we need to find people who can plan routes and PT in this city?

      18 years in London and I can’t remember ever being asked if I wanted them to dig a new tube line to my doorstep, more’s the pity I suppose.

      They should talk to Auckland.

      1. Public consultation on network changes: Don’t underestimate the political and reputational importance of consultation, even if the planners should already know what the best outcome will be.

        Remember Brisbane 2013. Similar scenario to Auckland – a major new network plan to replace the existing bowl of spaghetti. Not enough attention paid to wooing the public. Predictably, every existing user who would have to walk a little further to a bus stop complained loudly. The people who would benefit from the new network weren’t heard because they are largely existing *non-users* who weren’t paying attention to the process. The minister got cold feet and canned the whole thing.

  7. Has anyone considered forming an association for the promotion of an alternative way to do every layer of Pt in this city?

    I realise a lot of good people have been working via various organisations for the purpose of this, people such as Transportblog, etc, however branding is important , so following the example of the I.R.A, I suggest

    The Real AT

    I’m not talking about proposing ideas to AT, or the Council, although they’re welcome to attend breaks ( not meetings, and certainly not breaks without chairs).

    A complete system for PT in Auckland. Take it to the people, and hold meaningful consultation with them about their concerns, what would work better, how intensification might help etc.

    Just an idea. I would certainly be happy to help in whatever way I’m unqualified, I suspect a lot of other people may come out of the woodwork too.

  8. Re dealing with the unexpected.
    My partner was waiting at Te Papapa (on the Onehunga line) last week when it was announced that it was being suspended (due to an incident with one of the EMUs near Britomart, I understand). The conflicting and vague messages (via speakers and electronic signs) about replacement bus services gave her no confidence that she would be able to get to work in time to do a presentation. For starters, where to wait for the bus? Take your pick from Capt Springs Rd, Malvern Rd (if a bus comes down there it will have fun getting out), May Rd, and Church St. Fortunately for her I work nearby, and was able to pop down and take her to Penrose.

  9. “AT need to have plans in place to make better use of the bus network when events like yesterday’s happen.”

    At the moment we have the perfect alternative from Manurewa to the CBD when rail services turn to custard.

    With the new bus network we don’t.

    1. I agree at least improve rail bus replacements first, make sure they can be ready in much shorter notice, accept HOP and show up on PIDS, so therefore program the routes in rapid. Also add stops closer to the platforms on some stations.

    2. Just to expand on those previously suggested improvements for rail-bus replacements

      -Bus road-side PIDs (Passenger Information Displays)
      Program in routes such as RWA (Rail West All-stops) and RWX (Rail West Express) and equivelents for South, Manakau and Onehunga; which can be enabled on rail-bus weekends and whenever theres rail-bus replacements for an incident, whilst rail-buses are operating disable RAIL-side PIDs timetable info and show rail-bus warning on the bottom line marque (scrolling text message), perhaps also show the rail-bus data on platform RAIL-side PIDs so people can see how fast they need to get to the rail-replacement bus stop, but remember to ensure it clearly indicates that it is a BUS service.

      -Bus AT HOP support
      Either program in the rail stops (prefered) or allow drive console hop-reader to print stage-based rail HOP-priced tickets when bus is on RAIL REPLACEMENT mode, this can be performed by the transdev staff member on-board not necesarily the driver, make sure it checks for CONSESSION TYPE also. Transdev/AT would benefit from this as currently they are selling tertiary students at child rates and people are avoiding paying by lying that they have a monthly pass or have tagged on at the station (not everyone lies but many may do). Though I also think a discount of around $0.50-$1.00 for rail-replacement services is fair also, considering the transfer discounts some people may be missing out on and the extra time it takes to reach their destination. Use of the HOP system shouldnt be a problem since all rail-bus providers BAYES, Richies, NZBus and Urbex have AT HOP on-board most if not all of their fleet.

      -Closer to platform stops
      Some stations have the rail-replacement stop quite far from the actual station, perhaps stops could be added closer to the station purely for rail-bus use. Also a side note that all rail-replacement stops seriously need SHELTERS and for the above suggestions to work PIDs signs at these bus-stops would also be a MUST.

    3. balderdash – even in the current network bus services from Manurewa to the City don’t run at anywhere near the frequency/capacity to replace the rail network.

      We should not be trying to develop a bus network that duplicates the rail network to protect us from unreliability on the latter. That’s silly.

      1. I am referring to the temporary rail-bus replacements when the rail network is unavailable… These will become even more critical when the frequent network comes.

  10. There most certainly will be some Interruption to rail services, so they better have a robust contingency plan for people to get to/from south akl with the new network. Otherwise the sole south akl bus
    service available will be the 305 to mangere!

  11. It’s time for someone at Auckland Transport to take a look at the Beach Haven loop. It can take as little as 25 minutes for me to get a bus from Beach Haven to the CBD and, on a bad day, more than an hour for the return trip. Given it takes roughly 20 minutes in a car, that’s a huge disincentive to take the bus.

    1. Suggest you pass that feedback onto AT directly via their website, as well as the operator (Birkenhead Transport). I understand the operator is quite attached to one-way, counter-directional loops for operational reasons, although that needs to be weighed against their impacts on passengers, which as you note tend to be very negative.

      1. I’ll do that. The Beach Haven loop is doubly perverse as in one direction buses go to the wharf, then wait for a few minutes before returning up Rangatira road.

        Still, if as the map implies the three buses an hour (two of which do the perverse wharf thing) moves to four buses an hour, presumably two in each direction, there will be the option of waiting 15 minutes for the clockwise bus which gets home fast.

        1. yes personally I think the one-way loop is overly complex and should be abandoned in favour of a simpler operating pattern.

          That’s indeed what has been proposed in earlier iterations of the North Shore network, so when it comes time to consult on the details of the network in the NS network it’s very important you (and other people you know who feel the same way) pass on their feedback about the loops to AT so that they are armed with the information they need to convince the operator.

      2. Re : operational reasons. Stu – were you joking you said ”

        “I understand the operator is quite attached ……. etc … although that needs to be weighed against their impacts on passengers?”

        I understand things need to be cost effective, but if PT can’t be supplied “cost effectively” to passengers, wherever they may be in this super-city, shouldn’t people be focused on how to make it great for the passenger and cost effective?

        Not organise buses so it’s convenient for drivers to have tea breaks etc

        1. It’s quite ridiculous. Say I have an 11:00 am meeting in town for an hour. Using my car I can be there and home in well under 2 hours. Using public transport I might need to set aside a four hour window. It wouldn’t work this way if I lived in, say, East Coast Bays.

        2. I wonder if it might stack up for businesses in the bays to actually subsidise or fund buses going there, it might bring them some customers.

          From what I could tell, based on the New Network ( arriving in just 2 years, get ready now ), some areas such as the Crown Hill route, and the bays fhemselves between Browns and Milford, are actually set for reduced service.

          Despite the fact, that just up from me, they unitary plan shows more although limited intensification ( around Pupuke Golf course, which some Bright Spark at the council is no doubt planning to do something about), and that segments of Mairangi Bay are similarly zoned.

          I’m really not convinced people talk to each other without saving job titles and shouting at the council and it’s offspring organisations. Joined up thinking…. I’m not sure groupthink is the same thing.

        3. Trust me the bus service is just as poor in most of the East Coast Bays…. As someone who regularly makes a lot of trips to both I amdisgusted by the complexity of the network, just stupid, stupid routes.

  12. Doesn’t look like AT are doing anything great at the city end of the bus routes. Shouldn’t there be a single place to catch almost any bus instead of some going to britomart some going to wynyard etc. they are spending loads of money on interchanges in the burbs and yet there won’t be any in the city!

    1. Not to mention if u live in town the services end a lot sooner at night than if you live out of town, I don’t even live in town and find that annoying. Probably because I start work at midnight and the last bus in is at 10:30 so I have to sit around for an hour at work lol.

  13. Interesting reading through here. Someone has definitely got fired up and has had a go at a few people. Probably does the same using the current network as well, given the complexity and length of ‘long & winding road’ routes that are currently there. My understanding is that the current network has 350 routes which is going to be simplified to around 150.

    I have also heard that the bus companies have a huge number of route variations (1 route might have 7-8 variants sometimes to cover off various end points, express options and day options). Apparently there are over 1,000 routes when you factor in all of these – scary! This is based on a historical expectation (imperative) that no one should need to walk more than 800ms (might be less than this) to get PT which explains why there are so many route variations of a basic route, and also explains why some go the very, very long way when direct would work much better.

    If you apply the 80/20 rule to network design and look after the greater good (highest proportion of population which will lead to the greatest frequency of service and patronage growth), then you will be doing the right thing by the majority. Where this appears to become unstuck is when AT back down on route changes after a small number of people complaining (e.g. 020, Ponsonby and Freeman’s Bay routes). I wish them well showing the fortitude to see the new Network Design through to a logical outcome, even in the face of the occasional piece of opposition.

    This will also need to apply to bus lanes and new infrastructure to support the higher frequency corridors as the mixture of complaints from NIMBY’s and vocal local Business Association seem to have diluted some great opportunities in places like Dominion Rd and Mt Eden Rd.

    1. Re : 800 milliseconds.

      Apparently they are working on 3D printing people, instead of sending astronauts in corporeal form to mars. Forget rail, let’s wait for teleportation.

      One of the major problems with distance atleast on The North Shore, is that paths, and roads seem to actively avoid the theory of “as the crow flies”.

      This results in distances which should take a very short time to cover via bike or feet, or skateboard all things being equal. “Take the long way round” seems the general principle.

      On a related subject, which I feel is on topic, I have previously suggested that we become “Auckland – City of Goats” ( see mowers and moa’s ). Part of this strategy for having a lot of four legged creatures roam free and do things for “free” would be linking every driveway by a “bridleway”. Take down the fences, we have enough driveways.

      On a related matter, does anyone know how much space driveways consume in this city? I would be self-interested to know.


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