… are a pet hate of mine.

Why? Well, it’s rather straight-forward really: Heavily tinted windows make the outside world appear dark all the time. I find this to be rather gloomy, especially at night.

Indeed, the Airbus Express from the Airport to the City provides a very convenient ghost tour every time I return to Auckland from my new abode in Brisbane (image source).


Let’s get one thing straight: The look/feel of buses should be designed, first and foremost, to meet the needs of people who are actually riding the buses.

Not people outside the buses.

Logic suggests bus passengers who are sensitive to light will carry sunglasses. Why? Well, these passengers will tend to walk to and from the bus stop. In the sunlight. Hmm.

I happen to be one of these blue-eyed, fair-skinned, scottish-distilled, light-sensitive, bus-riding people. And I hate heavily tinted bus windows (I can tolerate light tinting).

There’s also a passive surveillance safety issue to consider. So much so that heavily tinted bus windows have actually been banned in some jurisdictions.

While this is thankfully not a major issue in Auckland, I would tend to eschew features that reduced public transport users’ perceived if not actual levels of safety.

What do others think? Are heavily tinted windows the bane of your existence? Or am I just an overly sensitive button?

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  1. The big problem I have with tinted windows is at night when, combined with the internal light, the tinted windows make it impossible to see out making it difficult to tell where you are and thus increasing the possibility of missing your bus stop. Other than that, I don’t have a problem with them.

  2. Perhaps something like what’s seen in cities like Paris is more appropriate, slight greenish tint to reflect sun but still able to be seen through like shown below

  3. Some of the Richie’s buses have a worse problem in my opinion – the windows are high and most of the seats low so you can’t see anything but sky unless you are unusually tall.

  4. Not really a big problem for me, and most of the recent advertising only covers part of the bus windows, so always somewhere on the bus you’d be ok. Although this might not help on a relatively full bus which is pretty common in Auckland. In saying this, the bus should be designed to be comfortable for the majority of users, if this is affecting people it could also be turning others off using the services. Therefore the Paris example above in the comments may just be a better solution.

  5. I loathe tinted windows and agree with Draco that it makes it difficult to see out at twilight or night, or on very overcast days.The advertising plastered over windows is worse though, especially in rain or at night. As Stu says, buses should be designed for the passengers.

  6. The windows are tinted to reduce heat (sunlight) getting in, which in summer turns the bus into an oven. If they didn’t do this, buses would waste a lot of energy by having the aircon on full all the time in summer, and when an aircon fails the bus would have to be pulled from service.

      1. Some Urban Express buses don’t have air con at all 🙁 You’d hope AC is a requirement for new route contracts, but these ones were only changed last year….

    1. I think the heavily-tinted windows in NZ Bus’s ADL buses are an abomination – even worse when combined with confravision adverts and opaque logos – and I don’t think the air-con issues is relevant. Other aircon buses have windows with much less tint with no apparent problems, and ii Wellington it’s possible to make a direct comparison between GO Wellington’s and Mana’s ADLs, well-nigh identical to the passenger apart from the level of tinting. I know which I prefer!

      Tinting may not be the worst thing about bus travel, but every little helkps – and it would be so nice if transport operators were able to see (no pun intended!) things from the passenger’s point of view.

  7. The tinted windows combined with the full wrap advertising really annoys me. I was hopeful that the new AT livery and PTOM would allow AT to prevent NZBus from continuing to obscure all the windows with advertising but I’ve noticed that all the Link buses have been repainted and still have their full bus wrap advertising. NZBus even have a bus that is wrapped in advertising for themselves. Why does AT allow this? Clearly no one there making any of these decisions has any interest in anything that doesn’t save or make the bus companies money.

    1. While they are using the new livery, I dont think any buses are operating under the new PTOM agreement yet are they. I though the bus companies were still in negotiation on the finer points – which for NZBus, probably include advertising.

  8. Stu as you know the Airport Express is not a subsidised service at all, and as a fully commercial service the operators can currently do what they like with their buses.

    Your only recourse is to complain directly to the Airport Express Bus Operators pointing out your issues and suggesting that you might take alternative services if they don’t do something.
    Whether they listen or not is up to them.

    I expect they’d argue that the tinting is “necessary” for the comfort of passengers (on a sunny summer day, during daytime, maybe, rest of the time, not so much).

    1. Yeah well that proves the stupidity of running it commercially. Not only is it stupidly expensive but the ride quality can’t be mandated by AT. We don’t allow roads to be run privately why do the same with PT?

      1. The really great tragedy with hacking off the profitable PT routes and handing them to private interests is that every successful network [including our road network] in the world works by using the surplus from busy routes to cross-subsidise the quieter parts of the network in order to make a better, more efficient whole. And those quiet routes deliver ‘traffic’ to the busy ones anyway. Additionally it makes planning and co-ordination much harder when separate interests have their patch to defend.

        Through fuel taxes, road user charges, and rates, users of really busy roads like the Pak Highway in effect not only cross subsidise quiet rural roads but also massive and costly, but pretty empty ones, like the Waikato Expressway. This is an efficient way to run a network, largely socialist of course; it is literally tax-and-spend, all directed by a central planning authority.

        Someone could certainly run any busy urban arterial, like Pak highway, at a fantastic profit, if all revenue it generated was ring-fnced for that operator, after some overheads, repairs, fee collection and of course marketing! But that would be so shit for the city and nation as a whole, new roads would have to built by these road running corporations who sensibly for their shareholders would only want to run them in busy places, in competition with each other…. nightmare [like I say, what we do now is pretty much socialism in action and it works- sorry if this upsets any road loving ideologues out there].

        But with PT networks we hack off the best routes which beggars the quality and the efficiency of the network. And essentially the public subsidy, by carrying the weaker parts of the network, really goes to the operators of the strong ones…

    2. Greg, this is a general critique of heavily tinted windows. The airbus was just used as an example. Moreover, before making a “complaint” I’d like to know what others think, hence the motivation for this post.

      1. Understood Stu,
        But the Airport Express as a fully commercial service is a little different from most bus services, you could equally have mentioned private taxis or shuttles with the same problem as others have, as examples of the problem.
        And as they are all private operators, so AT can’t control any of these.

        And yes, I dislike heavily tinted windows on buses both as a passenger and as a pedestrian or as a road user, nor do I like buses that carry wrap around ads for the same reason, plus also object as we have enough “mobile” and “fixed” advertising around the place, that we don’t need it on the PT services as well.

        However, this is just one of many other reasons to dislike our bus offerings as they currently stand, but not the only reason to.

        And I think AT needs to stand up to these bus operators and dictate what they can and can’t put on their buses as PTOM contracts roll out or we will be faced with windowless buses in short order designed as nothing more than moving billboards and nothing else – after all isn’t that the logical extension of this situation?

        I trust any LRTs rolled out in Auckland will adopt the advertising free exterior planned for the RTN networks as well.

        1. Greg – you’re losing sight of the forest through the trees.

          I don’t use taxis or private shuttles very often – so they are not an example that springs to my mind. I do use buses, commercial or otherwise, and so that was the example I chose to use in this post. Remember that posts are often simply an expression of personal opinions based on personal experiences.

          Finally, you seem to be leaping to the assumption that the post is targeted at AT, despite the fact that “AT” is not even mentioned in the post at all. The more immediate target audience was the bus companies themselves, who do have the power to change what buses they procure, commercial or otherwise. And from what I understand they also read the blog.

  9. I took a supershuttle in welly the other week and it was horrible. Tinted windows and full wrap advertising. Couldnt see a thing outside even though it was daytime and inside the van was dark and gloomy.

    Havent found it much of an issue on the AT busses, though perhaps they could lighten the tint a fraction for nihhtime.

  10. 3) You have to tag off on buses. In London, buses were a fixed inexpensive fare no matter how far you went to get around this problem. To be fair I can’t see a fixed fare working in Auckland, but you are always going to get a large number of people forgetting to tag off when there is no gate enforcing it.
    4) The HOP web page seems pretty budget and flaky. Every time I use it I get confused or it breaks. It looks and behaves like something someone built in their garage, I don’t like entering in my credit card details.
    5) HOP feels flaky. To be fair I don’t use PT to commute so I’m not a regular user, but it feels like I need to have some cash on me every time I catch the bus in case it doesn’t work. Once I got charged for two uncompleted fares even though I only made one trip and tagged off (it counted the tag off as a tag on, I think it could be because my journey spanned two days / spanned midnight). I feel like I have to constantly monitor what they are charging me (why didn’t they send me an email about the uncompleted journey?). I never heard of anything like that happening in London.
    6) In London you can now use paywave, you don’t need an Oyster card at all. I imagine you can also use your smart phone too. I haven’t heard any mention of this happening here.
    7) The cards are too expensive, they must only cost a few cents to make, why is AT trying to profit by selling them for $10? If they were $1 many more tourists and the general public would buy one.
    8) There are not enough places to buy a card or top one up.

    1. Oops, seem to have got a partial post!

      Are tinted windows really the worst thing about catching the bus?
      I just read an article in the Herald about HOP users having their cards cancelled for not tagging off and it made me think about how much better the London Oyster system was ten years ago when I used it:
      1) With the Oyster readers I just had to wave my wallet past the reader and it it would respond instantly. With HOP I have to take my card out of my wallet and hold it against the reader for quite a while before it responds, and even then it quite often fails and I have to do it again. The readers look cheap and plasticy.
      2) You have to tag off on buses. In London, buses were a fixed inexpensive fare no matter how far you went to get around this problem. To be fair I can’t see a fixed fare working in Auckland, but you are always going to get a large number of people forgetting to tag off when there is no gate enforcing it.

      1. In regards to 1), that isn’t actually true; you need only hold the card (or wallet, bag etc) in close proximity to the reader for a second max for it to register. You can do it while walking by. The majority of people don’t seem to realise this, which leads to hold ups as people stop and wait for the reader to beep.

        The green light is what actually tells you that the card has been read, not the beep.

        1. Until the card starts malfunctioning and refuses to talk to the reader unless you hold it at exactly the right angle while standing on one leg and singing ‘The Wheels on the Bus’…

          When mine started playing up less than a year after I got it, I complained to AT customer service, who kindly explained to me that I needed to take it out of my wallet and hold it to the reader for several seconds in order to tag on (spoiler: my wallet wasn’t the problem), and refused to replace it. Mostly I like the AT Hop system better than Snapper Hop, but at least Snapper didn’t make their cards out of tissue paper.

      2. Storm in a teacup from the Herald. Less than 1% of users fail to tag off. The number who have had their cards cancelled is like 0.01%. Of those, only people who haven’t registered their card can’t get their credit back.

        In London, most bus routes and most bus trips are short distance. The long distance stuff happens on the tube and train. In Auckland we have massive range of bus trips, from about 1km average on the City Link up to 20km+ on suburban commuter routes. There is no way you could have a flat fare in Auckland without massively savaging revenue and farebox recovery. The bus may be one pound in London, but we could hardly make every bus in Auckland cost $2!

        I don’t agree on HOP failing, mine is really good compared to just about every other system I’ve used. Mine reads right through my wallet at a couple of cms distance.

        On 7), the cards are $10 because they can go into negative credit by $10 (which is essential so you can always make that one last trip without getting caught out). In other words, they come pre loaded. If they were $1 people could just keep buying them, ripping off the negative balance feature for $10 travel, then throwing them away.

      3. Ahhh … Not its not the worst thing about pt in Auckland but its relevant because its an easy fix: operators should stop buying buses with heavily tinted windows. Low hanging fruit is important, even, if there’s always bigger pt fish to fry.

  11. One other factor against heavily tinted windows is it helps prevent buses from becoming a wall in the city as people can see through them to the other side of the street. That might not seem that important but when there are a long of buses can be very useful so PEDs don’t feel hemmed in

  12. Slight tint OK, full blackout is awful.

    Funnily enough I remember older Auckland buses that weren’t either tinted or airconditioned, and they weren’t that stinking hot even in summer. Better airflow design inside maybe? Also, whatever happened to windows that opened at the top?

  13. From boarding/disembarking perspective it’s really difficult/impossible to see who is getting off from the front when the bus is wrapped or tinted, this creates delays as people either wait to see if someone is coming off, before they board (if you’re polite) or creates ‘collisions’ (get on and walk back off) where an elderly person, parent with a pushchair, or wheelchair user are exiting from the front. So much easier when you can see whats happening before you board.

  14. Just an update on the London comparison. Bus fares there have increased over the years so now are more like NZ$3 (which is still a truckload better than most Auckland Fares!).
    It is a much better system in that buses don’t linger in stops while people tag off (much faster). It also avoids the problem of people not tagging off (or as I saw 3 times on my bus ride this morning cards not working to tag off!).
    I guess one solution to the single bus fare issue would be to reduce the length of some bus trips and have more bus transfer stations (as happens in London). That said there are many bus routes in London which are a good 15-20km long with the longest being 38km! (X26). By simplifying the fare and removing the tag off sure does help (not to mention reducing the cost of the extra tag off unit).
    The other great thing about London buses is the ibus system ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBus_(London) ). This is a GPS system that tracks buses and they have audio and visual announcements on board. The announcements state the name of the bus route (E.g “E3 to Greenford” They also announce the upcoming next stop name about 30 seconds before the stop and then again when the bus stops at the stop). There is a clear display inside the front of the bus along with one upstairs that name the bus route, where its going and the next stop. This makes the bus much more user-friendly (as you know exactly which bus you are on, what the time is, where it is going to and what the next stop is). In total the system cost £18.8m (about NZ$40m) however the London bus fleet is 8000 buses compared to Auckland’s fleet (which is probably about 1/4 the size).
    Another improvement for buses would be driver security so that more night bus services could operate.

  15. Anyone know of any urban rail operators that feel the need to heavily tint their train windows? I’m not aware of any.
    If trains can manage without this questionable practice, why do bus-operators feel the need to provide it?

    1. Reminds me of a nightmare ride I had on a bus in Russia some years ago. It was winter and the windows were totally frosted. The bus was also jam-packed and for those of us standing in the aisle it was not even possible to reach the windows. Although my Russian could stretch to “Excuse me please, do you know where we are?”, it was not up to making sense of the answers received. We were, indeed, travelling blind, and were faced with the dilemma of having to get off and step out into the frozen night at some unfamiliar place, purely in order to avoid going any further astray. We decided to do this and promptly missed the first opportunity because we couldn’t even get to the door. But finally we made it out and to our complete astonishment, found ourselves exactly where we needed to be!
      Who says prayer doesn’t work!

  16. I don’t like the heavy tinting, either, especially from huge ads plastered to the sides of the bus. I have to pay something in amenity cost to suit the advertiser. But the larger question you ask is the important one. Why don’t they design buses to suit the passengers? They seem to be designed to suit the designer and operator but that overlooks the reason for having the bus in the first place – to carry customers in comfort and safety.

    My pet peeve is seats. On most buses I cannot sit straight in my seat without my knees pressing against the seat in front of me. Some of the new buses have seats with all kinds of protrusions from the seat back that can cause real pain. I’m 5’10” . I’m not asking much. However, the population is getting taller as time goes on, so there are a lot of people taller than me. I don’t know how they can take it. Maybe they don’t. These are the things that subtly or overtly discourage transit use.

    I would think AT would care about that. *They clearly do not.* I offer my services as an official check rider to evaluate the passenger experience on AT. How about it?

    1. good point. Leg room is another argument for having inwards facing seats at least in the front half of the bus. Not only does this result in faster boarding/alighting (especially for people with prams etc) but it also creates more standing room and allows people with long legs to avoid the need to squeeze into a narrow seat.

      I don’t understand why NZ Bus have configured the City Link to have such a narrow aisle and two by two seating in the front half of the bus. It seems bizarre to me …

    2. P.s. Your irritation is slightly misplaced however: Fleet procurement and configuration, especially for the last 20 years, has been primarily an issue for the operator not the agency. So AT has little input into such issues, even if their new contracts may shift the balance in their direction a little more than it has been in the past, which I think is a good thing.

    3. Knee room on public transport is a big issue. And it’s very hard to tell before you sit down whether there’s room for you or not. At just over 6’2″, there’s lots of buses where it’s impossible to sit property – and with a spine injury this makes it harder. It’s be great if the seats with plenty of knee room could be left for taller people – but I can’t think of any practical way to encourage people with less need for knee room to sit in the tighter seats.

      With regards to window tinting, buses aren’t the only issue. For cycling safety, tinting on car and van windows is very frustrating. I was taught by a senior traffic officer, than you should look into a car/van as you pass it to check if anyone is in the driver’s seat – this reduces the risk of getting winged by an opening door. However, some cars are like gangster hit cars – it’s impossible to see if anyone’s inside. Let alone identify them if they have committed an offence. These are safety issues which it would be good to see transport authorities tackle.

      1. And unrelated to this thread, but related to this comment, is the menace caused by car hub-caps. As many cyclists will observe, these things are always liberally strewn around the streetscape, having been flung off vehicles at speed. Getting hit by one scything through the air can leave a significant injury. These essentially useless accessories are there for aesthetics only, yet they present a very real hazard which appears to have escaped the attention of our normally zealous safety legislators (as do many harmful aspects of road transport, unfortunately). The ‘hubcap-hazard’ is one that could easily be got rid of.

  17. Yes, these tints or screens on the windows ARE indeed the bane of my life. I have a slight sight problem and it makes night time vision difficult. OK to come home from work on the bus in summer, but in winter it’s dark at 5pm! I find it incredibly hard to see outside when it’s dark and these things are on the windows – once getting off the bus, in the dark, 1.5 km before my stop because I just couldn’t see properly. It also spoils my view in the morning going to work on the bus. How can we get them removed?

    1. This is where the iBus system (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBus_(London)) – (discussed above) comes into play. It was designed primarily to help people with disabilities etc but also to improve the bus experience for everyone.
      It works really well (if we had it in Auckland you could only hope that they would get someone who could actually speak proper English to record the announcements!).

  18. Someone somewhere must be putting smart glass/electrical tints on bus windows. They’ve been used successfully in commercial buildings for years, and more recently on the Dreamliner aeroplane with slightly tougher conditions than we have on the ground. I think they’d make everyone here happy – dark for Geoff on the hottest day, lightly tinted to reduce glare on a day like today and completely clear in the evening.

  19. Really heavy tinting as seems to be appearing on a whole bunch of buses is annoying. Harder to see out, makes the bus look foreboding as hell from the outside and you can’t tell that anyone’s using it. Light tinting is fine, probably even desirable.

    Advertising over the windows is worse. I’d much rather have ads on the inside, provided they don’t cover windows and don’t have audio (looking at you, Link buses – if my daily commute involved talking bus ads I’d seriously think about switching to driving… and I hate driving in the city). Plus, captive audience 🙂

    1. I thank God for air-conditioned buses! Until very recently, all our buses in Pukekohe were non-air-conditioned with Windows – which means that everyone is at the mercy of the passengers next each window. The number of times I have frozen in winter (or autumn or spring or even cool early mornings or evenings in summer) when passenger X – having run to catch the bus and got him- or herself overheated – sits down up front on the opposite side of the bus from me (in the back) and opened the window. Hurricanes down the back.



    2. No thanks; been there, and don’t want to return anytime soon. I wouldn’t use buses at all if they didn’t have air-con.

      The air-con is one of my favourite things about the electric trains.

  20. You’re absolutely right – passengers can’t see out properly, ‘specially at night with inappropriately bright interior lighting reflecting off these same tinted windows too – an unfounded need for privacy seems to be behind it, but if people want privacy on the bus, they just need to wear sunglasses. And then with an allover-the-windows advert, when there’s rain,you might as well be in a cattle truck, as far as outside light and vision goes. It’s a Pyrrhic victory for chief offender NZBus, because yes, there might be additional revenue short-term, but long-term, passengers are put off using. This from a bus driver nearly 3 decades on the job, me.

  21. Glad to see other people hate the tinted windows and it’s not just me. I rode from Takapuna to Northcross on one of these buses yesterday and it was the most depressing ride…I couldn’t see anything clearly and what I could see was distorted. I couldn’t read the road signs or tell where I was. I had to keep bobbing up and down to look out of the front window to get an idea of when to get off (with the risk of being thrown about). Also the one thing about travelling around Auckland is being able to look at the scenery especially on a long ride….I hope all the buses don’t go this way! I also hope AT sees this post and gives a damn

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