Some good news today with AT and some of Auckland’s bus companies all confirming there will be 53 new double decker buses on the roads soon.

Northern Express IMG_4447

A fleet of 53 double-decker buses will be hitting Auckland roads from October. The announcement was made today by Auckland Transport Chairman Dr Lester Levy at Kiwi Bus Builders Ltd in Tauranga, where some of the buses will be manufactured.

At the same time, Transport Minister, Simon Bridges outlined new regulations which will allow the vehicles to operate on New Zealand roads.

The new buses are being introduced by three of the main operators in Auckland – NZ Bus (23 buses), Howick & Eastern (15 buses), and Ritchies (15 buses). Each can carry more than 100 passengers; conventional buses carry between 45 and 70.

With the exception of two “proto-type” vehicles built in the United Kingdom, the Howick and Eastern and NZ Bus fleets will be manufactured in Tauranga. The Ritchies Buses will be built in China and will be delivered and operational in January 2016.

Double-deckers have already been pressed into service, with great success, on the Northern Busway (between the North Shore and the CBD).

Dr Levy says an unprecedented increase in public transport patronage looks set to continue and the investment in the new fleet by companies such as these reinforces that confidence. This is one of the single biggest private investments in public transport infrastructure in Auckland ever, he says.

“There is only so much road widening we can do in some areas so we have to look at more innovative and different ways of utilising what is a limited space. Double-deckers, along with increased frequency and reliability on buses and trains are key to reducing the city’s number one problem, which is congestion.”

A separate press release from NZ Bus says that will be buying Enviro500 double decker buses from Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) and I assume Howick and Eastern will be doing the same (seeing as Brian Souter, the owner H&E also owns part of ADL). They also say:

NZ Bus has agreed with Auckland Transport for fifteen of the buses to be introduced on Mt Eden Road, and eight buses on the 881 service on the North Shore. With both of these corridors experiencing passenger growth, due to significantly improved service performance, the introduction of double decker buses and an additional 30 percent capacity is expected to help generate even more growth.

The new buses will be assembled at the Kiwi Bus Builders plant in Tauranga and are expected to be introduced into service between April and July 2016.

This is good news for PT in Auckland – although a shame it seems that they’ll just miss the annual March Madness. Routes such as Mt Eden Rd are frequently full and I’ve heard of people waiting at stops watching up to 12 buses go past completely full. Double Deckers are also a useful interim step before considering more expensive ways to increase capacity – such as with light rail.

I’m looking forward to seeing more of these on the road.

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73 comments

  1. What is better – one double decker or two large ‘normal’ buses running at twice frequency?

    Are double deckers only going to be used where frequency cant (practically) be increased?

    On routes where double deckers are required, shouldn’t a prerequisite be full bus lanes?

    1. Yes re bus lanes, but they do seem to be coming to these routes as AT promised with the Transport Levy funds.

      Once you get to the frequencies on these busy routes there are considerable advantages with switching to higher capacity buses:

      1. Too many buses on the same route and they jam each other up leapfrogging stops etc; there is such a thing as too much frequency for vehicle speed
      2. The ratio of costs [driver + machine + fuel] to paying passenger improves significantly, and can make a big difference to farebox recovery and profitability.

      This is good news, shame, as Matt says, that many won’t be there until after March, but great that there’s assembly in Tauranga.
      Highlighting what a loss it was that the Hillside rail workshop in Dunedin was sacrificed to ideology.

    2. these routes run every 3 minutes at peak times, and don’t think they’ll be reducing the frequency, adding much needed capacity to existing routes.

      1. These route might already be at capacity so double deckers does make sense. Just making the point that they aren’t always the correct solution, especially where frequency can be increased.

        My comment re bus lanes stands though. If the routes are important enough for double deckers, then they are important enough for bus lanes.

        1. You realise these are the routes on AMETI the Northern Busway and Mt Eden Rd right?

          Pretty decent buslanes already/soon to be here.

          1. You dont think they will stop there do you. AT wants them everywhere!

            Plus isn’t the NEX only 43% busway according to TransportBlog???

          2. So what if AT don’t stop there? There are many routes suitable for double deckers in Auckland.

            The busway is currently only 35% busway Northbound, but the Busway is being extended to Albany, and the Fanshawe St busway is scheduled within the next few years so Southbound it will be about 90%

          3. My point is I think AT see these as a solution (that doesn’t cost them mcuh) compared to what they should be doing which is increasing bus lanes (which does cost them). If the route is suitable (predominately bus lane) and the frequency is already there, bring on the double deckers.

  2. Higher buses aren’t compatible with the traditional single-storey building heights of heritage Auckland suburbs. It might work in Europe but we don’t need this sort of loopy nonsense here.

        1. And that’s a totally legit reason to park them on the footpath. The bus companies can go ahead and sell their depots so these buses will cost them nothing.

  3. Great news. Except of course the revelation that we already have double-decker buses that have been “pressed into service”. Not sure we should support forcible conscription right off the street 😉

    [In short, I am pedantically concentrating on a weird phrase in an otherwise great press release]

  4. Smart buses, but they look awfully flimsy to cope with roll-overs, rear-ending each other, or colliding head-on with heavy trucks.
    Where is the requirement for them structurally to withstand such events? Compare this absence to the costly structural capability which new passenger rail vehicles are required to have, just in case the unthinkable happens.

      1. it’s not just the bridge, the Northern from Constellation to Albany gets a lot of gusty winds coming across the poo ponds as well, but at times I had to slow to 60kph on the bridge because of wind

        curiously in the prevailing westerly citybound was affected more than northbound,

        1. Yes well if a bus ends up in the poo ponds then those who can swim will swim and those who can’t swim can just go through the motions!

    1. Uhm, buses – especially those used for public transport services – have SERIOUS requirements for structural integrity.

      As to the roll-over thing, buses are tested to tip requirements which are ridiculous, and are actually very stable, because 90% of their weight is very low to the ground (those 30-40 people on the upper level aren’t that heavy in comparison). Again, this is old-school stuff, and has been sorted decades ago.

      Lastly, buses are one of the safest ways to travel per kilometre travelled. Your risk of dying in a traffic crash in a bus is lower than pretty much anywhere else in landbased transport, short of maybe trains.

      This is a photo of how they tested it in the 1930s…

      http://i.imgur.com/y7EOXme.jpg

      1. The risk per kilometre when travelling by car is roughly ten times the risk when travelling by bus (or train), according to statistics produced by Greater Wellington Regional Council a few years back. If road safety were really the priority that decision-makers say it is, that statistic would be reflected in transport expenditure…

      2. Agree with all of you.
        But ever-striving for consistency and level playing-flelds, I was just taking the opportunity to highlight the additional structural costs that passenger rail vehicles are saddled with, to make their operation even safer than buses. Trouble is that Safe Safe Safe = $ $ $ and this is one reason why our long distance passenger rail service has all-but disappeared from the market. Maybe rail is just too safe for its own good, if buses can get away with far less structural protection?

        DamianS – bus rollovers (mostly single-deckers) are by no means uncommon, though not usually in the urban transport context, and not recently in New Zealand that I can remember. But when they do happen, the risk (as with trains) is that the side which ends up on th ground loses its windows and passengers or parts of their bodies get dragged between the ground and the window-pillars as the vehicle grinds to a halt.

        1. I disagree – car safety regulations have progressively gotten more and more stringent too, and this has not exactly made the car disappear. It will always be a debating thing as to what is the correct trade-off between cost / diminishing returns and safety, but the decline of our public transport over the last 50 years was policy based, not due to the safety-culture.

          1. Yes, PT decline has been regardless of relative safety. Mode choice has never been considered as a safety issue, but what other single decision could car users take that would reduce their risk exposure by 90%? (Other than not travelling, that is.)

            If the transport safety of different modes had been considered rather than just road safety, the policy outcomes would have been different – and safer.

          2. It’s the cost of insisting on additional safety for rail vehcles that tends to make them prohibitively expensive. This has to be a factor in the decision to discontinue many of our long-distance passenger routes.

            By contrast, buses have not been clobbered in this way, and motoring costs have come dramatically down.

    1. Nick may well have been having a bit of fun above, but actually the single story heritage shopfront canopies are indeed not compatible with double deckers on dominion road. I’ve heard a rumour we wont have them until the bus lane runs down the middle of road.

      1. Well they shouldn’t be going over the road in the first place? Surely they would stop short of the berm/footpath and road. What about trucks/other tall vehicles and current buses which are already high enough to hit most shop front canopies if they come close or go slightly over the road.

      1. That’s what I’m referring to Peter N. It would be nice to have all PT 24/7 so we don’t need the cars. But Mt Eden and Dominion Road need them now. Imo

  5. Anyone got the stats on – number of seats , number standing , for these buses?
    Also at 4.1meteres are there any places they cannot go in Auckland? (under Parnell rail Bridge?)

    1. All bridges have to be built with a minimum height clearance and this includes such things as the overhead wires for the trains at the level crossings and all vehicles must not exceed a maximum height especially something fixed like a bus. So these buses will fit but I can see trees that overhang roads may become an issue.

      Then we get trucks with over height loads that take out the Penrose Rd over bridge on the Southern motorway with regular monotony.

      1. The normal maximum vehicle height is 4.25m, but there are many bridges with less clearance than that (hence the number of bridgestrikes that plague KiwiRail) – but I think we can be pretty confident that the routes AT selects will miss any in Auckland, if any there are. I think substandard ones have to have their height marked (not that that deters some drivers…).

      2. Time to get a truck with a large double decker sized cutter on it like in London. They just drive around and slice through overhanging trees etc. the tree branches fall into the back of the truck to be chopped up further later. You get some nice square shaped tree overhangs! 🙂

    2. “Ritchies Transport already has two double-deckers, each with 86 seats and standing capacity for 15 passengers… That company has another 15 of the same capacity on order from China, all of which it expects to add to its operation by January.”

      “they will be joined by 38 more buses across two other city fleets – all of which are expected to have 91 seats with standing capacity for 11 passengers and are being built in Tauranga”

      Source: nzherald

      High seated to standee ratio. Should be good for comfort for longer routes, but not so good for short routes or routes with lots of boarding/disembarking at intermediate stops.

      I quite like articulated buses as they have more doors. But at the moment, any way that more capacity is delivered is good.

      1. Artics don’t work very well when they have to turn in the CBD though…..

        I’ve often thought that the bottom floor of all buses should have more longitudinal seating to allow more people on.

        1. Smaller turning radius is consistently listed as an advantage for articulated buses over Double decker’s

          Reason for this is (single) articulated buses are rarely double the length of a rigid bus. For example In NZ a Max. size rigid bus is 12.8m long. An articulated bus is unlikely to be longer than 18m (perhaps made up of a 10m front unit and 8m trailer unit). The shorter front unit can easily out turn a longer rigid double decker.

          While you may be used to boat trailers etc “cutting the corner” when towed behind light vehicles, with an articulated bus designed for urban environment this can be eliminated. This can be done by either having a steered axle on the trailer, or by configering the bus geometry so that the articulation point is far behind the rear axle of the front unit, and the trailer is relatively short, with its axle quite far forward.

          Such a system is pretty much essential for double articulated buses.

          Although articulated buses typically have less floor area than double deckers they typically can hold more people. No space is wasted on stairs, and the whole bus can take standees (no standees upstairs on double deckers due to low headroom). also you don’t get the issue where a “glut” of people doing short trips that and don’t want to go upstairs prevent access to the stairwells, causing the driver to treat the bus as full despite space available upstsirs.

          1. Not saying that there aren’t advantages to artics, I just disagree that they are appropriate in downtown. The artics also take up more length between lights which is a massive issue on Customs St in particular, and soon Wellesley St too.

          2. one of the scarcest resources in the CBD and at Busway stations BTW is kerb space, double-deckers use less kerb space per passenger than artics

            as for turning circles, the current 14.5 metre tag axle buses used on the Busway have steering tags and are can turn incredibly tightly, a tighter turning circle than a standard two axle bus, however Ritchies current double deckers do not have steering tags

  6. Stop the madness, if drivers don’t get to go past huge crowds in the rain then you’re taking away one of the few perks of the job

  7. A fleet of 53 double-decker buses will be hitting Auckland roads from October…….
    Am I missing something? If the NZ Bus & H&E ones roll out between April & July 2016, and the Richies ones in January 2016…. how do we get some in October???

      1. Standee is a specific terms for a person who stands in an area where seating is provided, I.e. because the seating is full. It was originally a theatrical term referring to audience members without seats.

    1. A complete abomination that’s been in the Oxford English Dictionary since 1856 and in regular use since the time of Shakpeare?

    1. How much of the price of the ADL’s is going direct to England. They are only being assembled here.

      Plus if Ritchies saves money, he can put in a better price (assuming he passes at least some of it on) and AT saves money.

      1. That’s short term gain to kill of manufacturing is not the way to build a smart economy. Based on your flawed logic everything, including houses, should be made in China because it’s cheaper for us. But then we won’t have any jobs or skills here. Have you not seen what poor economic policies has done to our manufacturing industry in the past 20 years? And the fanciful thought that prices go down…. yeah right…the importers pocket the difference.

        Good on you NZ Bus and H & E for building buses in New Zealanders, by New Zealanders. Damn sight better quality than the Chinese buses on the 380 Airporter.

  8. If anyone was wondering what all the road works were on Symonds Street around the University of Auckland over the last month – the answer is in this post. They were making the street a little wider…

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