Two major changes occurred to the bus network yesterday – although most will be only have started to experience them today.

The first and most important change over the long term – although the one with the lesser impact – is the launch of the new bus network for the Hibiscus Coast. This sees some key changes such as introducing simpler more legible network and extending the Northern Express to Silverdale. The new and old networks are shown below.

Hibiscus Coast New Bus Network

Hibiscus Coast Old Bus Network

One issue with the new network that I’m sure reader Bryce P will mention is that the Northern Express stops in an isolated field for which the only way to access it is either by driving (a large park & ride will eventually be built here) or via one of the connecting bus route – which in the absence of integrated fares means it will cost users extra unless they are using a monthly pass. Bryce has suggested adding a set of traffic lights making it easier to connect buses to the developing town centre.

One aspect I doubt will be missed by many is the routing of buses to and from the city via Dairy Flat Hwy rather than use the motorway – only some express buses in the morning and afternoon peaks took the more direct route. Now the main service between Silverdale and the rest of Auckland is the Northern Express which will run at least every 15 minutes at peak and every 30 off peak all week.

With the shift to the NEX another detour that has been removed is to send those non-express buses via Takapuna. That’s personally a bit disappointing only because the 895 was one of the services I often used in my commute. Not that it would have mattered now anyway thanks to the other major change – the city centre bus stop changes.

In order to accommodate the upcoming City Rail Link enabling works Auckland Transport are moving buses off part of Albert St. The actual works to dig the tunnel won’t begin until about May next year however in November works starts on moving a water pipe that is in the way.

Temporary City Bus Routes

The changes mean many buses – primarily from the North Shore, West Auckland – will be affected. If you work near the middle of town the changes will probably mean a quicker journey compared to what exists now however if like me you transfer from a train to a bus or if you work in the northern parts of the city centre then the changes will not be great. As said when these changes were first announced, I see myself as having three main options

  • Walk the ~800m between Britomart and Wellesley St and then catch a bus to the Takapuna – another factor is that these buses run about every 15 minutes.
  • Catch the Northern Express from next to Britomart to Akoranga and walk about 1.6km to work from there. During the peaks the NEX runs every 10 minutes counter peak.
  • A combination of the two above, catch a Northern Express bus to Fanshawe St then transfer to a Takapuna bus. The risk here is in introducing yet another transfer to the journey.

I’ll have to try a few options to see what works best.

Given this is the first real day I’m expecting there to be a bit of chaos and confusion as people get to grips with the changes. I’m also not convinced that AT have done enough to explain the changes and make people aware of them. I’ll obviously be keeping a close eye on them but I’m also keen to hear your thoughts and hear your experiences so fire away in the comments.

Lastly it will be interesting to see the impact both sets of changes have on patronage. One of the big advantages AT have now over a few years ago is a rich set of trip data from the HOP system so they should be able to see just what impact these changes have.

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71 comments

  1. It’s a shame the new bus route maps are harder to read than the old ones. It’s immediate relief to the eyes to view the old map after trying to read the new one. The colour coding is better, but for crying out loud, make the lines clearly legible like the old ones.

    That 987 route looks interesting. World’s shortest bus route!?

    1. I don’t think the old maps are easier to use.

      For example, the old maps use one colour for about 5-10 different routes, with the user having to piece together where the routes go by following the labels for the routes numbers. So they’re superficially simpler to look at but considerably more difficult to use.

      The new maps use one colour for one route, and has far fewer routes overall. The new maps use PT mapping techniques that are consistent with those used in most systems internationally. I find them easier to understand, and they seem to be easier to use.

      My only gripes are that the new maps 1) still don’t do enough to highlight the core frequent routes, i.e. the NEX and 2) still show too much detail in the overall road network. My suggestion would be that if a road *does not* have a bus running along it, then it should *only* on the map if it’s a very important road, and/or if it is useful for finding ones bearings, e.g. SH1.

      1. I far and away prefer the new maps and colour codes. Much easier to quickly find a route if you’re not a regular. I agree with your comment about differentiating the frequent network although at 1/2 hourly to Silverdale (sorry, Hibiscus Coast Station), it’s not very frequent off-peak.

    2. Colour coding better?! You mean the one colour and line for every single route so it is literally impossible to tell where each route goes?!

      1. I would assume/hope the thick lines are being kept for frequent routes in the New Network maps. Seems the connector lines slightly thicker than the local, and good to see peak service separated out.

    3. Geoff, is it not the case that you simply prefer old to new in any and every instance? Bafflingly you’ve been kvetching for years about how much the old diesel belchers are better than our new trains, paper tickets better than any new technology, and now old maps. Fair enough, change is hard, is not automatically an improvement, and it is important to ask what lost and what is gained. But it does feel like what you want is a city-scaled MOTAT rather than an actually functioning and fit for purpose Transit system. Nostalgia rather than analysis seems to drive your criticisms.

      1. Given that Geoff wants to reverse urbanisation, I think you’re onto something with your “transport nostalgia” diagnosis. Which explains why he’s associated in PTUA with activists from NZ First, the Party of Nostalgia.

        1. funny considering NZF is the only party along with the greens that is interested in investing properly in rail…a key objective of this blog and gen zero etc but hey carry on being cynical as per usual….

        2. And dear old Mike Lee, who wants a toytown station and associated museum at Parnell, and to keep lovely old bungalows on quarter acre sections.

    4. One irony is that now we have bus lanes on Fanshawe but so many incoming buses have to now battle through morning rush general traffic to get to the right hand lane to turn up Hobson St. The bus lane is lane 1; they’re all heading to lane 4.

      I was there this morning and watched all. The bus lane is underused (except by some drivers allowing themselves a generous run up to the left turn into the Viaduct and some brave cyclists). Tricky situation without any obvious solution. The buses that are still heading downtown get a great run, not so much for the midtown ones and motorists.

      Additionally I counted three trucks carrying comtainers to/from the bridge. Why? We suffer the violation of Grafton Gully to have this port traffic removed from the waterfront.

  2. Painful for west Auckland bus users who work near Britomart. Hordes of people streaming north by foot from Victoria and Albert this morning. Even worse is that the route home is now via Hobson St — which can get horribly tangled in motorway traffic — rather than Albert St. Time for me to start driving again rather than catching the bus.

  3. Poor experience first up.
    Northstar bus drivers don’t know the new routes, at least 2 different drivers this morning didn’t know they had to turn right off Whangaparaoa Road into Beverley Road. Staff training anyone?
    As soon as my bus pulled into HBC Station the NEX that was sitting there left. No time whatsoever for any Auckland-bound passengers to transfer. As it turned out, next NEX waits another 15 min before leaving according to schedule (if I’d know that I would’ve made every effort to get on the departing NEX).
    Hibiscus Coast Station was a mess. 5 buses parked — including my bus from Gulf Harbour to Orewa with passengers on waiting to get to Orewa — for about 15 min. 2 NEX buses parked up.
    At least 30 people on the footpath waiting for the next NEX to move forward and begin boarding.
    About 5 representatives from bus companies and AT.
    Everyone standing around doing absolutely zero to get passengers to their destinations. No-one making any decisions, just a lot of looking, wondering, waiting.
    Drivers excuse was that the NEX goes every 15 min. So we waited. Arbitrarily. There’s another empty NEX lined up behind us.
    Colleague tells me his NEX driver drove into the carpark at Albany Station as he’d never approached it from that direction before and didn’t know where to go. TRAINING.

    Why can’t common sense prevail? Why is it that the representative from either AT or Richies, on seeing 30 people waiting for a NEX, and having 2 empty buses sitting there, let passengers board and send the bus on it’s way? Is that too crazy?

        1. Given that every bus ive ever caught 7-7on that route is full there is demand all day. Route it through akoranga but Don’t make 400 people minimum transfer every hour

    1. None of the buses that go to Takapuna stop at Akoranga, they go straight up Esmonde Rd and based on the new network will continue to do so in the future. Citybound they have a bus lane in Esmonde that often saves a lot of time over the queued traffic.

  4. A poor experience on Day 1.

    The new Millwater service failed to materialise at my stop (i suspect the driver went the wrong way). A one hour wait at peak time for the next bus left me with no choice but a healthy walk to Hibiscus Coast Highway for the renamed expresses to Wellesley Street.

    Bus was full so when it arrived at HBC Station it became standing room only – I think Barry has teh reason why so many were trying to get on. But astounding room from HBC station is a familiar occurrence.

    That created further problems down the line – I have noticed that many people catch the HBC expresses at the northern stations to get uptown. Less services and a full bus resulted in many left at Constellation.

    I only take the bus 2 to 3 times a week so a monthly pass is not worth it and my fare from Silverdale is normally $7.60. Today it was $8.40 an increase of $0.80c. How did that happen?

    Lots of AT staff everywhere – 35 minutes longer than normal for me – not good enough!! Some work for AT to do or confidence will quickly erode in the “new and improved (with more services)” network for the Hibiscus Coast.

    1. Need that NEX2 via Wellesley sooner rather than later. Maybe AT need to fast track some ‘new network’ services? Especially frequent ones.

  5. One thing AT failed to explain is the timetable for the Western buses. I asked an AT ambassador about it last week (at 58 Albert St) and was told that there is no change to the timetable, so I assumed that that the buses will leave a bit later (then old timetable) from around Skytower to keep with the timetable past CBD. Well, I was wrong. What AT means is that now a bus that was leaving at 8.30 from Britomart is leaving at 8.30 from 99 Albert street, effectively making it 5-6 minutes earlier then the whole schedule used to be in the outward direction.

  6. It sure sounds like there has been a severe lack of training for drivers for these new routes.
    A few things should have happened: 1) Drivers should have been taken for a dry run in a car at some point over the weekend around Silverdale etc.
    2) There should have been AT reps (possibly even 1 on each bus to assist the driver and to help with questions etc).
    I would expect that the buses should all be going the correct routes tomorrow now that there has been a day of it so it will come down to the whole pulsing at Silverdale. The park n ride has been doubled in size (I think the extension was also opened today). So this should result in more usage of the buses from Silverdale as previously a lot of these people drove to Albany and parked there.

    1. The problem with the expanded park n ride is it removes no traffic from Whangaparaoa Rd or Hibiscus Coast Hwy. They still drive this road. A better alternative is local, small carparks, along Whangapraoa Rd and bus lanes to speed up Whangaparaoa Rd buses. Which would likely drive higher patronage and remove traffic from Whangaparaoa Rd. Apparently AT can’t think this logically.

      1. Agreed. I do have one small “but” though… it will remove some traffic off the motorway (people will get off at Silverdale and park from places like Warkworth etc). So that could help slightly there (but the motorway isn’t usually slowing things down much).
        I guess the other thing is that if the new park n ride can capture new bus patrons then that is a baby step for them. After a while they might then take another baby step to the connecting buses (especially once integrated fares come in). But yes I think a Park n ride around the plaza would be a good idea along with widening Whangaparaoa Road to include buslanes and cycle lanes.

        1. 11am today and the park and ride is overflowing.

          There are big sections of Whangaparaoa Rd that have kerbside parking. This could easily, and cheaply, changed to peak direction bus lanes.

          1. Looks like there is quite a lot of wasted space in those carparks Bryce. Those disabled parks have what appears to be nearly 2 metres on each side!

  7. Sounds like the North Shore urgently needs a proper, regular train service. Limiting such an area to the vagaries of buses, even with a busway, obviously doesn’t cut the mustard. Hopefully things will impove going forward

    1. The challenge I see with converting the busway to rail is, how would you then make it to the train? Unlike the rail lines further south, the NEX doesn’t stop in the town centres.

      I used to regularly catch the bus at Smales Farm. This station is more or less unreachable from the nearby Wairau Valley area (i.e. it takes a lot of time to get there), due to having a big golf course across the motorway. And the station also has a somewhat weird design—local buses often spend a while doing a loop around platform 2 before stopping at platform 3 or 4. They also always drive back to Taharoto Road. Maybe with a little bit more thought, buses going to Northcote could drive straight to the platforms and then to The Avenue instead.

      Those two issues more or less doom the idea of having feeder buses.

      The buses have one thing going for them: they are quite a bit faster than the trains.

      1. Passengers would get to a train in exactly the same way that the enormous majority currently get to the busway. Kiss and ride, feeder buses, walk up, and cycle.

        1. I thought all those express buses pick up many of their passengers in the surrounding residential areas before driving to the busway. Not sure about the 881 but I think it starts somewhere in Torbay. Looking at the arrivals board at eg. Akoranga, that would be about half of the buses going onto the busway.

          1. Less than 20% by my estimate of 881 passengers do that. Most of the express buses that you are talking about are less than half full before reaching the busway and most fill up on the busway.

            Either way it doesn’t really matter because they will all still be able to use feeders to achieve the same.

  8. This is crazy, it takes longer with new system, not shorter? I though buses where going Silverdale – Constellation – City, and not all stops in between? Very few people get off at other stops, other than people whom got on at or after Constellation

    How hard is it to work out that most people leaving from Silverdale are going to CBD, and the few whom aren’t can get off at Constellation and transfer. What should take 30 minutes is 50+ minutes!

    Also, those stupid roundabout things the buses have to use at Silverdale and Albany must be wearing out the buses more than required, whom design those beauties? Both can be replaced by using existing roads and some road markings

    1. Agree about the roundabouts and looping buses, it’s also happening on Smales Farm… just trying to save space for the sake of people’s time… stupid indeed.

      However, I don’t agree about your points about the NEX starting in Silverdale. The only change to the system is that the bus now goes one more stop. Otherwise the system is going to be too complicated. If buses are FULL, all the need to do is to change their sign to “BUS FULL” and not stop for new passengers, but if the bus has capacity it should stop at all stations, if requested.

    2. They almost need to add an extra East-Bound lane to the Silverdale motorway overbridge and move the general traffic onto this while making the existing middle lane a bus lane (along with a bus slip-lane up the right hand lane of the offramp…moving the lanes over slightly). Neither of which would be particularly difficult or expensive to achieve.

    3. The ‘express’ buses do exactly that, right? Only the NEX transfers don’t. Which makes sense. Higher frequency. And trip time isn’t longer than the old services that used to trundle down the Dairy Flat Highway.

      1. Nope, the “express” buses are just like previous buses, stopping at every stop on bus way. and picking up passengers on bus way, stupid

        The NEX going to Albany are just silly. How many from HC get off the bus there? It adds nearly 10 minutes to the journey!

        Why doesn’t HC deserve a true express bus, HC station to CBD, one stop at Constellation if it must, but 30 minutes or less?

        1. I would imagine that very soon many people will be going to Albany (or the reverse) as Albany develops. Also, HC doesn’t deserve an express bus because they are really inconvenient for anyone not going end to end. Non stop Silverdal to Constellation might be justifiable until the busway is extended though.

        2. If they’re pickng up passengers then obviously the bus isn’t full. The greater the farebox recovery, the more likely to get additional services.

          1. The bus is often standing room only, but still picking up, and if you look out the rear window, it’s holding up the NEX behind, which those pickups should have gone on!

            The NEX buses do the main work of pickups on busway, other buses should express it

          2. @Pete – then either tell the driver that there’s another NEX behind and if he could just let that bus pick up the passengers, or send some feedback to Ritches via AT. I agree, the drivers should talk to each other. I often hear Birkenhead Bus Co drivers talking to each other on the radio on Onewa Rd telling the bus up front to continue, as there are still spaces in the bus behind. Also the stations on the Northern Busway aren’t “stops”. They’re “stations” – there’s a big difference. Try catching the Dominion Rd B-Line bus – stopping at each “stop” along Dominion Rd… Then you’ll see how lucky you are. In regards to the 10 minutes extra to swing by Albany, I agree that this needs to be addressed. Send feedback, go on.

  9. What’s the best way to complain about the changes, or is it a lost cause now they are already in place?

    It seems crazy to me that there is now no bus stop within 15 mins walk from Britomart that you can use to get a bus to Takapuna. It was bad enough walking to Albert Street but that now seems great in comparison. Most likely I’ll have to leave my job over this as I don’t have 30 mins of my day to lose.

      1. It’s 800m; that should not take an able bodied person more than ten minutes. There is a bus every ten minutes from Akoranga to Taka so by saving you the walk to the old takapuna stops it may be close to time neutral.

        The other option is to get off of your bus somewhere else (Symonds St maybe) and walk a shorter distance to the new stops.

        1. @Simon has a valid point. It’s not only for Takapuna buses, but also for the Forrest Hill, Mairangi Bay, Browns Bay and Hillcrest. Since they acknowledge that the CRL-works will cause disruption, I would really like them to allow transfers at Victoria Park without penalizing people for the inconvenience. That way you could catch any bus be it NEX, Birkenhead Bus Co or City Link, without extra payment. Whether this is by increasing the transfer discount, implementing free travel between Britomart/Midtown and Victoria Park, or bringing forward the zonal system – really either one of these would make a tremendous difference… but the way it is now is a bit of a limbo.

    1. Travel time doubled today. Now can only catch the nex rather than any city bus. And the north shore buses turn away from the bus lane to struggle through city traffic. The safety of being able to get a bus close to britomart to home in the dark is now gone too. Back to driving for me as it is now quicker.

  10. There are and it’s possibly my best option. However it adds a 3rd bus to my trip which is enough hassle and extra time that I will have to give working in Takapuna a miss.

  11. Have heard many many complaints on social media today. Many were about buses not turning up on time, buses not taking the correct route/getting lost, having to take more than one bus, having to bus to silverdale park n ride before heading back the other direction to Orewa etc and lots of complaints about the cost (since they have to take more than 1 bus and not integrated ticketing).
    most of these were either from poor driver training OR from people not bothering to work out the new network. People were saying there’s only 1 bus per hour when there is actually 2 off peak and 4 peak services for example.
    It definitely will improve. In the meantime without integrated ticketing they really should be reducing fares until it does come in as it is now costing people more and for a less convenient service for many.

    What should really be happening is a proper big NEX interchange station in Silverdale by the mall. This would solve the backtracking and make the existing park n ride just a stop on the NEX route for rural commuters.

    1. A proper interchange station, in Auckland, you must be dreaming

      But given the limited size of the HC park n ride carpark, and the distances involved, it may be done sooner rather than later. 1,000’s of people can safely walk or bike to a millwater interchange. Biking to HC park n ride is just dangerous

      I just hope they have some land earmarked in millwater/silverdale for this!

  12. After a train ride from Papakura to the City I am not keen on an 800m walk to connect to a west auckland bus, can only imagine how miserable this will be in winter. I just want to get home! I understand the reasons they had to re-route the buses but it’s a shame they couldn’t keep at least a handful of services that go down great north road leaving from Britomart, eg possibly the 030 and maybe some of the new lynn services.

    1. Depending on how far west, change trains at Newmarket and catch the bus from New Lynn (or Kingsland)?

      Or shuttle up town on the 020 as they forgot to alter it.

  13. Having buses drop off and pick up from the same stop seems a stupid way of running the services. Standinf on Albert St watching people trying to get on buses who are arriving at last stop.

    Why not have Albert Street for drop off and Hobson St for pick up? Shows the real problem of having no layover space in CBD.

    1. In Vancouver, they don’t let the buses terminate in centre. They go through and past the centre, no layover needed in the busiest part of the town. Once the CRL-work is over, AT should really think hard about moving parked buses away from Britomart area. NEX & Great North Rd buses could terminate at the vector arena, East & South Auckland buses in Victoria Park. Another side-benefit is that these layover spaces say on Customs St could become 24/7 bus lanes. Win-win… It’s a similar proposal to what’s happening with the new northern bus routes (Wellesley St), except finishing around Symonds St, not Mayoral drive. I hear rumours that that is on the agenda currently (all the new network consultations had “Learning Quarter – Bus facilities under investigation” notes on them)…

  14. I suffer the grand inconvenience of having to allow five minutes from my apartment to my closest bus stop rather than the three that I previously had. It is a bit strange that the buses west leave from Albert St to go around the block, offering no connection to Britomart at all, along with my personal inconvenience. Surely they could have re-routed them straight up Hobson, and funnelled them back down Nelson on the return. Why are these monstrous roads the reserve of private motor vehicles? If it warms up a little I will be cycling everywhere, passing the time until they build my damn subway!

  15. Well, its great on Hibiscus Coast’s new Bus network, The Best part is now there are Double Decker Northern Express Bus extended to Hibiscus Coast, New Services to connect ferry timing for Gulf Harbour Ferry Terminal that route is 988 and Arkles Bay Loop route 987, route 987 and 988 is trailed for 1 year to Check if there is a demand for it.

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