Some good news today with the first Howick & Eastern double decker operating from today.
East Aucklanders are the first to get the benefit of a new fleet of double decker buses, being rolled out from today.
Until now their use has been restricted to the Northern Busway, but this morning the first double decker bus has gone into service in the Botany area.
The first trip departed Botany Shopping Centre travelling to Britomart along the 500 Route. The service is being operated for Auckland Transport by Howick & Eastern Buses Ltd.
Sheryll Otway from Howick & Eastern says the company is very proud of this new addition to its fleet. “We are investing in 15 double deckers and it’s great to see this first one hitting the road.”
She says residents in the east are going to notice a big difference. “These buses have improved seating, USB charging points and in time will have on-board WiFi and infotainment systems.”
Auckland Transport General Manager AT Metro Mark Lambert says over the next few months double deckers will become a regular sight in Auckland. “Howick & Eastern will have their 15 running to the east, Ritchies will eventually have 15 crossing the harbour bridge and NZ Bus has plans for 23 buses. It’s an exciting time for bus users in Auckland.”
Sheryll Otway says the first Howick & Eastern double decker will be on the Mission Heights to Britomart return trip. “Thirteen of the buses are being built by Kiwi Bus Builders Ltd in Tauranga so we’re pleased to support a New Zealand manufacturer.”
Mayor Len Brown says today’s launch is part of an exciting transport transformation across Auckland’s east. “The introduction of double deckers is another sign of the phenomenal growth in public transport patronage in Auckland requiring innovative solutions to cope with demand.
“Other investment in Auckland’s east includes the Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative or AMETI – a $1.5 billion investment to keep that part of Auckland moving. The first stage of AMETI has already been rolled out and includes the Panmure bus and train station. That will be followed a second stage between Panmure and Pakuranga providing a busway, cycle lanes and better roads. Eventually the busway will extend all the way to Botany along Te Rakau Drive and will carry more passengers than the Northern Busway on the North Shore.”
Bus services in Auckland totalled 60.2million passenger boardings for the 12 months to September, an annual increase of 5.7%.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make the inaugural trip however I have seen the bus before and even had a brief look inside. The quality seemed very high and probably better than the double deckers used on the NEX services.
One interesting aspect is that there are no steps on the ground level instead the floor slowly ramps up all the way to the back of the bus. Due to this it has created an interesting setup with the seating which is to deal with the rear wheels. In effect second and forth to last rows of seats face backwards.
The biggest thing I wasn’t so keen on was that a screen has been in the middle of the upstairs windscreen which kind of hampers the view forward for anyone not in the first row.
Overall this and the buses to follow will be welcome and much needed additions to Auckland as people on some routes having to watch multiple buses go past their stop completely full.