From the files of: You know March Madness is really mad when:

And here it is in action courtesy of Christopher Dempsey from the Waitemata Local Board.

Party Bus - 881

Party Bus - 881 2

These buses are complete old dungers and in no way meet today’s bus standards but I guess they’re also better than no bus at all. Other than when being used as party buses they are also commonly found on the North Shore running school bus services (so they have HOP readers). The sooner we can get more double deckers the better.

Even these extra buses might not be enough though. This is the bus stop at Victoria Park a few days ago in the afternoon peak.

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  1. Hard to know whether to laugh or cry. Among many other issues, the big issue is that we have buses doing the work of a train

    1. We need LRT or MRT to the North Shore. Why cant they just build LRT or MRT on the existing Busway from Constellation Drive to Akaronga Station, and have bus transport from Akaronga to CBD, while waiting for a Harbour Crossing for Rail?

      1. If the government really wants to boost the economy with infrastructure development then they really should fasttrack light rail to the shore, and a busway to Westgate.

    2. No the real issue is the disproportionate amout of Fanshawe St devoted to low occupancy vehicles vs buses. And the lack of buses.

      1. Absolutely agree with Matthew in the short and medium term, but with the comments up top re the longer term; ie sort the bus priority on Fanshawe and elsewhere in the city now, and plan the rail crossing for future need which will inevitably result from service improvement and population growth.

        1. I think what Fanshawe St needs for the PM is an upgrade of the Vic Park bus stop, more length and better definition of which route group stops where would make the stop operate more efficiently, for example a dedicated NEX stop

          at present a bus stops, possibly behind two others, waiting passengers are trying to read the destination sign as buses arrive, passengers board, then the driver has to try to tell if the people running up from behind are after their bus or another

          as an ex driver as well as having worked on CBD bus priorities, I don’t think it’s particularly the lanes and priority measures that need improvement, but again is the old issue of kerbside space being used more effectively

          that said, the shared through/left turn lane at Beaumont St is a pain, where three or four pedestrians can delay several hundred bus passengers because one driver wants to turn left!

      2. An mature non ideolgical approach must be made to setting up a proper rail network in Auckland and soon. Old buses filling in here and there, every bus that needs another driver that are frankly not making a dent in demand is no surprise. And it puts me off using them because its a lottery if you’ll get home somewhere near on time. It is an embarrassing mockery for PT.

        I wonder which bus companies feel at risk buying double deckers when, as NZ Bus proved, a large chunk of your contract can simply vanish!

        1. I’m not trying to be ideological. We have oodles of roadway capacity in Auckland, it’s mainly being used by low occupancy vehicles. Let’s use that resource better. I would hope the PTOM contracts will specify capacity requirements and facilitate upgrading to larger vehicles. 40 seater buses really are quite small. In the UK double deckers are the norm. The current bus system may well be an embarrassing mockery, but it needn’t be.

        2. A large part of NZ Bus’s contract didn’t “simply vanish” – the contract came to an end, as contracts do. NZ Bus would have been well aware that this would happen, with the consequent risk of not getting a new contract, when the current (expiring) contract was awarded, many years ago.

          1. you would think that NZ bus might have taken a bit of a caution from losing large parts of the Shore to Ritchies some years back, but it seems that complacency is a bit hard to shrug off

    1. You should see my MT Eden Road bus stop in the morning peaks. 50+ people waiting at the stop just before MT Eden Village.

        1. I live approx 300 m from Mt Eden Station, but still choose the buses on New North to get to the city: buses quicker so long as the bus lanes are working well, as unlike the train the bus doesn’t detour to Newmarket. Also buses much more frequent at the shoulder early-peak time I usually travel, so less wait time than the train.

    1. Unless things have changed since I was at a rural school (1990s), there will be thousands of old dungers rumbling around the countryside doing school runs each day.

    2. As I understand it the NZTA’s urban bus requirements only apply to PT buses and not to school buses. Also I understand that bus companies often sell their old buses to the smaller firms around the country doing things like school runs which is why they’re so terrible. I was told by one major bus company that they stopped doing this because they didn’t think it was right and it pissed off lots in the industry who had previously relied on the second hand buses.

  2. Reminds me of in Christchurch around 2000/01 when the new exchange was built and frequencies were increased. As the bus companies were waiting for Designline to catch up with new buses a fleet of 1970’s Leyland Leopards were leased from Stagecoach Wellington and raged around the city for a few weeks. One evening as it got dark one of the drivers was popping in and out of the cab trying to figure out how to turn on the headlights!

  3. That Fanshawe Street bus stop is mostly like that because of the roadworks on Wellesley Street that have been going on all week, holding up the North Shore buses to Takapuna that follow that route. Seems like they’re ripping up some of the kerb where the bus stop is on Wellesley and using temporary bus stops further up the road.

    There’s not enough room for all the buses that stop at Wellesley there in a normal week and now there’s no room for them at all and it’s been backing up the buses up Wellesley Street up Mayoral Drive past AUT where the route starts. It’s taken at least 30 minutes every day this week to get from AUT to Wellesley S (normally about 5 minutes), it’s a complete nightmare. Yesterday, my bus turned left into Queen Street and up to Mayoral Drive and round back down to Wellesley Street – not sure that was a good detour actually – probably took even longer. Of course this delays the buses all the way along the route – including past Victoria Park.

    I’m glad they’re making improvements to the bus stop (if that’s what they’re doing) but I can’t believe they thought it would be a good idea to do it during March when it’s already ridiculously busy. I’m disappointed they didn’t think this would cause any issues and then I’m disappointed that after Monday’s debacle that they haven’t made any changes to try and improve the situation, like the major congestion is just to be expected and tolerated.

    1. Not only that, but the new Fonterra building visible in the photo across the road is now open. Their employees will be boarding buses on Fanshawe St instead of near the University where the old HQ was. Wonder what AT’s plan for that is, as more construction continues in Wynyard this situation will only get worse.

  4. Why add more buses when according to AT March Madness is just a blimp and it wouldnt stick because student will soon figure out their timetable.
    AT Logic: Add more transit capacity after everyone get tired of using the incompetent transit, instead they are forced to find other mode of transportation, which is going to be likely a car.

    Can LRT across the isthmus happen soon. It should be advertised as a transit which takes lots of buses away. If you build it, people will come use it and development will happen. Don’t wait for the latter, cause it be more expensive and disruptive.

    1. The “students figuring out their timetable” reasoning for why patronage drops off is nonsense. I teach these students and it does not take them a month to work out their schedule. It takes a week at most. If it really was the reason we would see a similar major blip in July when the second semester starts as their timetable completely changes at that point. The reason is really a new student cohort trying PT to get to Uni and a bunch of passengers (students and workers) giving up after a month due to the chaos and moving to cars.

  5. In the last few days it has been much worse on the North Shore routes due to a lot of road works and lane closures on Wellesley St between Queen and Albert St (including digging up and closing the Civic bus stop – one of the busiest in the city – without warning). On Tuesday my bus was 45 minutes late as it was stuck on Wellesley St between Mayoral Drive and Queen St. The busses trying to continue along Wellesley St through the Queen St intersection did not move at all for 30 minutes because every time the lights changed Wellesley St had been filled up by traffic turning onto it from Queen St. Whatever possessed AT to think it would be fine to allow all that extensive work on one of the busiest routes in the city in March? This route was already beyond capacity for busses before the works started (with them often stacking two deep at bus stops to load passengers). To make matters worse there appears to be little (if any) planning on mitigating the delays and communication from AT about the delays and bus stop changes has been pretty much non-existent.

        1. There seems to be a number of different works happening all at once on that short section of road. There is building demolition or something going on which has been in progress for a while but in the last couple of days they also closed off a lane on the opposite side of the road and have dug up the Civic bus stop. Hopefully they will improve the Civic stop as it has been overloaded since they moved the buses from Albert St. AT should really have properly altered the stops on Wellesley St well before the route change. They knew they were making this change for months ahead of time, plenty of time to do the works. The problems were completely predictable, there were multiple long stops on Albert St and after the change a large proportion of those passengers were all trying to catch the bus at this on small stop outside the Civic. Typical failure of AT to properly plan for the changes they are making.

          1. I’m guessing the work to widen the footpath outside the Civic on Wellesley might be related to double-decker enablement work, wider footpath so higher buses won’t clip the building awnings as they drive past? Planning, timing and communication around it has been pretty poor, along with the adjacent CRL work it seems to be causing big delays to buses in both morning and evening peaks.

          2. The issue of DDs and awnings sounds like a good reason to move to centre bus lanes in the city centre.

  6. I’m on the 17:03 NEX now, departing Britomart. Already standing room only and will be at capacity soon. I understand some of those dungas doing the NEX run are specifically from outside Air NZ to Constellation only. Makes sense I guess

    1. there has always been a case for short workings on the NEX, starting at Constellation in the AM and Vic Park in the PM

      it was amusing to watch a Ritchies school bus (in this case a bus body on truck cab/chassis) doing the trip earlier in the week with the school bus signs still open

      but there is someone in a fluro jacket marshaling people at Vic Park

  7. What trashy buses. Can’t what for the junk Murphy buses are going to unleash on South Auckland later this year with drivers having to take a $3 per hour pay cut to keep driving. AT – just a joke.

      1. I would rather Generation Zero and Transportblog supported the Living Wage and ensured all the bus drivers remained on their current pay than a “so called” $3 million saving which is all at expense of the hundreds of drivers about to lose income. PTOM is highly flawed for the staff and it will hit the thousands of bus drivers and their families as it is rolled out around the city.

        As a regular bus user I feel for the drivers livelyhoods being eroded with 25% pay cuts with no penal rates. Does Transportblog support the Living Wage? Has Transportblog criticised Auckland Transport for masterminding the bus company switch out south without transfering the hard fought for wages?

        Murphys has no experience in running urban buses, so how will they achieve high reliability required? Where will 160 quality buses magically come from? Designline and Kiwi cannot build that many so fast and already have plenty of orders. Where will the drivers come from? The 400 odd drivers currently are employed right up until the day the contract ceases.

        Passengers will lose with a shake up. Bus drivers lose with massive pay cuts. PTOM… delivering savings by cutting wages.

        Come on Transportbloggers, as self styled purveyors of urban form and development, show you give a damn about the thousands of Auckland bus drivers and support staff about to receive significant pay cuts to pay for the new route bus network.

        1. Hi Samuel, I have tried to address some of the issues you raise in my comment below. I have also requested that – in the future – you submit such feedback via email (look under about us on website) rather than via the comment thread.

          We do welcome feedback, provided it is raised in an appropriate manner/forum. The comments thread is not an appropriate forum for such feedback because it tends to distract from the topic being discussed, in this case March Madness.

          Go well.

    1. All the publicity is about the huge savings, but no journalist has the brains to see that the workers’ will be the ones losing out on payday.

      1. Totally agree with you. And neither Transportblog or Generation Zero have gone that level further to see how the a large portion of savings have been made. Auckland is an expensive city to live in and Transportblog should take AT to task about this.

        1. Thanks for the feedback.

          With regards to PTOM, a new contracting model is long over-due. In the last 5-10 years a proliferation of short-term bus contracts have pushed up prices in Auckland and thereby constrained AT’s AC’s ability to deliver service improvements. So I for one is welcoming the roll-out of PTOM, as it provides certainty to companies to allow them to invest in expanding their fleet and all that entails, e.g. additional drivers.

          With regards to contracts, you assume a lower contract price necessarily leads to lower wages. We don’t have the information needed to make that judgement. Lower prices may reflect lower overheads, e.g. reduced management and/or lower cost of capital, and/or the ability to deliver services more efficiently, e.g. reduce dead-running. Without having access to this detailed information TransportBlog can’t really make a call either way.

          With regards to the living wage, this is not a policy I find particularly appealing. I think better socio-economic outcomes are likely to be achieved by targeted Government support to those who need it, rather than legislating private companies to pay higher wages. In the long run the latter seems likely to increase costs and reduce employment, thereby harming people who don’t currently have a job. I consider it likely that policies such as a living wage are regressive, because they favour those who are currently employed (and who retain their job) over those who are unemployed (now or in the future).

          So to sum up:
          1. I welcome PTOM
          2. I welcome lower contract prices
          3. I am not convinced by the concept of a “living wage”
          4. I support progressive policy initiatives, and vote accordingly

          I think I speak for the other editors here at TransportBlog when I say that we feel our role is to focus on numbers 1 & 2 above and leave numbers 3 & 4 to other blogs that are more suited to such debates. More specifically, we want to be an independent, politically-neutral site for discussing transport and urban issues. If you have further feedback on these issues please put then in an email to us rather than in a comment thread. Thanks again.

          1. Does “urban issues” not take in account thé poor buggers that live and work for thé urbe? You say you don’t want to get into political debate but your post was exactly that.

          2. No, we don’t think that transport and urban issues *normally* includes industrial relations, although we are considering writing a post on these issues.

            The ambit of the blog does include the efficiency of the PT network. So we’re happy to see tendering going ahead, after a long hiatus in which short-term contracts created all sorts of problems. We’re also happy to see AT receiving lower contract prices, because it means Auckland gets more PT services for the $$$, as we saw with the South Auckland network. How those savings are achieved, and whether this is socially optimal in the context of wider government policies, is not something we have the necessary information or expertise to analyse, even if we wanted to.

            And yes. I did engage with the substantive political issues raised in the comments. Mainly because they insinuated that the people at TransportBlog and GenerationZero didn’t care about industrial relations (IR) issues. Not engaging would have left the insinuations hanging up in the air. Better to knock the arguments around like a wobbly pinata and then call it a draw methinks. They’ve said how they feel, and same for us. Of course, many of the people at AT and GZ do care (deeply) about IR issues in particular and social justice in general. It’s just that we also happen to think that 1) they’re complex and 2) this Blog is not the best forum to discuss them.

            Main messages: 1) We think IR with respect to PT is complex and 2) this is not the appropriate forum to discuss such issues (indeed, it’s off-topic for this particular post).

          3. Hi Stu. I support Samuel. Sure the posting might not be quite so right, but Tblog hasn’t bothered to cover this important transport topic. It seems Transportblog is putting its head in the sand by not looking deeply into the costs of bus operations when they are similar across all players. The only significant difference between them all is wages and conditions paid to the drivers and support staff.

            This shows Transportblog picks and chooses what parts of transport, urban and social form it wants to champion. You again quote the $3 million saving and pat AT on the back for the saving which is coming from the pockets 500 odd bus drivers and support staff living.

            Transportblog should have asked AT for the details about the savings, not just buddy-buddy with AT and their PR team about the savings. This is not an industrial relations issue, this a significant “cost of living” issue the PTOM contracts promoted by AT have not taken into account. AT could have EASILY made the requirement that all tendering companies must offer, at the minimum, the existing pay and conditions to staff having to move from one bus company to another. Could you ask them why it was not? Why it isn’t in the following PTOM contracts?

            Given Transportblog regularly write amazing postings consider this: NZ Bus pays around $20.50 per hour plus penal rates to drivers. Go Bus pays $18 per hour, no penal rates. Murphys pays $17.50 per hour, no penal rates. Perhaps you could ask AT the number of hours buses are contracted to run and then work out the number of staff required (AT could tell you)? Your economics skills can then work out where the $3 million saving is coming from.

            On the point of politics you raised: Transportblog is highly political by constantly supporting the Green party and the Greens youth wing called “Gen Zero”. You can’t say you are not a political outlet, you’re part of their mouth pieces.

          4. Mark, you’re making a very big assumption that the only significant difference between tenders is the cost of staffing. There are many other factors involved in preparing a competitive tender (just ask anyone who’s been involved in tender design, preparation or evaluation), all of which influence the result. In fact, many tendering processes (don’t know about AT’s) have a greater emphasis on quality than quantity, and the standard rubric of “the lowest tender not necessarily accepted” can apply (again, don’t know about these tenders).

            Until we do know, it’s best to stick to the facts: don’t forget that to assume is often to make an ass out of u and me.

            Ps apologies for continuing a very off-topic theme with no relevance to the subject of the post.

          5. Hi Mike – but given we don’t know all the areas the savings were calculated the only area we are sure they have come from is at the expense of the 500 odd staff who will be paid significantly LESS than now.

            Take the $3million saving and divide it by the 500 staff.. equals a pay reduction of $115.39 per week out of each one of them or $2.88 per hour less on a 40 hour week.

            To remind you:

            NZ bus pays around $20.50 per hour plus penal rates
            Go Bus: $18.00 no penal rate
            Murphys buses: $17.50 no rate

            No Mike – where can you see the $3 million saving coming from? It’s easy to put your head in the sand on this, but the facts are wacking you, Transportblog and GenZero in the face like a sledgehammer.
            I’d be surprised if we ever see Transportblog expose this. Too much in the hands of AT now over too many things. Shame.

          6. Mark, your assumptions about just one part of the cost of providing bus services are clearly incomplete, and if we are to debate the issue it should be on the basis of an understanding of all relevant quality, quantity and cost issues – digging further and further into just one area adds very little (if anything) to that.

            But, as had been noted, this has no relevance at all the March Madness, and so it’s not appropriate to do that here.

  8. What does “today’s bus standards” mean? Isn’t that a sort of temporal prejudice implying people in the “old days” didn’t deserve the quality we get today?

    Be nice to have that clarified! personally I don’t think modern people are very different to people in say 1955. might be 2-3cm taller though

      1. True, but if you catch the train followed by a bus you’ll notice a massive drop in ride quality still. You get knocked around and lurch everywhere on buses by comparison, even on the Northern Busway or motorway!

        1. Nearly got dumped off my seat on the train leaving Manukau last night! But it’s still infinitely better than most suburban buses. Haven’t been on the NEX in years.

    1. Doesn’t the phrase simply reflect the fact that we are now able to make better quality stuff at cheaper prices than when those old buses were built?

    2. A few things,
      1) people are larger (both taller – more like 5cm) and wider.
      2) technology has changed (and buses are cheaper inflation adjusted) so it is best to use these enhancements to improve the experience of PT.
      3) buses are larger/more powerful/more efficient now so makes sense to use these improvements too.

      1. “Standards” are higher in the competing modes too, compare the spec of todays base model “econobox” with it’s 1960s or 1980s predecessor.

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