Last week Auckland Transport made the latest round of changes to streets in advance of the construction works for the City Rail Link. As mentioned in my post the other day, these changes impact me quite a bit as my commute normally involves transferring between buses and trains at Britomart. Below are just a few personal observations I’ve made over the last few days and I’m keen to hear your experiences of the changes.

Train to Bus

For my trip to work I catch a train to Britomart and then transfer to the Northern Express. In the mornings, the NEX runs every 7-8 minutes and so every second bus is effectively on the same timetable pattern as the western line. Due to the timetabling of services, previously I usually arrived in town just a few minutes before the next NEX departure so a quick dash from the train platform to the bus and I was on my way again with minimal delay.

CRL Bus changes map departure

Now, instead of walking across the road outside of Britomart I now have to walk to Albert St and the timing difference means I just bus I would have previously caught is just pulling away from the stop. That’s a little frustrating but given the frequency it’s not a massive deal. This should also all change when the Western line gets a frequency bump in about two weeks so I suspect could see pretty much back to as they were – with a slightly minor and not terrible walk.

Given lower Albert St is where many buses will leave from post CRL, I don’t think the short walk is terrible – or at least it won’t be once the permanent lane through the Commercial Bay development is completed. It’s certainly not the disaster some like George Wood would have us believe

Downtown Lane

Bus to Train

My trip back to the city is generally a little varied. I’ll either catch a bus direct from Takapuna and then transfer to either a City Link or a NEX on Fanshawe St or I’ll go to Akoranga and catch a NEX from there. For the purposes of this I’m only referring to these services from about the Nelson St intersection towards Britomart.

CRL Bus changes map arrival

City Link – Previously this used to travel down lower Hobson St then along Quay St before heading up Queen St. This part of the trip used to infuriate me as lower Hobson St and Quay St were often jammed up and it could sometimes take over 10 minutes to travel about 500m and the reason I’d transfer to a NEX if possible. The change to using Customs St West with a right turn into Queen St has been a fantastic change and it feels like it’s significantly sped up the service. The stop is just up from the Customs St intersection and even with a short walk from there to Britomart instead of being right outside, it is a much more pleasant journey.

Of course on Queen St also now has bus lanes and it was good to see AT out monitoring them the other day. Given how AT have acted in the past, I suspect they will start with an educational approach first.

Queen St Bus Lane enforcement

NEX – I’ve had mixed results with the NEX so far. In the afternoon peak the downtown carpark can disgorge a lot of cars onto Customs St West who then want to loop around the block to get to Hobson St – presumably that’s faster/easier than using the dedicated ramp to Fanshawe St. In one experience the bus was held up from being able to turn left at Albert St for a set of lights or two as a line of cars in front of my full bus took their turn to do so. That plus the short walk to Britomart was just enough to see a western line train departing as I walked in the building. However in another experience there were only a few buses and we weren’t held up so I suspect it could be a bit of a hit and miss situation.

Other observations

A few other related observations.

  • Crossing lower Queen St outside Britomart was quite easy, sometimes a bus or two to dodge but fine so long as you were paying attention. Crossing lower Albert St is not the same as for one general traffic is allowed on it which they weren’t on Queen St. And because it’s open to cars and quite a wide road there are inevitably some idiots out behind the wheel trying to see how fast they can get to the next set of traffic lights.
  • Of course crossing at the lights is always an option too and given the numbers of people who will now be getting off NEX services and probably heading southeast of the bus stop I wonder if AT should consider converting the Albert/Customs St intersection into a Barnes Dance like the intersections to the east of Albert St.
  • By contrast to Albert St, the new/currently temporary space outside of Britomart has been a welcome improvement. Walking to/from the station and having more space without having to dodge buses is fantastic. I also like that AT are thinking about temporary activation of the area – such as this which was being painted the other day.

Temporary Activation outside Britomart

Overall the changes seem to have gone fairly smoothly and I haven’t seen any real issues with the changes either personally or on social media (not saying there haven’t been). I’ve also noticed that AT have had a lot of ambassadors around directing people who might need it to the new bus stops which is useful. So all up sounds like AT have been fairly successful here. Were you affected by the changes and if so what are your thoughts on them?

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  1. “• Crossing lower Queen St outside Britomart was quite easy, sometimes a bus or two to dodge but fine so long as you were paying attention. Crossing lower Albert St is not the same as for one general traffic is allowed on it which they weren’t on Queen St. And because it’s open to cars and quite a wide road there are inevitably some idiots out behind the wheel trying to see how fast they can get to the next set of traffic lights.” Instead of calling drivers idiots you need to ask yourself why they express the behavior you don’t like. Is it because traffic light sequencing across the city is absolutely appalling? Is it because vehicular movement is getting so restricted that the ‘get out of Dodge’ mentality is a survival instinct? They may not be idiots at all, but merely incredibly frustrated people trying to go about their business and traversing an impossible city as quickly as they can despite the increasing constraints imposed by a Council bereft of any traffic planning commonsense? Much as you despise cars, maybe the smartest thing is to make traffic flow better and then your concerns re congestion when you are travelling by bus may well improve?

    1. No Ricardo that doesn’t work; how do we know? The last sixty years we foolishly allowed you traffic engineers to have your way and build a world for traffic alone and we all know the outcome; leathal idiocy everywhere. We are now heading back to some balance, very slightly, and I understand this is upsetting for your failed religion and its lucrative and never ending work of ‘improvement’. But it’s over, or at least we are at the beginning of a new phase where the unaffordable and destructive driver first ideology is no longer paramount.

      1. Patrick you need to tone down the highly adversarial nature of your comments. Try to remember, options aren’t truths!!

        I think Riccardo was pointing to the fact that red light running (or other types of bad driving) are simply behaviours, and therefore they will have causes and be subject to reinforcement and so on. Understanding this (which is what Riccardo was getting at) is important in terms of understanding how to change the behaviour. Calling these drivers idiots is as silly as calling offenders baddies etc.

        As I tell my 7 year old, bad behaviour doesn’t mean a person is bad, just like idiotic behaviour doesn’t mean a person is an idiot.

        In the context of this blog, these kinds of comments do nothing to further the social contracts that we all need to adhere to so we don’t kill/be killed by others in our community as we drive, cycle, bus or walk etc.

    2. They’re idiots because they’re traveling in some cases at 80km/h through a dense city. They do it because that part of Albert St is really wide and it’s nothing new, been happening at that point in Albert St for as long as I can remember so not related to current changes. And a traffic light sequencing or get out of dodge mentality is no excuse if they hit and kill someone

    3. As a traffic engineer, I find your arguments pretty appalling. Apparently, delays for drivers are a survival threat that understandably leads to rage and speeding, while delays for pedestrians, cyclists and PT passengers should presumably be borne with passive acceptance and good grace, because they are not in a vehicle giving them extraordinary status?

      1. As a psychologist I’m surprised that as a traffic engineer, you’re not more familiar with fundamental principals of human behaviour.

        I guess you can be a traffic engineer and pretend that humans aren’t at the centre of your work, but I’m guessing that this would mean that you’re not a particularly successful one.

        Do you work in Auckland by chance?

    4. No Ricardo, there are no valid reasons for speeding down a road in the CBD and putting people at risk. If you really believe that frustration and traffic delays are a legitimate excuse for speeding then I suggest you get some help, and refrain from driving in the meantime. You might even enjoy it.

      1. No. Valid reasons are not the same as reasons. We know that people do stupid things all the time (hence the existence of prisons) but understanding the origins of why people do such behaviours points to how we can reduce the behaviour. Simply telling people not to doesn’t necessarily work.

        1. These aren’t just private individuals, though, they are licensed drivers. If they can’t control their emotions, they shouldn’t have a licence. Same with gun owners, pilots etc.

  2. The 020 down Queen and up Hobson is a big improvement, especially because there are buslanes now, not for all of Queen, but enough now to make a big difference. 3mins from Mayoral to Vulcan last week. Hobson now has lanes and is getting more. Not having to battle with drivers on Albert is great; the CRL is already improving travel! . Buslanes and allowing buses in Queen is so overdue. So pleased the city is less and less hostage to the irrationality of shopkeepers, they were the group that have keep buses out of queen since the trams and trolleys were pulled. With fulltime connected lanes bus noise and fumes are much less of a problem in the valley, though that does depend on numbers remaining moderate. LRT and getting rid of the last of the lost cars the longer term answer…

    1. I was reading that Wellington is getting a fleet of what sounded like plug in hybrids to replace the trolley buses. These sre primarily electric buses with a small engine for charging if required. It sounds like a game changer for Auckland – the bus drivers ensure that they have sufficient charge to drive emissions free in the CBD (and other built up areas). The main concern people have with buses is dealt with.

      1. They’re hybrids but not plug in, and NZ Bus says that it’s starting with converting the Wellington trolleys but once converted they could be used anywhere.

          1. It has a small petrol motor driving a generator to charge the batteries while the batteries power the drive train. I think it’s called ‘semi-electric’ or something. It’s more efficient than battery + gasoline powered hybrids like the Prius.

          2. Apologies – the Wrightspeed system is indeed plug in, so presumably the buses (the first ones Wrightspeed will have done) will be that.

            The Wrightspeed prime mover is a “fuel-agnostic” gas turbine, and they’re series hybrids – the drive is always through the electric drive train. The Prius is a series/parallel hybrid, meaning the drive can be either electric or mechanical.

        1. That is not the way I read it, they are talking about utilising NZs renewable electricity supply. Difficult to do that if you cant plug in.

          1. I think the idea is that they will be plugged in at night to start the day on a full charge but that their range on battery only is quite limited which is why they are hybrid.

          2. Plugging them in at night makes sense to take advantage of the typically lower spot prices in the early hours of the morning, at least for now. If everyone starts doing this I guess we would see a flattening of the power price over the day. Tesla had their hot-swappable battery proposal for personal cars which I haven’t heard any more of lately, something along these lines should make a lot more sense for a fleet of buses.

          3. Most bus services have layover timings s presumably there will be fast chargers at the most convenient spots?

          4. Certainly possible, particularly with Infratil’s Z installing car charging points. An interesting question: who would pay for bus ones?

      2. With a range of 27 miles in pure electric mode (presumably including any top up from regenerative braking) they’re unlikely to be primarily electric in operation . Any mileage over that per day will have to be powered by electricity generated by the on-board turbine.

        1. This is true. But for a typical Auckland run, you could easily have electric only in the CBD and when travelling through other town centres etc all day. The negative environmental effects especially noise would be massively diminished.

          1. Agreed, but that assumes that there is sufficient sophistication in the system for the vehicle to anticipate such areas so as not to have to use the turbine while running through them, and I’m not sure that things are sufficiently advanced for that. There would also have to be a trade off with the optimum charging cycles that I imagine the vehicle would be set for.

            But what to my mind differentiates the Wrightspeed proposal is not that it’s a hybrid – they’ve been around for some time – but that this drivetrain can be retrofitted to existing vehicles, and that it’s financially viable to do that.

            The prospect of 60 of its newish buses becoming unusable next year (perhaps plus the South Auckland debacle) seems to have got NZ Bus into innovation mode!

          2. > Agreed, but that assumes that there is sufficient sophistication in the system for the vehicle to anticipate such areas

            There is sufficient sophistication. It’s called a “person”, and the driver is generally sophisticated enough to know where he or she is, and what’s coming up ahead.

          3. Thanks for that helpful response. Certainly the “person” (let’s call him/her the driver, shall we?) would need to know where they were, and whay’s coming up ahead – just as now. But they’d also have to consider the state of charge, the length of the engine-free section (and in an urban area probably also the next one or two) and the chargeable distance available inbetween. They should also be considering the effect of interrupting the optimum charging cycle, and all while fuel consumption and battery condition are doubtless being monitored closely and remotely (if you see what I mean), wit this process happening many times a day. And of course with an electric range of just 27 miles the turbine would have to be running for most of the day.

            This will be a very different type of operation from what I understand to be the norm with hybrid buses, where the charging process is automatic. Just to give a feel for what that means, when the Volvo hybrid was being run in Wellington the diesel engine stopped only from just before every stop along the Golden Mile until just after it, otherwise rusing continuously.

            Now it may be that this can be simplified, but there’s certainly much more to it than a driver switching a switch.

    2. Cities are the embodiment of civilization. Civilization is by definition about civilizing – controlling – your impulses for the benefit of the society. If some drivers, while handling a potentially deadly tool, are unable to suppress “fight or flight” responses in the face of congestion, they should indeed preferably stay out, and do their driving in the wild, wide open spaces (see TV car commercial for the idealized experience catering to those desires).

    3. The idea is to have bus lanes along most of Hobson St (e.g. more paint south of Wellesley St). Should be coming soon

  3. “I wonder if AT should consider converting the Albert/Customs St intersection into a Barnes Dance”
    At a presentation from the Precinct Project Manager to my office, I suggested exactly this and it was duly noted. Fingers crossed.

  4. It’s a while since I’ve used a bus to the CBD, but looking at the stop changes for the Birkenhead Transport CBD services (973/974 and 955), these seem to be an improvement because they terminate closer to connecting bus and train services, rather than being stuck out in the wilderness of Victoria St. W.

    When I do bus to the CBD (usually at the weekends for an event) I catch the return bus from Lower Albert St. anyway, and whenever possible use the overbridge in the mall to get there, because the traffic on that street just makes it unpleasant to cross or walk along.

  5. As a cyclist who has to use Queen St for a short time I love the new bus lanes! Much easier for me to navigate than the previous 2 lanes of traffic. The only thing is I have to watch out for cars suddenly pulling into the bus lane without checking for cycles, but it seems that the bus lane is being well policed at the moment.

  6. I hope that after CRL things shift again to make transfers better – I think that the terminus of each service should be moved PAST Britomart. Ie. North Shore services should travel to somewhere around Vector arena (around Countdown perhaps). Buses that come from Symonds Street should continue around to either Lower Albert St or Viaduct or Victoria Park. This would remove the stacks of buses laying over around Britomart blocking vital lanes right in the heart of the downtown. It would also allow for better transfers.

    Lastly, AT should really consider including the minutes between 0 and 5 on their timetables… At the moment most if not all buses will depart on 0th or 5th minute ie. – 7.45, 7.50, 7.55, 8.00, if, they just schedule them out a little bit ie. 7.45, 7.46, 7.47, 7.48, 7.50, 7.52, 7.53 etc… then that would provide two huge benefits: 1. buses wouldn’t bunch up at the traffic lights and bus stops one after another… 2. the last mile transfers would be much more frequent…

    An example of that: say you were coming from Glenfield on a Birkenhead bus and were heading to AUT. Say the “University” bus was full (or the next one is in 20 minutes), so you caught the next bus that goes to Britomart (lower Albert St), then you have to decide which stop to go to – Commerce St for 274/277 Mt Eden Rd buses (bus stop #7026) or Mercure Hotel – for Remuera and 881 buses (bus stop #7018) or 55 Customs St for South Auckland buses (#7019), Orleans Britomart (#no number) for Howick buses… Or you can just suck it up and walk 750m (8 minutes walk) to Anzac Ave, where you can catch any of them. So what I’m saying is that if these buses started before Britomart, and if they were spread out, the transfer would be so much more convenient AND more frequent, for people going up Symonds St, perhaps to Hospital, or Khyber Pass Rd.

    The bunching up of buses also happens for departures – see Mayoral Drive from 4.30pm onwards… 4 or 5 buses depart every 5 minutes… If they were spread out to depart every minute instead, then for someone going to one of the bus stations or Takapuna that increases the frequency and for everyone else it means that the buses don’t arrive in bunches at the next 4 or 5 bus stops, thus easing congestion at least so slighly… Am I nuts or is this a easy quick fix?

    1. Yes this surely would help, off setting the times a bit. I noticed big bunch ups around Wellesley St just around 5pm. I guess they use the 5 min times for timetable legibility/simplicity, but not really an issue to have a 5:03 pm bus surely.

  7. The new shared/activation space in front of Britomart/Queen Elizabeth Square says it’s for walking and also for cycling – but I don’t see any access for cyclists except through the pedestrian crossing pavement.

  8. City link bus, big improvment in travel time with the new bus lanes.

    The bad thing is sometimes there are delivery truck, taxi blocking the lane.

    The traffic light should be futher optimised.

    At should investigate for new sensor on the bus stop that communicates to the next traffic light.

    As such when the sensor detects bus starts moving out of the bus stop, the light should turn green so the bus would not need to stop.

    Alternatively, can the bus driver has a GPS connected button, once clicked by the bus driver, the next light will turn green?

  9. It would be really handy if they colour coded the bus stops for North, South, East and West. Completely yellow infrastructure for East, completely green infrastructure for West, etc. Would be so much easier (especially for newbies) to find your bus stop when the colour coding immediately reduces your search to 25% of the stops.

  10. You say “it’s open to cars and [with] quite a wide road there are inevitably some idiots out behind the wheel trying to see how fast they can get to the next set of traffic lights.” and then follow that with “Of course crossing at the lights is always an option too”
    Am I misunderstanding what you’re saying?
    Because you seem to be saying that you’re a pedestrian who doesn’t always cross the street at traffic lights, and you’re annoyed that cars are travelling on that street too fast for you to jaywalk safely? Sheesh – is that #PedestrianPrivilege?
    I jaywalk too, but I don’t complain about cars being on the road too. If you think they’re travelling too fast write a letter to council and demand speed cameras.

    1. First of all it is not illegal to cross the road in New Zealand, it is illegal to speed though. A speed camera is an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff situation, better to fix the street

      Perhaps you should also look at the history of jaywalking. The term was invented by the car industry in the US to get people off roads so cars could drive faster. The term “jay” was equivalent to country bumpkin

      1. Well it seems every time AT run a campaign about pedestrian safety they blame the pedestrians and tell us to “check before we step” but Auckland drivers are a nightmare, they don’t give away on driveways almost always and they often fail to stop at a zebra crossing or red signal for pedestrians. Also when you are crossing at an uncontrolled crossing they tend to speed up rather than slow down for some sick reason.

        You really need a thick skin to walk most places in Auckland, especially outside of the CBD where there is a much stronger cars rule perception.

        1. I’ve travelled to a few places here and there around the world, and yes, Aucklanders/NZers seem to be in a class all their own when it comes to driving. Sure there are other mega cities where you see some outrageous things, but we kiwis seem to embrace a very twisted attitude when we get behind the wheel.

      2. Yes, that’s a great clip (seen it before, probably here?). Like I said, I cross in the middle of the street (I’ve never liked the term ‘jaywalk’ [too American] even tho’ I used it in my original comment) all the time, but I am always mindful of the cars on the road I’m crossing. If they’re travelling at legal speeds I think it’s wrong to complain.
        What we’ve seen in the past decade (championed by Transport blog, amongst others) is a move towards ‘shared paths’ and reduced road speed limits to make life safer for people not in motor vehicles. All laudable but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater – we still need to leave some routes for vehicles (cars) to travel at reasonable speeds, since that will always be a popular form of transport in Auckland.
        FWIW: I thought your column was good, it’s only the bit I originally commented on that I took issue with.

  11. I catch the 274/277 buses (mt eden road) and they have moved behind britomart to commerce st. The location is still very convenient and it is easier for the buses to turn on to customs st which is a bonus.

    However, there are too many cars on commerce st. AT are building lights which is ridiculous because everyone will ignore them on such a narrow st. A zebra crossing would have been much better. I would also like to see cars removed from entering from customs street.

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