Every year for many years now March has been mad for public transport use and every year that madness has been entirely predictable.  It’s happens due to a combination of many factors such as high numbers of people being at work, schools and universities all back in action and generally decent weather. But predictability doesn’t mean AT do anything all that much about it and this year, AT’s solution publicly was just to tough it out

Mark Hannan, Auckland Transport spokesman, said it was too early to say if complaints had increased this year as tertiary students had only just started back.

“The numbers travelling on buses and trains does increase but settles back again as students work out their schedules. The best advice is to plan ahead and try to travel outside peak times.”

Now we know they did a little more than that, for example getting bus operators like Party Bus to run services but that was far from enough. While I accept that some of the factors will change over the year, one that AT seem to not even consider is that people are so put off by the poor and crowded services that they simply go back to driving.

As well as the ‘tough it out’ stance of AT, I’ve noticed over the year’s people increasingly fed up with how AT handle complaints, often feeling that no one has even cared about the issues raised and that’s if they hear back from AT at all.

This year our friends at Generation Zero ran a campaign asking for people to provide on poor bus experiences they’ve had and they’ve now released the some of the results of their survey. Overall they say they had over 1,000 responses which is impressive as by comparison it appears AT had about 1,900 complaints. The complains came from primarily along the isthmus and Mt Eden Rd is very noticeable.

Generation Zero - Better Buses - Location of complaint

Unsurprisingly the big issues related to buses being late and full/overcrowded.

Generation Zero - Better Buses - Types of complaint

There’s a lot more in the report breaking down the results in various ways however the key takeaways for me are that AT need to do better to improve capacity through more frequent/bigger buses as well as get the bus lanes sorted so they’re more useful to buses and therefore the city.

After Generation Zero released the report, AT responded and continued continuing the line that people just need to tough it out.

Auckland Transport welcomes the Generation Zero: Better Bus Report but General Manager AT Metro Mark Lambert says it highlights some of the key initiatives already underway that will improve bus services in Auckland further.

“We would generally support the report and its findings and note we are already working on much of what it recommends.”

Mr Lambert says the Generation Zero report highlights the increased travel demand in March but doesn’t consider the fact that Auckland Transport has to plan for all 12 months of the year.

“March Madness is an annual phenomenon which isn’t unique to Auckland. During the month we carried 5.9 million bus passenger trips. March is the month each year with the highest demand on transport and other services. With the end of February it includes the start of the tertiary year, schools are back and more people are in the city following summer holidays.

“With significant public funding provided for public transport, it would be financially irresponsible to plan for the least possible wait time for a bus during the busiest period of the year, otherwise we would have empty buses on the network for the rest of the year. But we do need to ensure that average wait times for buses are acceptable and improved. On some corridors, especially Mt Eden Road, wait times were too long in March.”

In the 12 months to the end of March public transport use has increased by 4.1% and now exceeds 81.4 million passengers trips a year with record bus, rail and ferry passenger levels. In January, Auckland Transport recorded its best ever month for bus punctuality and in March punctuality was down slightly to 90% of bus services operating within 5 minutes of schedule.

In the past year Auckland Transport added 53,000 extra seats on public transport with 30,000 of those on buses. “We are also part way through a programme to roll-out more than 60 double decker buses to the Auckland network and in the year to the end of June we will add another 17 kilometres of bus lanes.”

He also says Auckland Transport is planning more services, more often with the public transport New Network which starts in the south later this year. The New Network reviews every bus route in Auckland and is implementing from October a hub-and-spoke system of feeding local bus services into a connected network of higher frequency services that will operate on key corridors, either rail or high frequency bus routes, operating 7 days a week between 7am and 7pm.

Mr Lambert says a simpler and more logical public transport fares structure is planned to be launched in the coming months to encourage further public transport use.

“With all these changes we are in a much better position to handle the growing demand for bus services in Auckland but we have to work within current budgets.“

The problem with the theory that it’s all just a one off month and that things will soon return to normal is that it hasn’t. Even in May we’re still hearing/seeing people commenting about full buses. One such example was yesterday by Journalist Kim Baker-Wilson but there have been plenty of others.

Perhaps we need a name for each month to describe the overcrowding. This month could be May Mayhem while next month could Jammed Up June.

AT also make mention of some of the projects they’re working on like integrated fares – which ironically could encourage more people to use PT, possibly making it worse. Double deckers on additional routes and the New Network are also mentioned. All of these changes are good of course but they’re taking an age to complete. AT need to get these changes rolled out faster.

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  1. There’s an almost perfect storm of push factors that’s driving increased bus demand that have caught AT struggling; esp growing economy and population. AT do have a big bus system overhaul underway; the New Network, but the problem is that the pace is clearly too slow for the growing demand. And, AT are really lucky for the currently high NZ dollar and low oil price, as when/if these two flip and add to the factors behind movement choices then they’ll be completely floundering.

    As Matt says the best quick move is to extend the reach of fully continuous bus lanes, as these greatly improve the efficiency of the existing fleet and driver resource; more service from the same opex. Only problem is this is likely to make choosing the bus an even more attractive and useful option! But the reverse; ‘toughing it out’ is unacceptable, as that is essentially pushing away users through substandard service provision.

    1. I think implementation of PTOM will also help move things along.

      Changes to Auckland’s bus network have hitherto been greatly constrained by the lack of a long-term contracting regime. As we shift to new contracts AT and operators should have greater ability to invest in additional capacity and services as needed.

  2. AT are doing some great things; but turning away customers who are begging to give you money is nuts. Surely one of the advantages of buses is being able to add new capacity and improve route facilities easily – so c’mon AT, drop the small–mindedness.

    1. How does Lambert and Greg Edmonds (Head of Infrastructure) both have jobs given the above, issues with the roading division and for some reason thinking more 4 lane expressways in the South and 8 lane super roads in the West are the cures to all our problems.

      Just a note I think it was in the AT Board Report two months ago that AT was undershooting on Bus Lane spending for the full year to June.

  3. So this year people aren’t giving up and driving, maybe because they’ve heard about the CRL works. When are AT going to get it? March is a natural time for demand to step up, with new kids starting uni, but that demand doesn’t have to go away in April! It goes away because it isn’t met and people give up and drive.

    AT’s reply to Natasha Frost really annoyed me: ‘We can’t plan for the least possible wait time during the busiest part of the year, otherwise we would have empty buses for the rest of the year’. https://twitter.com/natashamfrost/status/727322818535268354 We’re not asking for the least possible wait time; we’re asking to be able to get on a bus. That’s pretty basic, I would think. And providing enough buses to cope with March madness doesn’t mean empty buses in April – at worst, it maybe means everyone gets a seat.

    Or, like Matt says, paint continuous bus lanes that don’t cut out at the busiest time for students, and you can get more out of the exact same number of buses you have now.

  4. Excuses, excuses.
    Imagine if Eden Park said “Well, we don’t usually get 30,000 people on the other 350 days of the year, so it would be financially irresponsible to have a plan in place for when we do.”

    Every. Other. Business. Deals. With. Surges

    Dog control hires extra casuals for registration
    Event venues hire extra staff
    The NZDF literally has plans to get staff out for Anzac day

    There are a thousand potential approaches – overtime during the ‘madness’, blocking leave, hiring extra staff, running bigger buses.

    1. Eden Park had a plan for extra capacity for RWC, then removed and sold that extra capacity (not really an option for AT). All hospitality facilities have a plan for peak demand – it’s called the “no vacancy” sign. Airlines don’t buy extra planes just for the Christmas rush, instead they use peak fares to transfer surplus demand to off-peak times.

  5. However I will also add: commuters need to vary their travel times. Go earlier if your “prime time” bus is full

    1. I think you’ll find that people’s ability to travel earlier is constrained by a lot of things that are beyond their control, like families (sending kids off to school) and workplaces (shops that open at 9am aren’t going to pay their workers who front up at 7am).

      Reality is that we need both 1) an increase in supply and 2) a spreading in demand.

      In terms of increasing supply, perhaps the best thing to do would be to:
      1) time service improvements/capacity increases to occur in January of every year
      2) extend bus lanes as others have noted. Buses running faster and more reliability means the same number can do more work.
      3) roll out more double-deckers.

      I have no doubt that AT are working on these things, but it is also possible that they’re not being given the internal priority and support that they deserve. Hence Gen Zero’s campaign is worthwhile, because it builds external pressure that can help win those internal battles.

      In terms of spreading demand, I know it’s controversial but I think AT should stop offering tertiary concessions during AM peak period. I also think they should bring in an off-peak discount / peak surcharge.

      1. +1 on off peak discounts and removal of concessions during the peak. That should get rid of the eager students who don’t need to be at uni until later in the day.

        1. Yes. the reality is that if your buses are full then capacity is rivalrous. so by discounting student fares you are effectively pricing adults off the buses.

          I have no problem with students receiving a discount, and would even support them receiving a larger discount in exchange for giving up the concession in the morning peak.

      2. “I have no doubt that AT are working on these things”
        I wish I could share your optimism. My daughters school bus has been overcrowded for 5+ terms now (i.e. since the beginning of last year) but AT do not seem to have made any real effort to alleviate it. Note that the school has made representations to AT, so it’s not as if they weren’t aware of the problem, and it’s obviously not just a March issue.

        1. General question, are the school buses run for specific schools or does each bus take students to multiple schools? Also who funds them, is it AT or the schools?

          1. The school buses I’m familiar with run for specific schools (public – Remuera Intermediate, Selwyn College), i.e. the route finishes at a school in the morning and starts from that school in the afternoon. Students pay the usual fare in the usual way (HOP) but I don’t know if there is any finding from the school. Private schools may be different – I think they do it more on a charter basis and students are then charged for the service by the school.

    1. Yes, technically these threee months are known as:
      March Madness
      April Anarchy

      And then things settle down.

      1. I quite like our team’s term for it: Marchageddon.

        Aprilocalypse is another one we’ve tried but it doesn’t trip off the tongue as nicely.

          1. Well it certainly sounds like a delicious apricot based dessert you might find at hell pizza.

  6. Since May is historically nearly as busy a month as March [31 days, no public holidays etc] so I can’t see the issue going away just because Easter came and went, which is what appears to be the bulk of AT’s plan.
    And the evidence on Twitter and like is that May is still as bad as March was.

    So AT’s plan to “Tough it out ’til Easter”, then the end of Daylight Savings and bad weather will deter folks using buses, problem solved. Doesn’t work anymore guys.

    Because: the weathers still nice, and AT have been banging the drum continuously, all year, about don’t try and drive into the CBD any more because of CRL and other construction works happening or about to start.

    So folks have no choice – use the crap PT – even if its groaning already. Or simply don’t go to work [or don’t work in the CBD] for the next few years].

    We need a more practical “bums on seats” approach than a glib “go early” (or “go late”)

      1. True, hence my point that AT are just fooling themselves if they think they fixed this issue for another year.

  7. Obviously double deckers could fix the problem for Mt Eden Road. But why wait so long to implement them? It should have been done years ago.
    It will be interesting to see if the double deckers do fix the problem – they could just create more demand due to the nicer buses, and next March Mt Eden road might be just as bad!

  8. If it takes AT so many years just to get double decker buses on a road, imagine how long the CRL will take to implement! Not long ago they were talking about light rail on Dominion road by 2019 – we are halfway through 2016 and they still haven’t even decided if it is viable!

    1. The LRT blockage is in Wellington, again. The gov has moved its mode scepticism from the CRL to LRT, NZTA has an irrational fear of the mode, and particularly a terror of its popularity and likely contagion to other communities and cities, and the MoT is entirely bewhiched by the prospect of autonomous vehicles, a change which they hope will mean no change for their policy of near total auto-dependency. So it goes.

      Our transport institutions are riven with gadgetism; too many men, too many engineers, not enough open minded thinking.

      1. “. . .the prospect of autonomous vehicles, a change which they hope will mean no change for their policy of near total auto-dependency.” Brilliant little phrase sums up nicely the wishful-thinking that underpins current auto-centric transport policy!
        Nice one!

        But go easy on the “too many engineers. . .” (I am one!). On the radio yesterday morning it was “not enough engineers”. Thing about engineers is they are trained to solve problems, and are often very good at it. But they tend not to question whether they are solving the right problems. They tend to just faithfully serve those employing them, and if asked to solve the wrong problems they will still do it with gusto. Engineers (or many of them) will be just as enthusiastic building roads or building railways, designing autonomous cars or locomotives. Blame the politicians and policy-makers for misapplying this fantastic resource of human talent.

        Old French: engigneor < Medieval Latin: ingeniātor, equivalent to ingeniā(re): to design, devise; ingenium: cleverness

        1. “and the MoT is entirely bewitched by the prospect of autonomous vehicles”

          The answer is cars. Now phrase the appropriate questions. Just a few hours ago my engineering-student offspring showed me the group project they have been given. It went along the lines of ‘the government wants to use emerging technology (electric autonomous cars) to address congestion and pollution in Auckland. The task is to propose options for using said vehicles’ etc etc. There followed some ear bending from me to the effect that they had been knobbled and that some simple analysis would throw up some severe shortcomings (plus making some other pertinent points)…but it also made me wonder if MOT is casting around tertiary institutions for ideas. Maybe they have had a bit of a lie-down after their recent “visions” and decided to try another tack . Some IT-academic chump from Unitec (IIRC) was quoted in the herald comic a few weeks back as saying that projections were that 1 autonomous car would, on average serve 5 people so there would only be 20% as many cars on the roads with the implication that this was clearly a breakthrough. It’s like a religious cult thing – don’t question the messiah.

        2. Nothing at all against engineers, in fact they are vital, the phrase I used is ‘too many’. My concern is group-think. There is a risk all through institutions in a small country like NZ of a lack of the counter-factual. It is clearly evident in our transport institutions; all of their ideas of a change in thinking are focussed on new devices or vehicles, and not enough on doing things differently, or shifts in behaviour, even when these are observable already! MoT in particular are obsessed with new kit, not with new ideas. I agree that engineers are problem solvers, but it is the framing of the problem definition that I am concerned with: in other words are we asking the best questions of our engineering talent? See MFD above, it seems the questions we’re asking are narrowly focused on particularly favoured technologies….?

        3. Dave I think part of the issue is that once engineers got pushed out of the Councils we got very good at solving what ever problem the client put in front of us. At $250 to $300/hour why wouldnt you? That comericalistaion meant we dont question the bigger picture and ask why we are doing something. The reason is simply that the client is paying to.

          1. Matthew how obsessed are you with avoiding a one-off expense of building a permanent ROW? In what universe is ‘just under 100’ similar to 450-500? Which is to say yes it is clearly true that LRT can deliver high capacity better on a narrow surface route.

            Five buses *can* be whipped through an intersection similar to one LRV, but only if all the planets align perfectly. In practice this won’t happen. Or at least perhaps it could if they had a proper two lane each way separate ROW, but then this is impossible on the narrow streets in Auckland like Dom and Mt Eden.
            This determination to make buses work like an RTN is why we had plans for the demolition of the entire length of one side of Dom Rd. Quite an amazing commitment to an anti-rail at any cost ideology. Transport infra should be to serve Landuse not to destroy it, but then our institutions have been on a destructive roll for decades….

          2. Hi Patrick,

            Sorry I didnt see this comment earlier. See my comment below on current and projected PT demand for Dom Rd. The flows are nowhere near that of the capacity of a bus priority corridor, let alone an LRT corridor. AT quote 6000pax/hr for bus and 18000par/hr for LRT. The peak hour flows are currently (as of a couple of years ago) 1100pax/hr on Dom Rd, and projected to increase to 1400pax/hr by 2041. So corridor capacity doesnt really come in to it as far as I can see.

          3. Btw I am not obsessed with *not* doing something. If I am obsessed, it is *with* doing something. Mt Eden Road is set to languish with low quality PT infrastructure for an indefinite period of time while it waits patiently for LRT one day. And Mt Eden Road is one of the “lucky” corridors. Most other corridors are just subject to incremental piecemeal improvement. Given AT has shown a commitment to high quality median PT corridors as part of its LRT push, why not roll these out more widely and in advance of LRT? It need not be hugely expensive, and the expense incurred would be largely required for future LRT anyway (like configuring all the intersections for example). To me It Just Makes Sense.

    2. hmmm do you think you’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater there? AT don’t operate in a vacuum. Instead they need to collaborate with a range of other government organisations at regional and national level. I’m sure if it was up to them they would move faster on a lot of these things.

      More specifically:
      – Double-deckers: My understanding is that implementation was held up by the need to update NZTA rules and regulations about maximum permitted vehicle axle loading. Also, AT does not own the buses; they need to work with operators to purchase them. This is especially important in the context of the shift to PTOM contracts because operators were unsure of what contracts they would be operating.
      – CRL: We all know central government was the major question mark over implementation for that project. Nonetheless it’s pretty much happening as per original timetable and that’s quite impressive for a project of this complexity, IMO.
      – LRT: Again this requires approval and funding from AC and NZTA. Those two things are actually quite separate: AC and/or NZTA may determine it’s a good idea in principle but not stump up with funds to allow it to proceed as fast as we want.

      Personally, I don’t have a problem with government organisations announcing timelines that are ambitious because it signals the desire to move fast. However often there are very good reasons for these timelines to slip, many of which are beyond AT’s control.

      I’m not trying to defend everything AT do but I do think that we need to try to think about the bigger picture. After all, the core network upgrade and integrated ticketing/fares all took longer than expected but we still hit the patronage projections because along the way the government agencies involved found a lot of other ways to improve patronage.

      1. Yes double deckers were held up by regulations. Apparently nothing was happening with that till AT complained to Simon Bridges who told NZTA to get on with it. That if course is a change from his predecessor who didn’t care and why a simple change languished for years.

        Even so there’s a significant lead time it seems, it was announced in August they were buying them and now 9 months later we’re still waiting.

        1. Yes Simon Bridges does seem to be a bit more balanced in his approach to the transport portfolio than his predecessors in the National Administration. Still not what I’d put as my perfect Transport Minister, but definitely seems to be a bit more realistic and not quite so mode-biased.

          1. Simon Bridges is only marginally more interested in public transport. On TV One tonight when he was talking about increased infrastructure to handle more tourists he declared we need more roads. Absolutely no contemplation that they might move around using public transport. It’s only in exotic places like London where you can get from Heathrow to the city in a train.

        2. Ritchies managed to get their double deckers on the ground and operating in time for March, maybe the long lead time for NZ Bus and H&E is the result of buying local (which I very much support in principle)

          I did see an H&E one in service last week though

      2. Not true. If Council wanted to fund LRT they could do so.

        Every time Council blames central government, remember nobody is saying AC can’t fund it from their own pockets.

          1. Cut one mega road project, OR delay or cut back 10% of road renewals. Funding problem solved.

        1. You don’t seem to realise that council and AT are different organisations? AT want LRT then they have to convince council or nzta to fund it.

          1. That’s what I said “if AC want it” not “if AT want it”

            Pro-tip: whoever signs the cheques determines the action

      3. Or AT could just tell the bus operators to purchase the buses under an agreement. When the new contracts come through if the bus operator doesn’t win then the buses revert to AT ownership (to be on-sold to the new operator). Problem solved, we get the new buses that are needed, the operator doesn’t have an issue as they know they won’t be stuck with an expensive asset.

    3. LRT may be being blocked by central government, but AT could do the 80% solution in advance of getting funding in place. The 80% solution being developing a continuous centrelane PT corridor with stops etc (and signal priority if possible). Future proof it for LRT and run buses in the mean time. This would show they were serious and would significantly improve the corridor in advance of LRT. And of course they could do this on all the proposed corridors well in advance of LRT – at a fraction of the cost.

      1. Is it worth (or has someone done one already?) preparing a petition for central government (or who ever needs it) to get on and fast pace the LRT projects? Would get some media attention too perhaps.

      2. There isn’t much benefit in that. the geometry and spatial requirements are different for buses and LRT, and LRT requires high capital works to lay the track. Either you end up effectively building the whole LRT line first then paving it over for buses, or you end up with new bus lanes that you need to shut down for months/years to rebuild for LRT. Its usually best to just wait until you are good to go, then do it. The advantages of centre bus lanes over side bus lanes aren’t that great, nothing like the step from bus lanes to LRT.

        1. My reason for suggesting is this:

          When you come to build LRT you are going to have an issue with corridor width during the construction phase regardless of where the buses are running beforehand. So I dont see this being a draw back one way or the other.

          The corridor widths are very similar, I have looked into this recently. radii may be different. The major benefit of what I am proposing is a continuous corridor. Go have a look at the current corridor from Mt Roskill to town, it is far from continuous. Same with Mt Eden Road etc. Even with nominally continuous shoulder lanes (which we dont have) you still have conflicts at every intersection.

          The main advantages of LRT over bus are basically corridor capacity, and terminal capacity. Going to a central bus corridor will increase the bus capacity – i.e. it will be a big improvement against the status quo, and there is a lot more capacity possible on all these corridors from what we have now in buses (we dont even have double deckers yet).

          As for terminal capacity – that is the main reason as I understand it for going to LRT. Well there is a lot you can do to improve things for buses in the mean time and continuous lanes is one of them particularly downtown. Hell if you had a continuous corridor from Mt Roskill to town, you could run buses without stopping until they get back to Mt Roskill. The reason we have layovers downtown is because of variability in traffic conditions leading to timetabling issues. So if you have continuous lanes – no need for downtown stabiling and you have significantly alleviated this issue.

          So maybe my “80%” is overstating things but I think 60% or 70% is a reasonable number at least.

        2. Thinking about this a bit more – it may even be preferable to have centre lane running buses when you come to install centrelane LRT. Why? Well when you have centrelane buses, you can lay LRT track one side at a time and still have the other side available for transit. So you use the free transit lane as a tidal bus corridor, with counter peak buses using the general traffic lane. It would be much harder, if not impossible, to do this with shoulder lanes.

  9. Absolutely taking too long to action anything – new network for West was initially mid 2016 now it’s mid 2017 and the North shores looking at 2018 now! What’s going on? Surely there should be an increased urgency for improving the bus network not more waiting…

    1. That’s right, and even when the new network is rolled out we will only have 30% of people in the West and North getting access to frequent public transport. Too little and too slow.

      I feel sorry for those folks in places liek Mt Eden missing buses that are too full, it’s no way to start the day. But there are surely quick fixes available like extending bus lanes, removing parking from arterial roads, introducing double-decker buses, and increasing fares to manage demand. I think that if the fare was upped to say $4.50 then more people might try alternative modes like car-sharing and cycling/walking.

  10. You should be so lucky to be able to even take a ‘late’ or ‘crowded’ bus in South Auckland. There are no buses whatsoever between Hollyford Road and Papakura servicing anything in between – yet the council sees fit to keep approving thousands and thousands more houses in that area.
    All these new residents are forced to use cars in an already totally congested network that has eroded the residents enjoyment of life in addition to making anyone’s commute worse.
    The massive Redoubt/Mill Road (800 Million plus) expressway which Auckland Transport has pushed through the approval stage talks about ‘improvements’ in public transport. The only improvement is adding a bus-lane for less than 1 km from the motorway to Hollyford road. No PT is planned or included for any of the rest of the roading project.

    AT will point out that there are train stations – yes,there are and there is no where to park near them and everyone is still forced to DRIVE to them to use them – is that efficient Public Transport??

  11. Yes, March Madness happens each year, but there are some basic wins the bus operators can achieve with support from AT and the unions.

    1. limit staff leave over this key 6 week period. Drivers can still apply, but try to encourage maximise staffing as sickness can affect provision of additional services, especially in morning peak.

    2. 5-8% of buses are off the road for maintenance. This means 50-80 buses are sitting in workshops when a large proportion could be on the road. If bus operators, mechanics and the unions could agree on a way to do maintenance overnight and in weekends this could boost bus numbers significantly. This could be done just over March with large incentives to mechanics for this short term measure. Ideally this should be in place longer term as this would bring down the costs of overheads and holding and unnecessary number of ‘spares’.

    3. AT could run a short term campaign over March to encourage people to travel outside of the morning peak. Rather than making it free for everyone before 7am, they could look at making it free for tertiary students. This could take 3-5% off the peak patronage across the key 7.30-8.15am period and move it to vehicles that have plenty of capacity.

    Patronage drops 15-20% from March to May. If 5% of this could be retained by improved customer experience the revenue value would be significant. It could represent 3-4m additional patronage and an extra $6-8m in revenue. I agree with Mark Lambert’s assessment that you cannot go out and buy loads of buses because of 1 month a year, but suggest that AT and the Operators could do a lot more with what they do have.

    How great would that be for potential PT customers?

    1. +1 Mark. Have said something similar in the past.
      Another thing they could do is not retire old buses Jan/Feb/Mar and hold on to them to cope with March Madness. Sell them off after that. Likewise don’t order new buses to arrive in May/Jun/July… get them to arrive in Feb so that they are ready to go in March!
      As you mentioned maintenance can be done in the evenings/weekends. However there shouldn’t be any scheduled heavy maintenance done during March that can’t be done in Feb or April.

  12. Funny that there is a post about this today… I was just thinking this morning that I should find somewhere to make a comment about AT and buses!

    Spoke to someone at AT and the experience was like talking to a brick wall! There wasn’t any we’ll look further into that it was simply this is what we have take it or leave it pretty much for the issue I was discussing.

    Further to that I brought up about poor bus timings for bus connections (that the 2x local connecting buses to the NEX departs 3 minutes before a NEX bus from each direct arrives and that the next local bus isn’t for 30 minutes – meaning it doesn’t work for people trying to get to work – which is the main purpose of the route and which is why it is usually empty at times of day where it should be full!). His response was along the lines of “AT isn’t responsible for timings of buses. That responsibility rests with the bus companies who choose when they want to operate a service”. I said you have got to be f**king kidding me! Surely AT can dictate what time they want a service to run since they are the one’s paying for the service to operate!

    1. “Surely AT can dictate what time they want a service to run since they are the one’s paying for the service to operate!”
      Under the new network (aka PTOM) they sure can.

      Under the craptastic broken network we have now, no such luck, as the bus operators “own” the routes and choose how and when to run the buses [or if buses run at all].

      Really this whole network rollout is taking way too long, its like the HOP rollout was, and I suspect like HOP was, being held up by the bus operators (particularly the same outfit that stalled the Snapper execution as long as possible).

    2. Hang on, the NEX runs every 3-5 minutes most of the time, at worst its every 10-15.

      Doesn’t that just mean you should be getting the NEX 3 minutes earlier to make your connection? (Or is this some late evening thing where that doesn’t work?)

      1. NEX is every 5 minutes at best and often 10 not 3 during peak and that is only from certain stations (ie from Constellation where HBC NEX meet Albany NEX). Also in the counter flow in the morning peak every 2nd NEX bus is out of service to get back to the other end quickly so it ends up being a 10-20 minute wait. So yes it isn’t good planning in that regard having buses depart a few minutes before the NEX buses arrive especially when those local buses main purpose (in this case) is to get people to work by 8:30. Not much point having 2x buses at 8 that has done most of the route by 8:15 with the next 2 starting at 8:30. Should be split so 7:45, 8, 8:15, 8:30, 8:45 etc or even better in this case 7:50, 8:05, 8:20, 8:35, 8:50.

        1. At peak its every 3 minutes and every 7.5 counter peak. They platoon badly due to the lights at constellation though

          1. again, depends where you are coming from. They don’t all originate in Albany for example with a lot now starting in Silverdale. Likewise in the other direction they aren’t that often in the morning (more like every 10-15minutes – I’ve sat at a bustop on Fanshawe many times and seen Out of Service bus after bus go by with very few in service buses).

  13. Agree that better complete, extended hour bus lanes will solve a lot. Worse thing is when a bus just doesn’t turn up at all?! – was it super early? My impression is that a lot of the bitching comes from the Mt Eden etc roads with the full buses when students etc closer to central city start to want pick-up. Seems like slightly exaggerated impression on Twitter etc as it’s the nature of this route (esp without full or the early finish time of bus lanes) that you will get several full buses coming past you, but don’t they several that turn up a few minutes later with capacity?

    In any case, seems every change moves at a snails pace alright and that PT use is really is picking up more than they are expecting.

  14. The problem is concentrated on Mt Eden Road and probably stems from running the route to Three Kings when most demand is closer in. It was like that back in 1986 when I used it and it hasn’t changed. The highest demand is at Mt Eden Village where everyone walks to the 1 stage boundary. All they have to do is start running another service backwards and forwards to where the demand is and using the same number of buses they can carry more people. Instead they have a service running empty over most of the route and overcrowded in stage 1.

  15. Do those survey results suggest the council should be prioritising LRT on Mt Eden Rd ahead of Dominion?
    Looks like a good case for at least Greenlane Rd north?
    It would tie in with the redeveloped Mt Eden station for connection to the CRL.

    1. At K Road on Sunday the AT people explained that LRT couldn’t be done on Mt Eden and Manukau first because it would be impossible to dig up Symonds Street for the LRT because of all the buses on it. They have to do Dominion and Sandringham first running the trams on Ian McKinnon and Queen Street to get buses off Symonds first before they can dig up Symonds to do LRT on Mt Eden and Manukau.

      1. Nonsense. The buses on Symonds St could easily be diverted during the works. That is how it has replaced bus systems in other cities.

  16. Augageddon

    At Albert Eden board meeting now watching presentations from both gen zero, and AT. It looks like we may need to keep up with the word play for months of mayhem. And add some memes for ‘the double deckers are coming’.

  17. We think really small in Auckland, a few more buses, maybe a bit bigger models but still trying to get somewhere on horribly clogged roads. Although bus lanes are logical they also cause mayhem in some areas because they displace cars so people get out of their cars, try the bus alternative but find them full and slow give up on them and on the vicious circle goes.

    A far more long-term rapid mass transit system MUST be sought and fast. We are too big a city to fanny around with PT substantially based on buses. I’ve said it before but the rebuild of the north-western motorway without supplementing it with a rail link out west is as backward as the four laned Harbour Bridge we got in the 1950’s.

    1. I dont understand this comment. If the buses are slow, they are presumably not in bus lanes. The only advantage of rail over bus is capacity and we have very few corridors requiring capacity that cant be met by buses. The real issue is the dominance of cars in their use of road space. This can be fixed by allocating more roadspace to transit or by road pricing.

      1. To a certain extent yes, but then you’re setting aside space for buses only which you could carry more passengers down using LRT. There’s also the issue of buses terminating in the CBD coming to a standstill because there’s too many buses, which isn’t a problem for LRT networks. The LRT has the added benefit of freeing up your bus fleet to run feeder services to LRT stations, or alternatively, more frequent cross-town services that are too expansive to cover with LRT.

        1. Buses dont get jammed yp downtown because of ither buses, they get jammed up because they dwell there and because cars are taking up so much roadspace. They dwell there to keep time as they cant run a service both in and out of the city on a single run. Why? Because they get stuck in traffic and hence cant keep a rimetable for such a long route. But if they werent getting stuck in traffic that wouldnt be a problem.

        2. On you other points, yes LRT has more capacity (actually I dont know that for sure), but where and when would that capacity constaint bind in Auckland? I dont think “freeing up bus resources” is a particularly compelling argument – its not like we have some fixed supply of buses – at least in the medium term.

          1. Mathew, point is LRVs offer high but importantly different capacity; they do this with considerably fewer vehicles, so say 450 pax as opposed 60, and this means that these fewer bigger machines can enjoy more priority while – and this is important – holding up intersections for other traffic significantly less than an equivalent number of buses. And of course costing less in terms of staff.

            So these two things; 1. a decrease in frequency being an advantage (unusually) in that it improves performance for the other users of a corridor and especially its cross routes as well as its own running, while still shifting high capacity, and 2. While yes a high one off capex cost but lower opex due to both electric power and lower staffing needs (fewer machines).

            So while our roading agencies (NZTA, MoT) seem so supicious of LRT it, when well designed, will hold up other road users less than buses on a like for like capacity comparison.

          2. Ive got nothing against LRT where it can be demonstrated to be the optimal choice, I just am not convinced that you can reason anything about mode type just from observing our current hugely suboptimal bus network as Waspman was appearing to do.

            And I am quite sensitive to this type of reasoning because I hear it all the time from my non-geeky aquaintances (i.e. ordinary punters) who dont differentiate their thinking between vehicle type and corridor quality.

          3. LRT is an excellent idea in all the areas it once fed and more operating largely uninhibited in its own corridors, emission free. And we need rail links along side our motorways as well to move a lot of people quickly feeding smaller bus routes or LRT to the more far flung suburbs. Honestly we are fiddling while Rome burns at the moment.

          4. I was accused of having rose tinted spectacles about buses yesterday. But the truth of it is I used to stand on Mt Eden Road in 1986 (30 years ago) and full 274 buses would go past me. This ‘problem’ isnt new and the solution is quite simple. Add more buses to the busy bit. LRT would be great for Mt Eden Road especially if it was intensified but just adding buses would be very cheap and very successful.

          5. On your substantive points though Patrick, is that really true? I mean I realise that less LRT vehicles will mean less phases where they are affecting traffic. But I have heard the opposite which is that bus would have less signal priority. I would have thought the difference is not huge. DD Buses can take just under 100pax by the way.

          6. Honestly Waspman I still dont get your point. You talk about LRT uninhibited in its own corridor on the one hand and slow buses on the other. Corridor quality is not a function of wheel type!!

          7. The basics of how a LRT system works is why they are better than buses. Ignore the tourist thing that used to run at Wynyard. In short trams/LRT run on their own strip of road/rails all of the time, that is the run up the middle of main roads so they don’t share road space if designed properly except where they cross intersections so motor vehicles cannot cruise along the LRT lanes ever. They can be signaled ahead of motor vehicles at intersections easily, . Buses on the other hand share road space with other motor vehicles.or fight their way around parked or stationary cars (Onewa Rd for example when using the T3 lanes). Trams are usually higher seating capacity and can be coupled together as in Europe to further give capacity without the need for another driver. Being electric they are usually well powered and quick to the speed limit. I use buses. They get held up at traffic lights they share with cars, held up trying to pull out into traffic from stops, held up by traffic blocking lanes and are as a rule in peak are far too small. My bus for example leaves downtown evening peak, that is from its originating departure stop with people standing to the front door. It then gets held up by queues of traffic for the next 4 major intersections even though it has bus lanes for most of the city leg of the trip. Fully laden they struggle with the weight and are slow off the mark and up to the limit. My bus cannot load any more people by the 3rd stop and leaves others behind, useless, it can’t be helped. They are slow to load as the driver has to process some passengers and slow to disembark passengers owing to narrow doorways and cramped aisles. A tram using its own centre island stops can disembark/load quicker and being generally wider not having to accommodate large wheel wells, engine and transmission bays means wider aisles, flatter floors and quicker exits/entries The whole combined features of a tram is just better. A well designed LRT system would be light years ahead of buses.


          8. Ok…. [Waspmans comment is exactly what I am talking about Patrick when I talk about my non geeky aquaintances]

            There is nothing intrinsic to an LRT vehicle that means it runs in its own corridor in the centre of a road. There is nothing intrinsic to a bus that means it does not run in its own corridor in the centre of the road. These things are completely independent of the vehicle. The fact that we run buses down the side of roads and/or make buses share road space with general traffic is a design desicion inpendent of vehicle type. I sincerely hope we can agree on that.

            As for slow to load, again: there is nothing intrinsic to LRT that means that you have to pay before boarding and cant buy a ticket off the driver. There is nothing intrinsic about buses that means you have to be able to give people the opportunity to buy a ticket from the driver. I sincerely hope we can agree on that.

            Maybe trams can naturally have wider doors? I dont see how this would be the case but havent given it too much thought.

            Yes trams have a few advantages that can mean additional capacity. They also cost a bit more money. That is the toss up. The question is – what is the capacity at which a bus based corridor can no longer function assuming it has its own right of way and ticketing system similar to the typical LRT model you describe? Because it is only once the demand on a corridor exceeds THAT capacity, that LRT has significant benefits. And THAT capacity has to be a heck of a lot higher than the throughput of any existing bus arterial corridor in Auckland, because they are all horribly inefficient compared to what is possible for the reasons you point out in your Onewa Rd example (and also we dont even have full sized buses).

          9. Matthew please read my comment above. The differences I mention do not include which bit of the road they are on nor the number of doors. Eliding over my comment to answers other’s is not any kind of answer.

            A significant difference is about the width of corridor required for comparable capacity and throughput. Buses can shift a lot of people but with four lanes not two. That width doesn’t exist on Dom, for example.

            But I agree with you in general; most routes improving the bus offer is clearly the order of the day, but I fear that need blinds you to the places where the next level is required: Dom/Queen.

          10. itHey Patrick, I responsed to your comment above (look up the thread its starts with “I’ve got nothing against LRT” and also the comment below that one is addressed to you too). In it I made reference to a particular “conventional wisdom” that I encounter in my daily life that I find troubling and unhelpful. Waspman then almost to a tee illustrated that “conventional wisdom” thinking, so I couldn’t help but point that out to you in my response to him as a way of letting you know exactly what I meant. The rest of my long comment above not enclosed in the brackets about corridors etc is not in response to you it is in direct response to Waspman. I guess I should have made that more clear; it isnt always easy having multiple conversations in a comments thread.

            As far as corridor capacity is concerned, sure the wider the corridor the more capacity. The question is what is the demand vs the capacity. I am only really talking about two lane PT corridors on our arterials, you are right that is about the maximum size you could fit anywhere.

          11. If anyone has stats for current PT flows along individual arterial corridors in Auckland it would be interesting. I have done a rough calc based on a figure of 2.2m PT trips a year down Dom Rd (may be out of date). That equates to (based on my rough calc, happy to be corrected), a peak hour flow rate of about 2000 pax/hr. The capacity of a centrelane bus corridor, according to AT, is 6000pax/hr. Which means, if we right now switched to centre lane bus PT on our corridors we would have at least three times the capacity compared to cuurent demand. Maybe it aint that high (but also remember that on other corridors the current demand is lower – Dom Rd has the highest flow out of any corridor), but even if we could move to double the corridor capacity that is a pretty big deal. My comment way upthread was – why not set up the central corridors along each of the future LRT corridors now – no need to wait for a tonne of funding, but by all means put in the LRT when needed and when the funding is secured. That would be a massive boon to PT in a relatively short period of time. Instead of the current situation where for example Mt Eden Rd might one day get LRT but until then it is just this hopeless PT situation where buses are full, snarled up in traffic etc.

          12. My 2000pax/hr may be an overestimate. This link gives 1,100 in the peak hour (although its a few years old)


            The link also talks about essentially 30% patronage growth to 2041. So something like 1400pax/hr peak at 2041. Now obviously it would be great to significantly grow patronage beyond that projection, but even still, 1400 pax/hour per hour is nothing even close to 6000 pax/hour for median bus let alone the 18,000 pax/hr proposed as a capacity for LRT.

            So the need for LRT vs buses on Dominion Road *because of the required corridor capacity on Dominion Road* appears to be a non argument? It sounds like a sledgehammer to crack a nut scenario. So the only issue really is terminal capacity. But again, through routing buses in centre lanes rather than terminating buses downtown and running in mixed traffic is a major solution to that. In any case, lets agree that LRT is not required because of corridor capacity requirements on any of our non-CBD arterials.

  18. I don’t think double deckers will be a panacea for all our transport woes, simply because they are so slow to load. I have observed H&E double deckers on Te Rakau Drive where they are being used as a straight replacement for single deckers, and they are SLOW. Perhaps they need to look at modifying their use so they are used on limited stop trunk services, similar to their use on the Northern Busway. Designate certain key stops for use by double deckers, and the rest of the stops would be serviced by single deckers only, otherwise lateness complaints will soar.

  19. Another strand – outside ATs control but contributing to the picture and making better use of taxpayers funding – would be better enrollment policies for universities and techs: stop enrolling the kids who you expect will drop out after three months because they lack the brains or the resilience to cope with the course, and then these kids won’t be on the buses in March / April / May. (They’re already not on them June – December, because by then they’ve dropped out.)

  20. Good news / bad news about double decker buses on Mount Eden Road, which appears to have the worst service performance of any arterial. The new buses are undergoing road trials at present and will be in service in June. But they will at first offer no increase in capacity (seats per hour) as there will be fewer buses than at present according to an AT representative at our Local Board meeting today responding to the Generation Zero campaign on bus service reliability. However, a second batch of the new buses is apparently due in about October, some of which will go onto Mount Eden Road and allow a slight (10%) increase in capacity.

    1. Plus to add to things there will be a lot of people who just want to try the double decks on the Mt Eden Rd route, at least initially. I know I will be one!

  21. I am definitely disappointed my complaints at Penrose, Manurewa, Homai and Botany don’t seem to be included.

  22. Our bus system is truly chaotic. Normally I travel from Takapuna to the City and apart from a very loose adherence to the timetable it is a good service. Not outstanding -good. If the 50m of Esmonde Road starting at Burns St was made no stopping this would save 2 minutes on some peak trips. No this wouldn’t work -too clever.
    I was gob smacked when I travelled Takapuna to Albany on a number of occasions last week -one metropolitan area to another. The quickest way for me is to walk 20 mins to Akoranga Station-take the NEX -and then walk 15 mins to my destination. The direct service between the two metropolitan areas go through Glenfield and takes 40 minutes. It’s just bovine excrement.
    By and large there seems to be an inadequate bus service to Albany. Certainly the very few disembarking there seems to suggest this. What is the plan to get people from the middle of nowhere (Albany Station) anywhere? There is currently no development anywhere near the bus station so it’s a long walk for most. The new apartment blocks will help.
    Streets (and verges, parts of footpaths and chunks of green space) clogged with parked cars in places such as Corinthian Drive seem to bear testimony to peoples inability to access public transport to get to work. At least AT seem to acknowledge that they have screwed up and people can park anywhere with impunity. I would rather that car owners were ticketed and some of the revenue used to addressing the poor public transport options.

    1. supposed to be addressed with the new network (ie for the first time there will be direct buses between Browns Bay and Albany Bus station…(busway has only been in operation for 8 years now!). They should build a 5 level parking building above 20% of the park n ride (in other words 20% x5 = 100%) so doubling the capacity of Albany. If in future they needed more then they could replicate it. (or build apartments etc above it as has been suggested to make use of the land). The best thing will however be actually using the hub and spoke system properly with integrated ticketing. For now it is cheaper, faster and more convenient for almost everyone to just drive to the park n ride rather than catching a local bus.

      1. Why not just start charging for Park n Ride and increase the price until you get 90% occupancy at all times? Then not only do you earn money, you also avoid the huge expense of building a parking building.

        Park n Ride doesn’t encourage people to take the bus. It just encourages people who walked, cycle or took the bus to the busway/train/ferry station to drive instead. There have been a number of articles on this blog about that.

        1. Parking is way overrated.

          If people are willing to pay more than XXX dollar per day for parking their car there, then it might be worth it to build that car park building. (I don’t know the maths, but I’m guessing XXX is somewhere around $10 per day.) On the other hand, if people are only willing to pay $0 per day, then obviously don’t build it.

          But why stop at parking? What about office buildings or apartments? Last time I checked these are quite a bit more valuable than parking, especially on top of a station.

          (Loosely related blog post about the price of renting a parking spot vs. an apartment → http://www.andrewalexanderprice.com/blog20151123.php )

  23. Thank you “Generation Zero for doing this and presenting it in such a visble user friendly way.
    I feel that it would be nice if this were to be publicised by the Herald and the local TV stations as it would help move AT to a greater effort. It seems as though AT are able to ignore individual complaints or respond with a generic answer but with this sort of presentation it is more coherent and requires a more detailed answer as well as setting a baseline for progress/failure in the future.

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