As we found out from Generation Zero’s Better Buses campaign, Mt Eden Rd is the most complained about route and during February, March and April we also heard tales of people waiting for 10 buses or more to go past before one with enough space came along. From Sunday some relief will arrive with NZ Bus rolling out the first of their double deckers on the route with more arriving in the middle of June. AT say the first batch of buses will add about 10% more seating capacity during the peak while the second batch will increase that to 15%. By the end of June there will also be double deckers on the 881 route too.
More double decker buses are about to hit the roads and that means more seats on busy routes.
This Sunday 29 May, the new larger buses will start operating along Mount Eden Road on the 277 route Waikowhai to the city return and the 274 route Three Kings to the city return.
Auckland Transport’s Bus Services Manager Brendon Main says there will be 12 double deckers on the two runs with three more joining from the middle of June. “This means 450 more seats for the peak morning and evening runs, an increase of 15%.
“These routes are busy so I’m sure people will be thrilled with the extra capacity and they will love the new buses which have USB chargers, better climate control and, of course, great views.”
The services will be operated for Auckland Transport by NZ Bus and Zane Fulljames, CEO of NZ Bus is welcoming the addition to their fleet. “We are proud to put these buses on the road, they are a game changer raising the level of comfort and service for our customers.”
Mr Main says at the end of June double deckers will also join the popular 881 service that operates from Albany to Newmarket via downtown and the university. “There will eight new double deckers on this route adding an extra 150 seats at peak time and even more seats at off-peak. This is an overall capacity increase of more than 10% at peak times. ”
Double decker buses already run on the Northern Express and on some services operated by Howick and Eastern.
This is good news people on Mt Eden Rd but I do have a few thoughts/concerns.
- While the double deckers are bigger, it seems AT are also taking the opportunity to scale back the timetable a little so there are fewer buses overall. For some trips that might means slightly longer waits for buses. Here are the current and new timetables
- The flip side of that though is that fewer buses but with more capacity means cost recovery – which is likely to already be fairly high on Mt Eden Rd – is likely to improve further.
- Given that buses on Mt Eden Rd were already seriously under capacity as evidenced earlier this year, I’m concerned that only a 15% capacity increase isn’t going to be enough. That feels like it could only just be keeping up with the demand that already exists let alone future growth. Just the presence of double deckers is likely to encourage more people to try catching the bus so we could end up in exactly the same situation next March, albeit with more people on buses overall.
- Unlike the Northern Express with just a handful of large stops, it will be interesting to see what impact the double deckers have on dwell times, especially on the bus heavy parts of Symonds St.
The capacity increase is well overdue and we’ll be watching with interest to see what impacts the double deckers have.