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.

NZ Bus double decker

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.

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  1. They should probably put up some educational posters inside the buses and in bus stops along the lines of: top deck for longer rides, downstairs for short trips.
    This is how it works in London and helps speed up the process of people getting off the bus.

    1. That is the best strategy (longer rides up top / shorter rides below). But it runs head-on into the placing of priority seating toward the front of the bus – especially prams. I have seen buses (in the UK and Sydney) with 4 or 5 prams on board (but only half full otherwise) being completely unable to board anyone through the front door because passage rearward is completely blocked by huge prams, elder walkers, wheeled shopping baskets, etc. There needs to be a way to board people by the back door….and that is do-able in an enclosed terminal environment, but out on the street it usually isn’t allowed – unless the fee to ride is effectively zero.

      This is all foreseeable, yet for some reason it isn’t adequately dealt with in most bus designs. Toronto has some buses with few seats at all….and loads of standing room that allows people and their vehicles to move around more easily in the cabin.

      A double-decker bus that had most seating up top and few seats below – other than some for people who simply can’t stand or climb stairs – would seem to be the answer. But then bus drivers would have to go easy on the brakes, acceleration and cornering at speed. Perhaps that’s hoping for too much. Bus lanes would be a huge help there.

  2. This is nice but the imrpovements we need the most are to the bus lanes.

    Every morning the display board at my stop shows 10-15mins worth of delayed buses (ussually about 4-5 buses). My stop is the one just before mt eden village and is the one stage mark. I believe that the buses are getting held up at the balmoral road lights. Id love to see AT put in bus priority through this intersection. Fixing issues like this would help the buses move along more efficiently and so many people building up at stops waiting for buses that end up being full.

    In the evenings the mt eden road bus lane time is between 4.30-5.30 and 4.30-6.00. It is ridiculous that these times are so short. Full buses are forced to merge with SOVs everyday and this causes big delays. The worst area for this is between Normanby roar and mt eden village.

    Adding more bus priority, Improving the bus lanes and extending their times would do more to help on this route than adding double deckers and i bet it would be cheaper too.

    1. Absolutely right Ossu. We have been going on to AT about the Mt Eden Rd bus priority since the day they were invented. Someone doesn’t want to fix this is all I can conclude.

      The most sadly comic one is the 4:30-5:30, clearway; designed perfectly to miss both the post-school rush and the after work one too!

      1. It frustrates me hugely. I tweet AT about it all the time but they always ignore more. I put in dozens of submissions to Gen0s better bus campaign about it and in the feedback for the AT new network.

        I agree that they must be deliberately ignoring it. Its very disappointing.

      2. I have heard through the grapevine that they are doing investigation and concept design for bus lanes down most of the length of Mt Eden Road. When they will be painted, who knows?

    2. Looking at the AT website, the Mt Eden road bus priority was supposed to be completed in 2015 – 2016 and Manukau / Pah Road (also a poor performer in the GenZero survey) was supposed have been investigated in 2014 – 2015 and completed in “early 2016”. Consultation on Manukau Road closed in late 2015, so would be interested to know where this and Mt Eden road are at and also why the delays?

      1. I find it amazing the speed at which the footpaths were extended to cater for the double deckers (to move them out of harms way from the large shop eaves). No consultation was done (it wasn’t needed), no announcement was made, but it was done so quick… why can’t they do bus lanes that quick…!?… either way it’s an emergency, isn’t it?

  3. Note that rolling back frequency slightly may reduce bus bunching issues and thereby mitigate the impacts of longer dwell times.

    Also, new DDs will come with double doors as standard, as well as a more open bottom deck, so boarding/alighting time per passenger will fall compared to current buses.

    All up i suspect it’ll be a bit of a wash when it comes to dwell time, but could be wrong.

  4. I think it’s likely that demand will go up by more than 15% just due to the better buses. The double deckers just feel so much nicer than normal buses, and they stand out too almost like a big advertisement for public transport. I hope they can respond to any increased demand with more buses.

  5. I hope those DD are better than the ones in Beijing. The lower deck has limited space and a low ceiling, I couldn’t wait to get off them. I noticed that there seem to be more of them on the road here compared with 3 years ago when I was last here.

    I also noticed that there are lots more small vehicle lanes now, fenced off for bicycle, tricycle or quad bikes, electric or pedal. Thousands and thousands of eScotters on the road is the main change if seen here this time.

    1. quote: By the end of June there will also be double deckers on the 881 route too.

    1. No. They won’t even think about it until simplified zones are in place, but watch Northern Express first for being perhaps the first one to have that. That would mean increased ticket inspections, which would be very difficult during peak times… so lots of challenges with that, but I 100% agree that it would mean better utilisation of standing space, as people just refuse to move back. They all want to be close to the driver like a herd of sheep. I’d rather stand in moving bus than standing stranded on a bus stop.

      1. The northern express should be made more train like, with hop card readers at the stations rather than on the buses.

  6. Such a slow roll-out. These should’ve been out by end of last year or at the very least before March madness begins. Public transport initiatives in this city are so hamstrung by poor funding.

    1. Poor funding and a craven unwillingness to remove parking or in any way inconvenience the sacred SOV.

  7. Why would they reduce the frequency?

    The attractiveness of public transport depends on ‘just be there and go’.

    In Japan, train comes in every 1-3 minutes during peak. There is no need for timetable.

  8. The 7:25am bus I sometimes catch has stopped. There is now a half hour gap in service, 7:15am-7:45am. Just rubbish.

  9. The bunching of buses continues to be an issue on Mt Eden Rd. I catch the bus from the stop outside Hees Garden, and, everyday at 7:30am, four buses come at the same time. No bus has displayed ‘bus full’ yet so there is already an observable improvable.

    The double deckers are excitingly nice, although I did get a headache from sitting on the top deck, and the stairs up to the top are way too steep to walk on while the bus is moving.

  10. The introduction of Double Decker busses on Mt Eden Rd now means it takes me an extra 15 minutes to get to work and even longer to get home. Th e timetable has been expanded there are more people at the stops, and it takes even longer top load. This is not progress.
    The best solution is three busses at a time leap frogging each other at alternate stops. Less stops, faster service.

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