Back in May Auckland  Transport and NZ Bus launched double deckers on Mt Eden Rd in a bid to improve the capacity by 15% on what is one of Auckland’s busier bus routes.

NZ Bus double decker

At the time I said I was concerned that wouldn’t be enough and that the double deckers were likely to encourage even more people to demand and we continue to see reports of full buses leaving behind. In their latest board meeting they said they were seeing good growth on the corridor.

Now a good little piece of news from Auckland Transport with them announcing they’ll be increasing the number of services on Mt Eden Rd at the end of the month.

From Monday 26 September, the changes below will be made to 274 and 277 bus services:

  • 7am to 9am buses will depart every 5 minutes or sooner between Mt Eden shops and the City
  • 3.30pm to 6pm buses will depart from the City to Mt Eden every 5 minutes or sooner

A quick calculation shows that between 8am and 9am the number of buses that arrive at Britomart increases by a whopping 44%, going from 18 to 26 buses. It’s good to see Auckland Transport responding and putting more services on. Perhaps what this also shows is that improving services and especially adding double deckers not only helps improve conditions for existing users but encourages a lot more people to use them too, a case of induced demand if you will.

This is of course not the first time we’ve seen this happen with PT in Auckland and it won’t be the last. I sometimes think it happens simply because officials can’t conceive or at least dare to hope that patronage will grow so fast.

Of course to really make sure those buses work and do so efficiently it will be vital that AT improve the bus lanes along Mt Eden Rd, increasing both the length of the lanes and the length of time they operate for. They also need to ensure that the buses are operated efficiently so that we don’t have the situation where there are no buses for ten minutes then four turn up all at once.

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  1. 274 and 277 bus routes are much better now because I’ve been able to have a seat on the bus every morning.

    What annoys me is the bus bunching. You are very generous to say no bus turns up for 10 minutes, in my experience it is more like no bus comes for 25 minutes, then five come at the same time. The first one is empty, but doesn’t stop because there are four more behind him, the second one is full and stops, so the bus gets fuller, the third one, which is empty, pulls out of the bus lane (because the second bus is already taking passengers), and the fourth and fifth buses keep driving on, semi-full. So you end up with a bus that is over full but 4 other buses which are not full. When buses bunch, the frequency is technically one bus every 25 minutes. Albeit, that bus is quite a big bus. What I want is one bus every 3 minutes.

  2. My bike is in the shop so today was the first time I caught the bus to town from the top of Symonds St. We are really spoilt for choice with a bus coming past about every minute. We really need to be kicking off LRT on Queen St as I see bus congestion becoming critical if it’s not already. Even at 7:15am two 267 buses rolled past, one behind the other. The other thing I noticed is that cars changing into the bus lane to make a turn would block a bus pulling out of the bus stop into the bus lane. The bus drivers must have extreme patience. More bus priority and a road rule law change required!

  3. Is the bunching up of buses due to slow dwell times of the double deckers and or that the frequency of buses sees them catching each other up at stops?
    And where did AT get all this extra capacity from and is it going to happen elsewhere?

    1. Remember AT don’t own the buses. The private operators are constantly adjust their fleets, as is clearly witnessed by the new DDs pooping up everywhere.

      Bunching is an inevitable outcome of a low quality right-of-way. The extension of bus lane extent and time of operation will help. Although in the non peak directions will still be shite, as will everywhere if there is no enforcement.

      1. Even if buses had 100% right of way at all points, bunching is inevitable as it’s the only stable fixed point solution in the dynamical system. The ‘equal spaced’ fixed point is unstable: any small pertubation/delay will mean it evolves to one of the stable solutions that exhibits bunching. I believe the way to resolve it is to enforce slack in the system so that spacing can be retained through delay, which then allows the equal spaced fixed point to be stable.

        Nonetheless, the problem is obviously amplified by having impediments in the system. With them you need a whole heap more slack (more than is reasonable) to reduce bunching which means service suffers. So remove the impediments, but don’t expect bunching to go away. It’ll just be less of an issue than it was before, and allows more room for slack.

          1. that would imply an artificially imposed delay on quicker buses because the bus in front has a heavy load, better to let a lightly loaded bus past to spread the load

          2. What about the rear bus catching up to the front bus, driver notifies that there will be a 3-5 (?) minute pause and give choice to the passengers to transfer to the front bus (with some kind of communication with the front bus). That’s with some rules in place, ie. the front bus isn’t full yet. Could work well on the Outer Link/Inner Link. But has something like that been done anywhere else? Now, with the simple fares, this is actually possible without penalising passengers… Just an idea, obviously not perfect…

        1. I don’t think bunching is inevitable in the normal course of events on 100% right of way – see my post below about the relationship between delays, headway and vehicle size.

    2. it’s just the way it works when any kind of delay affects a bus. this is a reasonably good explanation, though in the solutions it canvasses at the end, it doesn’t mention the obvious thing – eliminate delays! ie. making buses more like trains or light rail – continuous, well-monitored lanes, priority at intersections, boarding at all doors, big doors……
      still reckon there’s so much more that could be done in Auckland to make our buses more like the light rail that might one day take over from them on some routes.

      1. Agreed. I see Chloe Swarbrick is proposing this:

        “Trialling routes destined for rail with uncongested busways. Where we’re looking to eventually lay Light Rail around Auckland, I propose we begin as soon as possible in designating uncongested busways, allowing patrons a taste of the efficiency to come, and in turn, proving that when people have real alternative options, they will use them.”

      2. Well if Phil Goff is good for his word and win, we should have light rail running down Mt Eden Rd hopefully. Or did he have other routes in mind?

        1. That is still a few years away, he said it won’t start till 2019-2022 at the earliest and that is from “Wynyard Quarter, up Queen St, Symonds St and down Dominion Rd to Denbeigh Ave”.
          “Eventually Goff would like to expand light rail to East Tamaki, Botany, Pakuranga and Panmure, across the harbour to the North Shore and other old tram routes on the isthmus.” so assuming these projects are in order Mt Eden road has many years to wait.

  4. They also need to police bus lanes. I was next to several single-person vehicles going up Manakau Rd toward the city on Monday at 16:15…..when it was supposedly a T3 lane. Many take no notice. They won’t if it isn’t enforced. Especially when new.

    1. Just got conformation NZ Police are teaming up with the NZTA. They’ll setup a sting for a few months, on the side of the road – anyone who’s seen cycling without a helmet will be fined on the spot.

      1. Hopefully they will also be targeting the cyclists (and cars) who run red lights as they have been doing on Quay Street in the past few months. Before anyone says anything I cycle to work, I stop at red lights and had someone on a bike call me a four letter word for suggesting that they should too.

  5. Bunching of buses in probably unavoidable, simply because of the traffic lights. If one bus just misses the green and has to wait for the complete cycle of lights at that intersection, then it is inevitable that the next bus back in the service will catch up if they have had a free run through the previous set of lights. And once they have bunched, the front bus will have all the pickups, while the buses behind will just have set downs.

    1. Surely when this happens the front bus would be able to skip stops (provided no one signals to get off) to get ahead again. Just a thought.

      1. As I mentioned above, I would have thought this could be avoided by coordinating vehicle speeds and gaps between buses with some form of tech.

    2. Bunching of buses is unavoidable if the delay at e.g. traffic lights exceeds the headway at the time. If headway is greater than any such delays, bunching will occur only through excess dwell time.

      That’s why both PT priority and vehicle size (not mentioned in the video) are important for reducing bunching: the former reduces delays, the latter enables increased headways for the same capacity (provided increased dwell times don’t offset the benefit, one attribute where longer single-deck vehicles like trams win over double deckers).

    1. It would be much less susceptible to it as it will run less frequently (likely 10 mins to start increasing to 5-mins later on) as the vehicles are bigger. This will allow a higher quality of signal priority, which will also help with bunching.

      1. Plus consistent, pre-programmed set down times which only make sense when the vehicle is big enough to ensure setdowns or pick ups are required at every stop.

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