Over the last few years Auckland has ticked off some major public transport milestones. The roll out of HOP integrated ticketing (albeit with the black-listing issue), electric trains (albeit with the long dwell-times ), double-deckers (albeit with stubby bus lanes on Mt Eden Rd), and integrated fares (albeit only on train and buses at this stage) are all giant leaps towards the type of public transport network Auckland will need if it is to continue to grow and prosper.

On Sunday, Auckland will reach another major PT milestone: The roll-out of the New Network (NN) in South Auckland. While some smaller areas such as Green Bay and Titirangi have already been implemented, this is the first major sub-region to see the NN. For those who have been asleep for the last few years, the NN was first proposed in 2012 when Auckland Transport consulted on the Draft Regional Public Transport Plan (RPTP). In this document, AT argued for a complete redesign of Auckland’s PT network, with a new emphasis on the development of a connected, frequent network of bus services that operated all-day, every-day — thus catering for a wide-range of journeys.

The general concepts underpinning the NN is explained in this video, and illustrated in the following diagram. Both the video and the figure contrast the design principles underpinning the NN with the existing bus network, which runs many different services in a chaotic fashion and at low frequency.

Principles of the New Network model

The same design principles can be seen in most successful public transport networks overseas, such as London’s Underground and Barcelona’s “sober” bus network. Edinburgh’s network of (primarily) frequent bus routes, for example, carries approximately 110 million journeys per annum at close to 100% cost-recovery, and all this occurs in a city that is smaller than Auckland (albeit much denser). Evidence suggests well-designed frequent public transport networks — where services operate all-day, all-week — are extremely effective, both in terms of patronage and efficiency. Of course, once you have a core frequent network you can always overlay direct additional services as and when justified by demand.

Auckland Transport have defined a frequent service as one that runs services at a minimum of every 15 minutes, 7am-7pm and 7-days a week (NB: Some routes will operate frequently outside of these hours). In the current network only a handful of routes achieve this standard, as illustrated below (the left-hand map). One of the key reasons is because Auckland’s current network has a lot of duplication, where routes run in parallel with other services, such as the rail lines. This duplication results in a relatively high cost per net passenger carried, and relatively low vehicle utilization. The word “net” is deliberate and important. In a network where there is duplication, removing a route will often not lead to much loss of patronage, because a large fraction of passengers divert onto other services.

And if you then reinvest the savings into running more service on another route, then you will often generate more patronage. This is indeed what AT have sought to achieve with the NN. In a nutshell: The NN is designed to deliver frequent, connected bus services, leveraging the benefits of past investments in the Rapid Transit Network (rail and busway), integrated ticketing/fares, and interchanges, such as New Lynn, Panmure, and Otahuhu. The result? Well, a vast expansion in frequent bus service to large parts of Auckland. The difference is illustrated by the maps below. Note that the original time-frame of 2016 has turned out overly optimistic, which is a point I’ll return to later.

New Bus network vs BAU

NB: In the wake of consultation, not all routes are the same as shown below either. While some of the changes have improved the network, many of the changes — especially in the Isthmus — appear to have compromised the effectiveness of the NN by reducing the frequency of cross-town routes. Again, this is a point to which I return later.

Beneath the frequent network are, of course, additional secondary and local networks that connect with the RTN, local centres, and other key destinations – expanding the reach of the RTN network. What is often not appreciated is that many secondary routes run at frequent levels of service during week-day peaks, so as to enable connections to other rapid/frequent services. Moreover, some secondary routes are prime candidates for future frequent routes, as and when patronage warrants and/or operating budgets allow. The secondary route running from Westgate to Constellation, for example, could well blaze the trail for a frequent route connecting a (soon-to-be-born) North-western Busway and the (jumped-up adolescent) Northern Busway. We look forward to that day!

The NN concept was adopted in 2013. Later that year AT went out to detailed consultation on the South Auckland network. Following some changes the network below was accepted. In 2014 they also consulted on and confirmed the Pukekohe and Waiuku changes, which also go live on Sunday.

new-network-south-final

As mentioned above, a key part of the New Network is its focus on using connections to increase frequency, span, and coverage. The need to embrace connections reflects the fact that no single route can, on its own, meet the wide variety of travel demands that exists in a bustling metropolis. Instead, what is required is a network of routes that work together to cover the urban areas. In such a network, some passengers may need to connect to reach their destination, but the pay-off (for everyone) is more frequency. The need for connections does, however, create the need for interchanges. Such as the $28 million bus interchange at Otahuhu train station, which is formally opened to the public tomorrow.

Otahuhu Interchange aerial overview

A high-quality bus interchange is also planned at Manukau. Work on the $35 million Manukau Bus station started this week, and is expected to be finished circa mid-2017.

While signature interchanges are important for enabling connections and network legibility for new users, many journeys will not start or end there. For this reason, as part of the NN AT are also rolling out improvements to local bus stop infrastructure. Following consultation on some concept designs, AT come up with new standards for bus shelters, which will be progressively installed around the region.

Bus Shelter Design A Range

And the changes don’t stop with the physical infrastructure. The implementation of the NN is proceeding in tandem with a whole new bus contracting regime, known as PTOM. For decades Auckland has been lumbering under the current contracting regime, which is a throwback to the Thatcherite hey-day of the early 90’s and was weighted heavily in favour of the ***incumbent*** private bus companies, stifling competition. For about 5 years, a combination of central government ambivalence and differences held-up progress towards a new contracting regime, until the explosion in contracting costs jolted the hamsters into action. We’re not sad to see the back of the current contracting regime, and it’s something that should make life much easier going forward. Specifically, the new PTOM contracts tilt the power back in AT’s favour while increasing competitive pressure at the same time. The tendering of bus contracts for the NN in South Auckland, for example, saved $3 million annually — while achieving a 21 percent increase in hours of operation and a 15 percent increase in kilometres covered. New operators will often be introducing brand new buses branded in the standard AT livery. The new contracts also put in place stricter rules around the quality of buses.

All these changes go a long way to explaining some of the delays to the roll-out of the NN. For example, following the conclusion of consultation for South Auckland, AT announced the network would be rolled out from mid-2015. That has kept slipping back until now, so it is rolling out over a year later than originally intended. I understand a large part of the slippage has to do with the delays building the Otahuhu interchange.

There are some other lingering issues with the NN that AT really do need to address, and which I’ll briefly mention here:

  • AT’s rail service planning appears to have fallen off the tracks. This means the frequency of the rail timetable has not been improved to match the new bus network. This is technically somewhat interesting, because I understand the lack of frequent rail services contravenes the RPTP, which has some statutory weight. Anyway, the upshot is that while bus routes will operate frequently all day, they will connect to trains that do not (depending on the station). The updated train timetable isn’t due till March, i.e. 6 months after the NN rolls-out. Hopefully someone can rouse AT’s rail service planning team into action before the NN rolls-out to the next sub-region.
  • In the south, a combination of consultation and budget savings saw an expansion of the frequent network from what was originally proposed. In contrast, the recently announced changes to the Isthmus network back-pedaled on NN design principles, and saw the retention of many duplicative existing routes, the Outer Link being the prime example. This necessitated a reduction in the coverage of the frequent network, especially on crosstown services, some of which have been downgraded and/or dropped altogether. It’s a shame AT’s NN nerve wavered in the Isthmus, which is the very part of Auckland where a frequent connective network is most beneficial.

So, what can we expect when it comes to patronage? Change always causes disruption, and it is likely that the NN will disadvantage some existing users. While unfortunate, this is unavoidable with major network changes of this nature. You can’t make a bus omelette without breaking some eggs. As disaffected passengers will stop using PT almost immediately, while new users take a while to attract, it may be that patronage decreases initially. I’d personally prepare for angry newspaper articles and photos of unhappy people going to the wrong bus stop and ending up in Waitakere (NB: Of course it’s all AT’s fault for even running buses to Waitakere in the first place. If only it’d been a train, then nobody would have been inconvenienced. Stupid AT).

More seriously, notwithstanding the initial resistance to change, the general experience is that patronage usually ends up higher than it would have otherwise within about 3-6 months of the network changes, and that growth thereafter is more rapid. As mentioned earlier, AT have already rolled out changes to the Greenbay/Titirangi area based on similar network principles, which experienced patronage growth of 35% in the last single year — and that was without any frequent services too.

Despite the delays, and minor quibbles like an infrequent rail network, it’s fantastic we’re finally seeing the NN rolled out in South Auckland. It should make travel using public transport much easier for a lot more people which is a great outcome. It also provides the bones of a frequent network around which infrastructure investment and land use development can progressively occur. It’s important that frequent bus routes become a much-loved and semi-permanent feature of Auckland’s urban-scape, as indeed they are in all major cities. (Incidentally, the need for permanence is one reason why we go on and on about bus lanes on Mt Eden Rd: That route is not going to go away, it’s been there since the year dot, and it’s now busier than ever. That’s a good thing, and that’s why AT should throw some resources into making those bus lanes run for more than an hour.)

While AT may not get everything right first time around, at least the “bones” of a decent bus network are in place, and it is something that can be progressively improved, as and when justified by demand and/or enabled by budgets. This point is important to keep in mind: The NN represents the start of a long-term project whereby Auckland’s bus network becomes more frequent, more connected, and easier to use. I would hope that we’re back here in 5 years time quarreling over how to best respond to the growth that results. The answer, I hope consists mainly of more frequency, more connectivity, and less complexity.

P.s.The other main areas to be rolled out are West Auckland, expected in June 2017 with the North shore, Central Auckland and East Auckland rolled out between August 2017 and April 2018.

P.P.s. If you want to attend the opening of the new Otahuhu Station, the details are below.

Ōtāhuhu Station opening

  • Date and time: Saturday 29 October, from 10am to 3pm.
  • Getting there:
    • By train: Both the Eastern and Southern lines trains stop at Ōtāhuhu Station.
    • By bus: A free shuttle bus will run between Ōtāhuhu town centre (existing bus depot) and Kaka Street. The bus will operate every 15 minutes from 10am to 4pm. Passengers will need to climb the steps of the Kaka Street overbridge to get to the event.
    • By bike: Lock your bike at the station’s cycle rack.
  • There is no public parking at the event.
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127 comments

  1. This is a fantastic milestone for transport in Auckland.

    All they need to do now is roll out the same for West, North, East and Central Auckland. Plus they really need to work on frequency on the 380 (Airporter) route. It’s still as infrequent as it was before!

  2. Yes – and their cool new Pukekohe loop to the train station starts at 5:30AM – definitely missing the first two trains (5:03 and 5:35), and, depending on where in Pukekohe you live, the next one (5:54AM).

    So I continue my half-hour morning walk to meet the 5:03AM. My loving wife picks me up in the evening – would do in the morning as well and has urged me to let her do so but I refuse to cooperate with her having to get up that early.

    Oh, well, one day, perhaps – and one day we might have electrification to Pukekohe as well!

      1. Probably too old – 74 and with a replaced hip and bung back 🙂 But, yes, it would be a little faster, except no bike lock-up in Pukekohe station yet. I trust there will be when they get the new station – next year? 2018?

        jj

      2. Yes in a place like Pukekohe where you have a local network focused on one town centre and one rail station, every train should have a corresponding feeder bus.

        Have you tried sleeping in an extra half hour, I hear that’s good for bung backs too!

        1. Would no doubt be good for my back – but not so good for my job 🙂 I officially work 6:30AM-2:45PM in the City (University of Auckland). As it is, with the Pukekohe 5:03AM train, 5:28AM from Papakura, up from Britomart, I actually get to my desk about 6:35AM. I have suggested to AT that they give us a 4:45AM from Pukekohe to meet the 5:06AM in Papakura, but they think (probably correctly) that there wouldn’t be many on it to justify the expense.

          Actually, sleeping in half an hour wouldn’t do it. To catch the feeder bus I’d have to sleep in an extra hour – tempting! But I need to keep my job 🙂

          jj

          1. John, would it be quicker to go off the train at Newmarket and catch a bus downhill to the university?

          2. Not sure that would be quicker for John. I did the Newmarket experiment both down to and up to the Uni – if I did not have the toddler to carry I would have
            been as quick to walk in the heading to Newmarket direction I think (“rush hour” of 4.10 on a friday might been to blame”, took ages bus was packed, though Miss
            2 and I got a seat in the end) ! And don’t forget the number of buses from Newmarket to town will drop when the new
            South network comes in -ironically it was a 471 I seemed to catch most at Newmarket into town the few times I tried this and those ones will no longer exist as of the 30th
            (though 625 one is the other that popped up a bit and they still will be in action).

          3. @Sailor, well for a start it would be “uphill” to the university.

            If he was at the brewery site campus, it would certainly faster, but I think otherwise the waits make it longer (and possibly wetter)

          4. @RogerW, not sure if you know how gravity works but UoA is about 10-20m lower than the station depending on which part of the uni you are talking about.

            @John/JJay, I never realised just how bad the transfer is at Newmarket. We really ought to fix that up. Improving the bus lanes has to be the first step.

          5. Choke points on Khyber Pass Rd – or whatever the road is that Khyber becomes, wondered if bus should turn down the Rd before and go the back way down to Newmarket. Today when I left early though, bus was better (well it was like 1.10) I think it took 15 mins or so ? but once you get to 3 or later its not good, however missed the train so we waited 18 mins for the next one. – end of point was it was another 1.5 hr run and that was just to the get-off station not to home.

            Uni seems “UP” to me from Newmarket – the times I been minus 15 kg of toddler to carry and have walked it it certainly feels up not down. However there might be a difference in actual position above sea level of course and the route you walk to get there – the latter of course does involve up (and is actually the relevant point for John) the former I would have to look at maps.

          6. re bus overload up Khyber Pass, Park Rd, anyone notice a difference this morning with not so many southern buses not going up there?

      1. Yes – it works pretty well. The train leaves at 5:03AM and we get the 5:28 from Papakura. That arrives in Britomart about 6:22. 3-4 minute walk from the train (Takutai Square entrance) to the bottom of Anzac Avenue and catch the 881 (if I’m lucky), or the 277 (couple of minutes later), off in front of the Music School. I work in the Owen Glenn Building so it’s just a couple of minutes to get into the building and upstairs.

        I leave the office about 2:45 or a few minutes after, cross Symonds Street, get a bus down to Britomart, and catch the 3:18PM train. It arrives Papakura about 4:12 and get the 4:27 to Pukekohe. Arrives in Pukekohe about 4:45. My wife picks me up and home before 5.

        jj

        1. Love how you get to work 5 minutes late every day yet manage to leave on time without making up the time. Will suggest this to my boss tomorrow!

          At 74 I certainly will not be stealing a job from a younger person. You also forgot to mention that public transport is free to you on the homeward trip thanks to the taxpayer and ratepayer. Probably not the reason it was brought in for.

          My plan is to retire at 65 when I qualify for the pension.

          1. Depending on your age 65 won’t be retirement age Owen.
            Some people need to work past that age. Some people need to keep working for financial or personal reason. Not a once size fits all.

            In academic circles, retirement and walking away from what is a lifelong passion that is taken up often much of your life since you were in your late teens or 20’s is not easy either. Its not merely “a job”.

          2. Any other mean-spirited and ill-informed jibes, Owen? The idea that people working after the age of 65 are stealing jobs from younger people is errant nonsense. The number of jobs is not fixed; those earning are paying income tax and GST and are spending, all of which support other jobs.

            I have no intention of stopping work at 65. The amount of income tax and GST I pay will cover several pensions and the extra money I will spend as a result of my continued earning will support other employment so the country is better off if I keep working. If you, however, want to become a drain on the taxpayers at 65 feel free. Just don’t cast aspersions at those (such as John) who are not.

    1. True soldier you are… And yet i hear my male family members complaining that all the employment opportunities are too far to travel, blah, blah, blah. If i had it my way i wouldnt care how far the travel, as long as i have the 3 key factors, accommodation, food and clothing 😀 I want to share your story lol

    2. They should definitely have buses running to connect to those 2 early train services. AT are too focussed on bloody park and rides.

  3. We benefited from the Titirangi reorganisation, and I can’t speak highly enough about the _actual_ benefits to our area of this kind of frequency change.

    AT really need to work on the rail integration though. As well as working on the trains, they need to ensure bus drivers understand the network connections issue. It’s all too common, even with the new Titirangi services, to step off the train and watch the scheduled connecting bus disappear because the drivers are keen to get home in the evening. Buses regularly leave New Lynn up to 5 minutes early, and you certainly don’t stand a chance of connecting at Glen Eden. Leaving early is probably worse than leaving late, especially if it’s the last service…

    1. That’s interesting to know – have you passed on that specific feedback to AT? I mean, day/time the bus left early? If you can pass on that sort of information they will actually be able to take action.

    2. When I was a bus driver in Chch back in the late 1970s it was a capital offence to leave early. Is that not so now/in Auckland?

      1. It seems that AT doesn’t really care about this problem at all. Nor do they care about drivers not turning up at all. Complaints just fall on deaf ears. They say that they lodge a complaint, but you can almost guarantee there will be no reply, or a reply months later. It’s bad enough that the bus companies managers/supervisors on the control counters couldn’t care less. But having the same from AT is disgraceful. The bus companies even have the cheek to outright lie when you complain about buses constantly being late and buses not operating at all. Regarding buses not turning up at all, they will never admit that a service didn’t turn up. Even if you and other people were waiting for it at the departure point. This is especially bad when it is the last service for the night. AT always know when buses do not turn up, arrive late or early by the GPS/HOP system. But they do nothing of course. They don’t even acknowledge it. Hence why the bus companies always get away with it. AT don’t hand any punishments whatsoever.

        1. AT’s transport operations people seem to have sustained a culture that makes the wellbeing of operators their focus rather than passengers. Some firings may be required to fix this.

  4. Not doing so great on the setting patrons up with info for new network. New timetables at bus stops give times for service I use that don’t match the times on the timetable (which are the correct ones).
    Contacted AT about it to fix – still not fixed and did not contact me back. Kinda going to add to peoples stress if the timetables are not right (and not just out by minutes but giving times when this infrequent
    service does not even run). Attention to little details and things like ensuring connections are as pain-free as possible and those affected will have their concerns addressed as well as possible will make all
    the difference to success (or not) I think, also I think some of the movements of bus stops and relocations might not work out so practical for busses to turn/park and change in traffic – but hopefully they can
    adjust that if it does prove to be a problem (not sure how responsive they will be to adjusting where obvious issues come up though?). In terms of increase in frequency of services though none I use or in and about my local range look set to increase particularly, and yes train frequency is does not seem to have increased to meet the anticipated extra demand (trying to move people to train network from bus network always goes better if they both change at the same time methinks). Also think it would been great if the new stations had been completed co-ordinated with it all. You are right if people move they will do so quickly and if the network is not set up to show off all its positives you might not get them back – however if its all coordinated surely you will loose less.

    1. Manurewa maybe?
      What was it, 40 minutes from the Manurewa interchange to the bus stop at Grand Vue about 1 km down the road for the express 360X service.

      I called them about that a week or so ago and they called me back to clarify what I meant yesterday.

      I’m wondering if the times on the stop were either 1 line off from the existing timetable, or were the time the bus was supposed to arrive at the CBD.

  5. I can understand the logic, but I don’t like the change. I used to bus into the city on one bus, now I have to take the bus to the train to the city. Extra travel time, extra hassle. Back to the car for me.

    1. You have my sympathy Ari. Personally too (though we kept some buses which will keep me using PT for the interim at least) the whole walk to train, train then walk or bus option adds at least an additional 30 mins each way (I have now tested out several different scenarios too walking/train, bus/train, and different stops etc). It makes a big difference to getting my work done, dealing with a 2 year old for whom that extra time is not tolerated well and getting home to deal with the needs of my other kids at the end of the day. Bus is still the quickest and most direct notwithstanding awful motorway days and long weekend Fridays (even then I choose to try bus/train/walk option one Friday and it took me over 1.5hrs which would have matched the awful Friday motorway issues). But I guess some win, some loose we lost.

    2. Yeah, when it’s rolled out on the northshore, we’ll be getting a reduced peak hour frequency. Currently have two busses every 15 minutes, one of which is a one seat ride to the city. Now one bus every 15 mins with a change required at constellation . But that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’m going to look at an electric bike for the trip to constellation, which will be quicker for me

    3. Extra time extra hassle? Really?

      A perfect example of that is converting back to car and entering the rat race, competing for space on the Southern Motorway and for parking in the city.

      1. Yes. Of course extra time, extra hassle.
        Instead of waiting for one bus, I need to wait for one bus and one train and I have to wait for them at weather exposed locations.
        I have to transfer, which is annoying and a hassle. Especially if I have to go from having a seat, to standing.
        I have the risk of one or both the bus/train having a random delay caused by circumstances out of my control.
        My commute time will increase. My free time at home with my family is important to me and the car is much faster.

        It wont cost more I suppose with the new network as I have a monthly pass, but I just don’t think I’m going to renew it next month. Obviously parking will cost more, but a monthly lease can be quite handy in the evenings and on the weekends. I have more money than time, so I have to weigh it up.

  6. And the PTOM system may have saved AT about 3 mill in South Auckland (but that is just a projected figure as yet, as actual costs are unknown) for AT but costs for bus drivers are known – more hours, less friendly conditions. AT has driven bus drivers wages and conditions down – and they were not that great to start with. AT could have followed what has been done in contracting elsewhere and requested that workers wages and conditions stay the same or better than those they already have – but they didn’t.
    A bus system is only as good as its drivers and if they are fatigued from having to do 60-70 hours a week to make ends meet then don’t expect fantastic service.

    1. I don’t think this is a win-win situation where we pay higher wages and bus drivers suddenly become wonderful.

      I think this is one of those tricky situations, where different parties have conflicting interests. Specifically, the interests of tax-payers/public transport users are in conflict with the interests of bus drivers. Paying higher wages to bus drivers probably means higher taxes (rates, fuel taxes) and/or higher fares and/or less service. Or a bit of everything.

      I personally don’t support bus driver conditions being transferred across contracts. I think bus companies and their drivers (and/or their unions) should be free to contract on conditions, without being burdened by what has been agreed in the past. Allowing conditions to transfer would create some weird incentives. For example, a company might — towards the end of its contract period — agree to onerous union demands so as to keep the buses running, where costs are primarily borne by future employers (and ultimately passed onto us). Accrual of long-service leave for example.

      Seems cleaner for employment agreements to be between a company and a driver, or their representative. Appreciate not everyone agrees …

      P.s. In my experience, most of the cost savings arising from bus tendering come from improved asset management (especially fleet procurement, operations, and depots), rather than reductions in wage rates. For the simple reason being that if — as you note — wages are already low, then they can’t attract enough drivers by paying any less.

      1. Didn’t say anything about higher wages and better conditions – just said wages and conditions on winning tenders were worse than status quo. It means drivers are working longer hours in the same job to get the same take home pay. Transferring same conditions would mean this may not be the case and drivers may not need to work so long and therefore not be so fatigued or stressed.

        1. Can you provide some evidence for us? Im confused because I didn’t realize wages and conditions needed to be specified in bids and even if they are then they’d be confidential. So its hard to judge whether what you say is actually happening.

          1. They are not specified in bids, but so far the lowest tenders are winning, and one of the best ways of submitting a low tender is to make wages costs lower. Talk to First Union about comparisons as they represent drivers in most of the private tendering companies. Comparisons between companies is fairly public knowledge with bus drivers as they weigh up their employment options.

          2. The issue has it’s origins more than 50 years in the days of the trams, whose drivers were represented by the Tramways Union, while the privately run bus company drivers on outer routes were under the Northern Drivers’ Union. When the trams were abandoned the then ATB that took over the isthmus services ran buses whose drivers continued under the Tramways Union. This continued under the various brands that subsequently operated isthmus routes – the ARA, Yellow Bus Company, Stagecoach, and now NZ Bus. Historically Tramways Union members were always paid more than drivers working under (now) First Union awards.

            With PTOM this anomaly is finally being ironed out – but with serious implications for Tramways Union members – and, indeed, NZ Bus itself. I predict that NZ Bus will shrink to the point where it is only able to win contracts on the grandfathered commercial routes – primarily the same isthmus services that used to be served by trams, and that the Tramways Union will likewise be significantly curtailed.

            As others have pointed out – it’s a conflict between getting the best value for (public) money and paying drivers a decent living wage. But in a competitive PTOM environment I don’t think AT has much choice but to go with the flow.

            Expect to see NZ Bus’s fleet shrink significantly to be just ADL 200s and the double deck 500s in the near future . . .

          3. Wellington City seem to manage OK – so I think AT can as well.
            A decent living wage should be a requirement for all contracts by the City Council. This should include train workers, rubbish collectors etc as well as bus drivers. These people often do necessary jobs to keep the city moving, living and breathing as a city should – the same as teachers, nurses and doctors.

          4. I don’t disagree – just explaining how the situation has come about and the implications. But Wellington are not yet on PTOM so I don’t think it’s guaranteed that the status quo will prevail there either.

          5. Jean, if comparisons between wages are fairly common, then does this not introduce competition for drivers? I mean, if one bus company doesn’t offer high enough wages, then they will struggle to get drivers and by extension struggle to deliver the necessary level of service.

            I understand that under PTOM the bus companies incur substantial financial penalties for not delivering necessary levels of service, i.e. not delivering service means the companies will lose money. In this way, PTOM should ensure wages are high enough to attract enough drivers to deliver a good service. Failing to do will cost companies more than paying drivers a bit more.

            In terms of living wage etc, the first thing is it’s getting a little off-topic. Suffice to say that I don’t agree, because I think that redistribution should be the task of direct government initiatives, rather than via indirect imposts on the private sector.

    2. +1 I’m really disappointed by this. Savings are being made by squeezing the drivers, who already do a tough job in tough conditions. And from comments I’ve seen AT reps make, the effect PTOM will have on union membership is entirely intentional. I’m all for efficient route design and asset management and whatnot, but AT should not be in the business of union-busting.

  7. Yes it all relies on the performance of the spine, and there is clearly too much padding in the rail timetable, trains are still being run inefficiently and too slowly; long dwell times, slow crawls, stopping to match timetable.

    AT have to squeeze much harder on the rail lemon to get that juice flowing!

    1. Yes, the dwell times and lots of signal area stopping and waiting just seems to be the norm rather than the exception.

      With AT now expecting people to make transfers and connections, running a tight ship (or train) is key to the bus networks’ success.

      As everyone else has pointed out at some point, nothing more frustrating than hoping off one service, to see your connection service leaving the station or bus stop. Even if it is only a 10-15 minute wait, it feels like a lot longer when you’re the one waiting.

    2. Grade separation, grade separation, grade separation.

      I’m pretty sure that reducing or removing the level crossings in Takanini would greatly improve both traffic flow and rail speeds south, and that’s not even considering the reduction in accidents

      1. Agree, although I imagine they would get more bang for their buck grade separating level crossings on the inner part of the western line first, appreciate this is a discussion on the Southern new network though.

      2. I’d be starting from Britomart and resolving each one in order of the distance from Britomart, unless there is already a plan in place (Sarawia St & CRL affected stations), as the network then becomes an A Class ROW, spreading from the core.

        There is an argument to look at them in other priority orders, but it allows for more procrastination in getting this part of the network upgrade finished.

    3. The inefficiency is also shocking. 5+ minutes wasted on every run is a whole lot of train and staff hours that could be put to productive use everyday, saving millions annually while providing more and better service.

  8. Yet another significantly late AT delivery.
    Even if it was waiting for Otahuhu, why not implement some of the other new networks in the mean time? Why are the others so late?
    And why do they keep getting away with it? Why aren’t heads rolling?

    1. I understand the critical path is having to retender and recontract every single bus service in the region, both to suit the new network and the new PTOM contractual model. That’s why it’s staged, they are still working on the contracts for the North Shore even as the south goes live, and I imagine they haven’t even begun to shift on to the central contracts yet.

    2. 1. AT have implemented other networks, Hibiscus Coast and Green Bay etc. Also been consulting on all the other network changes.
      2. Delays are often due to factors beyond their control, for example PTOM timelines. I understand it was subject to legal challenge by NZ Bus, for example.
      3. May be better to delay an implementation to exploit synergies, e.g. with new contracts, than rush in early.

  9. Wait, what’s this about the Isthmus NN being watered down? Who’s responsible this time – Remuera/Kohi right-wing NIMBYs or Mike Lee-voting left-wing NIMBYs?

  10. As well as being made frequent the route for the 380 needs to be streamlined as well, going through both Airport Oaks and Mangere Town Centre is too circuitous, it needs to be one or other. My suggestion would be just Airport Oaks, with the route continuing north up Kirkbride and Coronation to Mangere Bridge. The frequent 51 could be extended a little further west to meet the 380 to keep the connectivity going. At the moment it’s a dreadfully slow trip from Onehunga to the Airport.

    1. I caught the 380 home to Mangere bridge from the airport a few weeks ago for the first time after a flight. Sign board Ayr the terminal wasnt working bus didn’t turn up so waited over an hour for a half hourly service. Found out the bus had broken down. 1.5 hours to do a 6km journey is pretty tedious. And it made me question whether to trust it to catch a flight.

  11. So the plan is to make people use the train to get to the CBD?

    Big Major Flawed with this plan is that the Train Network far from being perfect. AT doesn’t seem to have any back-up plan just incase there is disruption with the network apart from make people wait and wait and wait.

    Small disruption in the train network, have a massive effect through the network. Unless AT have a decent plan, this will be a disaster. In just this month we have many rail disruption, and all the time AT failed in providing alternative or even simple communication.

    How will the people out south travel home if the Train Network is disrupted. There will be no more alternative bus routes from city to south.

    There will be another rail disruption whether we like it or not. Hopefully AT knows what they are doing and fix things quick or provide good alternate transport.

    1. I get the train network updates by text for South/East and seems to be a lot of outages, delays and particularly reduced seating capacity ones
      (and I must admit its offputting to get 5 or 6 text in a day flagging issues – but better than not knowing I guess)

      1. From what I can tell with the removal of 471/472 type routes then the Otahuhu to City via Great South options are gone ?
        Idea was people would go to Otahuhu by bus (where the 471/472 replacements now terminate) and train into town.
        I know a few people who commuted to Penrose and the like that were decently affected by those proposed changes.
        Might be some new things come on line on feeder routes when that central area is rejigged but during consult when I asked the idea was that
        was a redundant route to the train. I have not checked the final timetable for runs in that area though – and again its probably part of the
        Central rejig not the South one.

          1. Re the 321 and 322 interesting to note – seems like some can transfer from one bus to another at Otahuhu then. The replacement services for the Papakura to Auckland runs via Gt South (the current 471/472) is the 33 route and that will terminate at Otahuhu though (471/472 was a frequent service and 33 is a frequent service). The 321 is actually a hospital to hospital bus (local bus varying frequency it says on timetable not sure what that means) that look like it runs Middlemore hospital up to the hospital in town and then to Britomart and will stop at Otahuhu. I also see there is a peak service only 322 Otahuhu to Town – so that will mitigate some of those issues for those trying to get to Penrose etc in peak times at least – they can transfer at Oathuhu to another bus – though if its anything like the 360X there is 3 buses only in morning now and 3 at night (I need to see timetable for 322 though which I have not). I imagine those peak only services might be reconsidered as the whole network updates – we were told that for the 360X at least – it was a temporary reprieve and a reduced capacity one.

          2. The 321 & 322 look pretty good for handling great south road there. Both a Mon to Fri only. 321 is 1/2 hourly 5:30am until 6:45pm sort of thing does all the hospitals, now starting/ending at Middlemore as well. 322 is peak times only 1/2 hour mainly, has 10 city bound ones in the morning. Has an interesting 22:45 & 23:15 M-Thurs only from Britomart to Otahuhu Station as well, ahhh to fill in when the train doesn’t go that late on M-Th.

        1. i used to work near saleards rd and live in ellerslie. the frequent bus along gt south rd was great.

          combined with closing wetfield station my commute would become unviable via PT now.

          lucky I dont have to do it nowadays.

    2. not necessarily – depends on where/when you’re travelling. Many parts of the city will still have direct buses at peak times.

      1. New South Auckland Network only have 3 peak hour trains in early morning and another 3 during night. Not really ideal for rush hour disruption.

    3. Yes, there are too many incidents/issues on the rail network at the moment, although to AT’s credit they seem to be getting better about ensuring that at least skeleton service keeps running so you still get home, it just involves a longer wait and a more packed train. I have a bus alternative at the moment, but it takes so long I always just wait and squeeze onto the next train.

    4. The Otahuhu interchange is going to be a disaster zone at peak times and when there are train disruptions. Will be very interesting to watch it all unfold from monday. The north shore residents are most likely going to face the same problems with the Northern Express in the new network.

      1. Anyone observe the first morning in action @Otahuhu? It’s pretty huge so expecting it will cope. I was thinking that the timing of this new network opening and trains not up to speed is going to work out quite nicely in that: 1. We assume that we have initial drop in patronage, 2. Students (a big portion of users) are starting to and about to break for exams summer holidays. 3. Christmas holiday season in general has lower patronage.
        Once we get into the new year the new faster train timetable will hopefully kick in March/April as planned……should really get that in time for March madness.

    1. Why even bother with a 30 minute service? I reckon drop every other 30 minute service and make the rest all 15 minute ones.
      Even 15 minutes is pretty sad – hardly frequent. 10 minutes is the minimum for turn up and go IMO.

      1. There is still a need for coverage for those with less mobility, this couldn’t be achieved if we just got rid of all the connector services. Also it would mean we would pretty much have to get rid of late night services. There is nothing with less frequent services as long as they connect well, this is going to be the key to the success of the new network.

        1. For some reason AT and its predecessors have done nothing about the finest level of local transport linkages. Small suburban shuttles would certainly help those who struggle to walk half a kilometre uphill to a bus stop, but they would need ongoing subsidies to be viable and affordable.

    2. “Still not impressed about the connector service and local service, which runs every 30min – 60min”

      Thats either 30 or 60 minutes all day, seven days a week. Almost no bus routes do a consistent 30 minutes or better currently, so its definitely an improvement.

  12. Since the revelations of undeclared payments in excess of 40K to Patrick Reynolds, his desire to get a ticket onto the gravy train of the AT board, and the clear sucking up to AT that goes on here, I no longer consider this site to be a credible and unbiased commentator on whether or not any changes to anything are good or bad.

    Simply put, this site is now on credibility watch for selling out to AT.

    1. Hard to take you seriously when you make this comment in a post that contains some quite overt criticism of AT:

      ‘There are some other lingering issues with the NN that AT really do need to address, and which I’ll briefly mention here:

      AT’s rail service planning appears to have fallen off the tracks. This means the frequency of the rail timetable has not been improved to match the new bus network. This is technically somewhat interesting, because I understand the lack of frequent rail services contravenes the RPTP, which has some statutory weight. Anyway, the upshot is that while bus routes will operate frequently all day, they will connect to trains that do not (depending on the station). The updated train timetable isn’t due till March, i.e. 6 months after the NN rolls-out. Hopefully someone can rouse AT’s rail service planning team into action before the NN rolls-out to the next sub-region.
      In the south, a combination of consultation and budget savings saw an expansion of the frequent network from what was originally proposed. In contrast, the recently announced changes to the Isthmus network back-pedaled on NN design principles, and saw the retention of many duplicative existing routes, the Outer Link being the prime example. This necessitated a reduction in the coverage of the frequent network, especially on crosstown services, some of which have been downgraded and/or dropped altogether. It’s a shame AT’s NN nerve wavered in the Isthmus, which is the very part of Auckland where a frequent connective network is most beneficial.’

    2. Yeah ok, what undeclared payments? Patrick is a professional photographer, specializing in architectural photography. His company was paid a total of $41k over five years for contracted photography work, mostly shooting new train stations and the like. That would amount to a few percent of the company turnover for *half a decade*, not even one of his main clients.

      Furthermore, you realise the position Patrick was tapped for is an unpaid advisory role? That means volunteering his time for no money. Some gravy train!

      Also sucking up to AT, really? Are you reading the same blog here?!

    3. Lol you must be having a laugh. AT are implementing something we advocated them to do for years and it’s proof we sold out to them.

      As for Patrick, he applied for an unpaid position. Furthermore I don’t think anyone reading his or posts can class then as being overly friendly to AT. We criticise them regularly. If that’s selling out then AT are getting a pretty poor ROI.

    4. What a joke. You do realise Transport Blog is not a person and Patrick is only one of several commentators? it is a huge stretch of the imagination to think there is any corruption going on or any trains of gravy being boarded. I don’t agree with Patrick half the time, but I think he provides reasonable arguments backed with some form of data. From what I’ve seen, he is able to call out AT when they need it. He would provide a much needed alternate point of view on the board compared to all the really old white men in there.

    5. Others have already refuted your conspiracy theory. I would also like you to direct you to Transportblog’s User Guidelines. Your comment is potentially in breach of 3 (no ad hominems), 4 (discourage moaning about the blog), 6 (opinions are not facts), and 8ii (supporting evidence required). Please adhere to these user guidelines when commenting in the future.

      In addition, I would note that it is extremely hypocritical to be accusing someone of undeclared conflicts of interest while commenting under a pseudonym (discouraged, but not banned, by user guideline 2). Without knowing who you are, how can we know what your *real* motives are, anyway? For example, you could be a professional competitor to Patrick who’s trying to win photography contracts off him by running an online smear campaign. Admittedly, that’s not a *likely* scenario, but without knowing your identity we can’t rule it out.

    6. Successful photographer is on the gravy train if selected for AT board? You’ve got to be kidding me? From the creatives I know (quite a few considering my vocation), putting their hand up for this kind of posting would only be for something they feel very strongly about. Sitting in meetings for the sake of meetings is not one of their core strengths.

  13. Perhaps this is time for me to clarify. I applied for one of two vacant board positions earlier in the year. For the simple reason that to be on the board would be a natural extension of my advocacy for a better Auckland. The decision about the board role was delayed by the election, and there has subsequently been talk of some other kind of ‘observer’ role. My aim remains a full board position. I believe I have a lot to offer to the organisation and city at that level, precisely because I have not taken a traditional route to the board, and offer a different, yet very well informed perspective.

    All of the work I have done here and elsewhere for the city is pro bono, my time essentially funded by my photography business, a very small amount of that business has been with AT over five years. Some 40k incl gst. It is an extremely long stretch to find something corrupt in this.

  14. “the general experience is that patronage usually ends up higher”

    Was there any detailed modelling/calculations done on what sort of patronage change might be expected, and what were the assumptions going into that?

    I’m just thinking that the Christchurch bus network was reorganised based on similar principles (consolidating lots of low frequency routes into a few high frequency routes, requiring more transfers), but my understanding is that that hasn’t gone as well as what was originally predicted.

    1. Christchurch is not very comparable in many respects for obvious reasons. They don’t have an RTN, for example, and its a smaller city with shorter trip lengths and less congestion.

      PT models are variable at the best of times – don’t think it’d help in this instance as the NN arguably represents a step-change in service for many areas, so impacts are hard to predict.

      Look at greenbay changes is probably best. My hunch is we’ll see a 10% increase down south after 1-2 years, possibly increasing over time. This is in the context of an area where patronage was previously declining too,which should be considered.

      1. Christchurch does have an RTN, and it’s very visible on the street: the main sections of its core lettered routes run every 15 or 20 minutes every day with buses distinctively painted in their route colours of Blue, Purple, Yellow and Orange, with the Orbiter’s being green.

        And Christchurch does have traffic congestion!

        1. Christchurch doesn’t have an RTN (Rapid Transit Network) which is PT routes with Busway/Rail levels of dedicated transport infrastructure. In Auckland the Frequent Transport Network (FTN) encompasses the RTN and also the frequent bus routes running at a minimum of every 15 minutes, 7am-7pm, 7 days a week. In my view, 15 minutes is the absolute minimum for something to claim as frequent, 20 minutes is too crap to be counted. From a personal experience there’s also a huge and noticeable difference between every 15 minutes and every 10. This was highlighted well when peak services on the western line increased to 10 minute frequencies.

          1. Point taken – the Chch lettered/coloured route network is indeed Frequent rather than Rapid, and 20-minute headways (which a couple of the Chch routes have) are less passenger-friendly than 10 or 15 minutes – but still a great improvement over what was there before.

        2. The key definitions of a Rapid Transit Network is separation from other traffic (own RoW), and frequency (10 minutes minimum between services) and span of services (length of the day of operation). Auckland has the rail network and Northern Busway, mostly on their own RoWs, and these do have sufficient frequency for parts of the day to qualify as RTN, however the span of this quality of service is pretty poor, and indeed the quality of RoW is also weak in parts, and it is hardly a widespread or complete network. But it is certainly more like an RTN than anything achieved by the bus system in Christchurch.

          The CHCH system has the quality of AKL’s second tier FTN as its top service.

  15. Great to see the plan finally coming to concrete, it’s quite a mission I’m sure. Looking forward to seeing how this all is working once live a few weeks & how much uptake in patronage occurs. The biggest complaint about this blog making too many interesting posts so often, so I’m distracted from work yet again! Small note that quite a bit more will be transferring at Sylvia Park shopping centre. Can see a bigger set of bus stops needed there especially in winter. With the the connective network mode, big interchanges are great but I wonder if more emphasis could be put into designing things with smaller “micro interchanges”, not just a bus stop but bigger more well equipped ones, toilets and such for perhaps better transfer situations for places that are more restricted by weird terrain coastal areas etc…maybe like Browns Bay, Torbay..thinking off the top of my head here a bit now.

  16. With no improvements to the southern and eastern line timetables, and with no bus service north from there except to ellerslie station, or if you change to a longer bus service at the current otahuhu bus station, I’m glad I’m not going to be one caught in what is going to be a choke point at the otahuhu interchange during peak time.

  17. It’ll be interesting to see how this works out, and I’m surprised at a couple of things:

    a) until the train timetables are revised there will be a lot of poor bus/train connections, buses being on a 15/30/60-minute cycle, trains on a 10/20-minute one Mon-Fri and 30 minutes at weekends;
    b) despite connections being at the heart of the new network and many existing trips requiring a transfer, not a single connection is shown on any of the bus timetables.

    I would have thought that it would be important to get these things right from the word go.

    1. Yes I think the connections issue will be something that challenges AT. It means reliability is extra important. And that means bus lanes are extra important. Some around Otahuhu in particular?

      It will also be interesting to see how they respond internally. Typical transport silos see bus and rail planning in separate teams, which seems the be the case here. What you really need, perhaps, is a timetable manager whoss job is to scour the network and respond to issues with connections. Dirty work, but someone has to do it as it makes a huge difference to customers in the long run.

    2. Expert Mike if you’re talking about Otahuhu because of the two interlined services, the southern and the eastern, both running at 10/20 mins that means, for most journeys, an effective 5/10 frequency. Unless of course your destination is not Britomart, which by far the majority are. That is real turn up and go for the bulk of users.

      1. Yes, Otahuhu’s current train frequency is such that bus/train connections will work. But I suspect that will be little consolation to people changing between bus and train at the Manurewa, Manukau, Papakura and Papatoetoe interchanges, where the bus/train frequency disconnect will mean long waits, irrespective of timekeeping.

        It’s unfortunate that AT is telling the public that there is now one connected PT network, when in this important respect there continue to be two disconnected PT networks.

        1. I agree – the talk about bus rail integration doesn’t quite match the reality.

          In my experience, Auckland has gone through four stages of thinking on its PT network:
          1. Ignore wider network and instead focus on individual modes and routes (hitherto)
          2. Realise that you need a network, build interchanges accordingly (New Lynn, Panmure, Otahuhu etc), but don’t think too much about services
          3. Realise that connections require coordinated timetable planning, whereby bus/rail/ferry work together as a network (we’re only just getting to this point)
          4. True integrated network.

          IMO we’re only just at stage 3. The fact that the Southern NN is being delivered without an associated rail timetable change is indicative that internally AT are not (quite) yet set-up to deliver integrated PT outcomes. I should say that on the bright side we’ve come a long way as a city in the last few years, even if we’ve still got a wee way to go.

          So two steps forward one steps back kind of situation.

          1. In many ways we’re still at #2. Otahuhu looks fantastic but we haven’t built the interchanges to enable the new network to be properly implemented out west and I’m sure there will be lots of other examples of poor interchange facilities. Also lots of evidence we still don’t think a lot about services

    3. A couple of corrections to my earlier posts:

      a) interchange waits won’t be such an issue at Papatoetoe because, like Otahuhu, it has the benefit of being on both the Eastern and Southern lines – it’s stations on just one line that have sub-RTN headways off peak where the bus/train timetable disconnect will ensure longer waits;
      b) Pukekohe bus timetables do show the arrival/departure times of connecting trains, but with no indication of what this means in terms of arrival/departure at destination. What this does highlight, though, is lengthy connection times – 15 minutes off peak Mon-Fri in each direction for the three main feeder routes. Add to that the connection times at Papakura, and a return trip to north of there from the Pukekohe suburbs will mean waiting for the best part of an hour. Take a good book!

  18. For the New Network to be a success there also has to be a change to the printed timetable.

    The bus timetables need to show the connecting train times and the train timetables need to show the connecting buses.

    If that means making a book of timetables then so be it.

    1. Well that’s not the only way; the better way to run a transfer system is with sufficiently high enough frequency to render timetables largely irrelevant: who cares if the train that’s there is the 3:01 or 3:03? Especially as once on a bus or train you can’t make it got faster so knowing what it should connect to or not doesn’t really help.

      Generally a minimum of 10 minute frequency is considered ‘turh-up-and-go’, timetable free quality. Currently the peak train frequencies are there or better, but outside of those times, and especially at night and on weekends, then yes, full coordinated timetables are required.

      Extending 10 minute frequencies all day would be a much better thing to have timed with the launch of the New Network. But perhaps AT will get the benefit of people taking a while to adjust? The risks are that they may try to transfer outside of the peaks and find the wait is too long, or at the peaks and be met with a full train?

    2. Chris that would be helpful. Though I’d settle for the new timetable to be accurate -the one at my stop for the new network still had not been corrected today
      and is totally out even though the new network is now in effect. Mind you was other teething issues today (as might be expected I guess day 1) for a start the bus driver got lost
      and the bus that turned up at the stop I went to today at about the time I expected was actually the one that
      was supposed to be 25 mins earlier (hence the sea of people waiting, not so useful when there is a sum total of 3 of those morning busses!). Turns out the bus driver had
      got lost and done a loop of the block somewhere poor guy, there was a passenger sitting up the front helping him with the route when I got on – he seemed quite happy about that.
      Plus the sign was not working – so there was no destination or number either – but he stopped and called out what the route was (he was a nice guy).
      So yes connection times would be superhelpful in the long term but short term we need a little more work on the small day to day needs like:
      (a) timetables that show the accurate times (b) busses that travel the correct route and turn up on time (c) signs that work to show what bus it is.

      1. Same comments from tonight’s trip home. 15 mins late, bus turns up with the wrong sign – had a sign this time but since the one for our route would not load it was a random sign for a route that starts at Otahuhu rather than town (where we were). Anyway flagged it down and it was our bus – but empty as no doubt the previous people were still waiting for a bus that had the right sign. Driver got off at the wrong place and then tried to stop at a stop that was not part of the route. Teething issues but I really hope they manage to get the basics down soon – correct timetables, drivers knowing the routes, busses turning up on time, working signs showing correct trip. Also met a new passenger on our service today that has to commute 1 and a bit suburbs back to catch our bus into town now as hers is no longer in existence. And another whose connector service goes from 30 mins to hourly at 5.45 which is not such great timing for being a connecting bus to those getting back to from town, thats where keeping frequency up till at least 7 would be good for keeping customers (in fact I think they were more frequent later prev to new network ?! so thats interesting if thats the case).

        1. Hey JJay –

          Rather than posting here it’s probably best if you pass feedback onto AT rather than us, as we can’t do anything about it.

          Cheers,
          Stuart.

          1. Doing both 🙂 Apparently their call centres have been pretty busy since yesterday. But this is not simply about complaining about issues I just think its very relevant to post here – as it is a reflection of my points about how
            all the small details and inner workings of a system make a huge difference to how much uptake it gets – that is actually bigger picture stuff really. Goodwill and mutual respect go a long way and thats true for public transport too.
            From my perspective it will be small details and how well it works day to day that help people decide if its for them. The less issues like this the more we move forward – so highlighting these little
            but important details is actually very valid – and in fact I was hoping a point for discussion as I am very interested in how the day to day workings of the system affect peoples
            overall logistics choices, quality of life and even wider work/life choices (and indeed perceptions of work-life balance).

          2. Oh and in reply to Jean re the concerns on bus drivers I just wanted to say over the last 2 days the drivers we have come across have been amazingly nice under what would be stressful circumstances and copping a bit of flak.
            Yes they are confused about routes and there have been hicups with many things etc but they have been genuinely nice to passengers and managed to deal with what would have been so much pressure as the most public
            facing arm of the new roll out, they have also innovated (e.g. paper signs) etc when faced with issues – really tried hard for us. Hats off to them – I certainly hope they are getting paid a reasonable wage Jean they deserve it- well done to them.

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