The new bus network is the right approach but it will only work if implemented well. So far there are some positive looking numbers.

  • Train boardings at Otahuhu and Manukau have increased, with Otahuhu doubling over the first three weeks of operation;
  • Total transfers across South Auckland up by 147%,
  • Bus/bus transfer up by 94%
  • Bus/train transfers up by 207%.

Although what would be more useful to know is if this was resulting in more people actually using PT.

While mostly the change appears to have gone relatively well, and it’s good to hear, not everything has. We’ve been hearing reports of issues with some buses and some of these were highlighted in this article.

But some of them specifically identified the 309 route as having issues ranging from break downs, to lateness and drivers getting lost.

An opinion piece on the new network singled out route for the same issues. In particular, buses were late or didn’t show up.

In one case a bus breakdown meant a 45 minute way for regular commuters. Occasionally some of the bus doors would not open automatically.

One woman wrote on Neighbourly that the bus had always run late every time she went to catch it.

The connector service runs from Mangere Bridge to the city via Mangere Bridge and Onehunga. It’s scheduled to run every 30 minutes.

Issues such as a lack of bus lanes are are almost certainly impacting on the network and I’ve heard that significant additional buses have needed to be run to maintain timetables. The cost of doing that will almost certainly be eating into the $3 million annual savings AT touted back in February. Getting on top of this and ensuring the operators are performing well, including knowing the routes is critical.

Worryingly though, it seems there’s some passing of the buck going on

A spokesperson for Auckland Transport couldn’t comment on the specific issues relating to the bus or the route, instead saying the contractor was the best to comment on it.

Go Bus, who is contracted to run the service, declined to comment. It says Auckland Transport sets the route and timetable and should comment.

It offered no comment on bus break downs or issues with doors not opening.

Both the AT and the operator pointing fingers at each other is a terrible look. AT have continually shifted to take greater control of the PT network, as they should, but with that also comes responsibility. As a user I and I’m sure all others don’t care who the operator is, our relationship is with AT and that’s who should take responsibility here.

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41 comments

  1. I have been trying out the new network. Not terrible but not great. The buses are constantly late. One day the bus was running late 20min and the driver picked me up but then right after he got a call from HQ to go direct to the end point because he was running so late. He kicked me out so he could get there quicker and told me to catch the next bus. I’ll probably go back to driving my car to the city.

    The trains are great though. I haven’t encountered a cancellation yet. I’m not sure what I will do when that happens.

  2. ” I’ve heard that significant additional buses have needed to be run to maintain timetables. The cost of doing that will almost certainly be eating into the $3 million annual savings AT touted back in February.”
    Not entirely negative – the extra buses being run either increase frequency, capacity or both. If the demand is there then that is a good thing. But yes the main point about more bus lanes is important particularly in key areas where buses are held up.

    Speaking of buslanes or rather the lack of them, would it not make sense to paint those hatched yellow no blocking lines beside bus stops on roads that are subject to heavy traffic to allow for buses to exit easily from a bus stop rather than waiting for cars to clear a space for them?

    1. Nope, running three buses to achieve two buses per hour from A to B and back is no more capactiy than managing it with two. You still only manage two busloads of people per hour.

  3. Of course bus priority is needed, but clearly paint is more expensive than blaming the contractor. If the buses didn’t get stuck in traffic thay could run on schedule.

    It’s a pity that AT still thinks their main responsibility is to move cars not people.

  4. Otahuhu station doesn’t have an escalator. Rather than a very large $30 million building I think a smaller, cheaper, more user friendly structure with an escalator would have been much more attractive.
    The walk from the traffic lights at the corner of Station Rd is very indirect to go to either the northern or southern end of the platform unless you cut across the garden. Then most people wont want to use the pedestrian crossing.
    And to get across to the northern end (yet unopened) will be difficult. There is no crossing and people will be walking over the garden and then jay walking dodging the many buses. I hope they will install a place to tag on at the northern end (it was removed) as it is a very long platform (100 meters) to have to then walk to the other end to do it.

  5. I don’t think AT even want to move cars. Otherwise Onewa to Market Rd and Ellerslie to Botany wouldn’t take as long to drive as Market Rd to Greenlane….

  6. The new network is a brilliant strategy. They can carry the same number of people as before but because they have to transfer AT can count them twice. The patronage statistics will look better than ever.

    1. this is why monthly board reports include statistics based on passenger-kilometres as well.

      But you’re not incorrect that we should be measuring journeys rather than boardings. Problem is that would reduce the opportuity for historical comparisons.

    1. We are in mangere bridge and my flatmate commented about really late buses in the morning peak with none turning up for 30-45 minutes in the first week. It must be not enough ‘fat’ in the system between routes and new company and drivers not knowing what they are doing. The previous service was generally okay, but still in mangere bridge there are no turn up and go frequencies yet. Only 30 minute frequency. And the connectivity between transfers are not well timed. Takes an hour to get to otahuhu 6km away – two transfers. Maybe it will improve one day, fingers are crossed.

  7. Good luck with that. I have had to make three complaints over the last year about buses with no air conditioning.

    All AT do is respond to the complaint, not the wider issue of operators failing to maintain their vehicles.

    Truly pathetic.

  8. As far as patronage is concerned, I’ve been a bit disappointed with the numbers on some of the southern buses I’ve been on. Biut the 309 seems to do pretty well (though I suspect many of the pax are pax who would otherwise have used the 302/312)

  9. For me, the fundamental question is why would AT roll out a new network that apparently had little likelihood of success? Preliminary work must have shown that buses would become stuck in traffic and therefore not meet schedules. Is there any determination to make it work? (As an aside I am constantly amazed at the high reliability figures that are posted for bus services. It is my very frequent experience that there are services that just don’t arrive and others that are significantly late.. I imagine that the non arrivals don’t get reported as late because if they don’t commence then how can they be late?)

    Absolutely there needs to be more bus lanes. There are always options if you are driving a car. If you don’t want to travel a certain route because it has become congested due to bus lanes then don’t. Eventually AT will have to decide whether they want buses to work, or they don’t. The figures for other than the RTN suggest that at the moment they don’t give a shit.

    1. “the fundamental question is why would AT roll out a new network that apparently had little likelihood of success”

      You seem to be drawing conclusions from what appears to be an short-lived issue. Perhaps traffic conditions have changed since AT developed the timetables? Perhaps the operator is not allowing enough recovery time in their schedules? Who knows. The main thing is not whether issues arise, it’s how long they take to fix when they do.

      In this case, the NN has been operating for about 6 weeks. May I suggest we AT and the operator a little longer, say 3-6 months, before drawing firm conclusions on what they could have done better?

  10. “Go Bus, who is contracted to run the service, declined to comment. It says Auckland Transport sets the route and timetable and should comment.”

    This is a very strange comment from Go Bus. While it is true that AT set the route and timetable, GoBus commit (in their tender) to running the network in accordance with certain KPIs, such as punctuality and customer feedback. One would think, then, that there is a shared responsibility to get on top of these issues.

    I would have thought that a comment along the lines of “where we are informed of reliability issues, then we will work with AT to resolve the issues as best we can” would be a more reasonable response.

  11. And more importantly from today’s press, traffic gridlock at the airport. It’s ironic that Minister Roads and Bridges is crowing about the new link from Puhoi to Wellsford or wherever -and frankly who cares where it is because it is so unimportant. (What really matters if someone or something gets to Whangerei ten minutes faster -is the government trying to create a better experience for a can of baked beans?) And yet at our biggest international airport there is not even the hint of a rapid transport system that will quickly move people in and out of the airport. What must have been the economic costs of today’s situation alone with planes sittings on runways and passengers forced to miss connections.

    Let’s hope that this new government pushes ideology and vote catching out of the way and builds some projects that will capitalise on economy of scale. The CRL is only the start of an effective public transport system; not the end point as seems to be near term thinking.

    1. Auckland Airport is more interested in building shops than sorting out its internal roading system.
      The domestic terminal is diabolical.
      As for a rapid transport system; the opportunity was lost when the Onehunga Line was terminated at Onehunga Station and not carried across the harbour while the new Mangere Bridge was built.

      1. An opportunity lost Vance. They still have opportunities from either Otahuhu or Puhinui (or both). With the stroke of a pen a link to Puhiniui could be built very quickly over greenfields and for under $1B.

        1. +1 Light rail Botany-Puhinui-AIAL is the obvious choice and should start tomorrow. it would be fully grade separated from Puhinui to AIAL to so would be ludicrously fast.

  12. “Perhaps traffic conditions have changed since AT developed the timetables?”
    Stu, this is exactly one of the points that I am making. If AT puts buses on busy roads sharing with other road users there is always the possibility that there will be congestion issues at some stage. It is almost certain that with intensification of housing that the roads will be more congested; and of course the consequence is that buses will travel more slowly.
    Of course every bus route cannot have a bus lane, but AT should be thinking more closely of which ones can.
    Alternatively the community might decide that for the good of the community, we decide to invest significantly more in public transport as happens in many parts of Europe. For many this will just represent a re-balancing where, because of the public investment, personally they need to invest less in transport e’g’ one car instead of two; none instead of one.

    I am glad that you have confidence in AT regarding public transport. I don’t. That starts with the comparatively small amount devoted to PT in the budget; to my own experience of trying to make simple trips on the North Shore with any degree of rapidity. (And I don’t expect walk on -walk off).

    1. I support your comments on the need for bus lanes.

      I don’t support the speed with which you are judging AT’s performance with regards to rolling out the NN. Note that this is nothing to do with having confidence in their capabilities, or otherwise, but simply about giving AT a reasonable amount of time to respond/address to the issues that arise.

      I note that in the south AT have rolled out a New Network, with a new operator, all under a new contracting system, which includes new roles and responsibilities and KPIs. That’s a perfect storm of change, which I think creates the need for a bit of patience when it comes to judging performance.

      Your statements seem to imply that AT could have foreseen all the possible issues in advance. I think that’s somewhat unfair, given the complexities of the situation. It may be, for example, that demands are higher than anticipated, leading to longer boarding times, slower run-times, and lower reliability.

      I personally don’t know what the actual issues are — but let’s at least wait for a couple of months, until we have some data, before we start apportioning blame. of course, if the buses are empty, then we need to start looking elsewhere for explanations.

  13. Stu, I take your points. I come from a background of managing significant start ups in the private sector and I know that our customer base would not tolerate issues over a protracted period.
    Like you I don’t know what the issues are. I also don’t know why our trains have such slow door closing and why they crawl out of Britomart. What I do know is that when I travel on public transport even in developing countries they seem to do it so much better. But we know that. The clever bus ways in Curitiba; that Buenos Aries has had subway since 1905 or something; and Chile has its thematic train stations. My passion is that Auckland can do things better because it makes sense on so many levels.

    1. Yes I can appreciate your frustrations. And I don’t want to give you the impression that I think they’re unreasonable. Auckland’s poor PT is actually one of the reasons why I live overseas; where the PT system is good enough to live without a car. Perhaps that enables me to be more sanguine about these issues?!?

      Whenever I get frustrated by Auckland’s PT I do try and keep in mind that we’re trying to do quite a lot all at once — largely due to decades of neglect and underinvestment. But my patience is time-limited; believe me, if these issues persist for say another 6-12 months then I’ll be mouthing off just as much as you. That’s why I like the title of this post: Niggles is a good way to think of them. They’re annoying, and it certainly sucks when they affect you, but we can tolerate them for a bit — provided we see some progress.

      I think you make an excellent point with regards to dwell-times: And that’s a good example on an issue where I have much less patience for AT. Mainly because it was 1) predictable in advance and 2) they’ve had plenty of time to find a solution. Similarly for the HOP card blacklisting. I personally don’t know why there’s not more political/media pressure on issues like dwell-times. The reality is that that Auckland’s new EMUs are slower than diesel units from the 1960s, and it’s mainly because of the dwell-times.

      Similarly with bus lanes on Mt Eden Rd. I guess the lack of media interest is a consequence of PT being so marginalised for so long? I hope this is another thing that changes as PT grows. In fact, if you take a long run perspective having articles in the newspapers criticising AT for when PT goes wrong is a good thing, because at least it signals that people are interested in getting it right!

      So please maintain your energy and passion for better PT. I like it :).

  14. Two too many, but probably equal to the number of incidents in dairies in west and south Auckland and in bars on K Road; and undoubtedly way less than the number of injuries on Aucklands’ roads..
    It tax cuts are the governments priority and not adequate policing, among other things, then sadly this will continue to happen.

    1. They should handcuff the little (or not so little) sh*ts in public where they can be embarrassed publicly for their behaviour.

  15. How many security cameras on the trains? Several that I’ve seen.
    Same with the stations.
    Photos of the perpetrators should be released to the media and bans from the network for those found guilty of vandalism.
    I’ve seen trains recently with every seat in the area I’ve been seated that have been tagged.
    Another train was graffitied the entire length of the train.
    Auckland Transport should be required to reveal the number of prosecutions there have been for vandalism in the last couple of years.
    They should also explain what they intend to reduce these attacks.

    1. +1. The impression the public gets is that AT don’t really give a rats about the damage as their is a budget for that. Of course what should really be happening is that they should be aiming to not spend that budget by reducing damage and/or prosecuting it.

  16. Good news I see in the paper that new Mayor Goff has pulled the gloves off and is giving the CCOs a shakeup and given them a clear message that they work for the council.
    Particularly mentioned is that he wants AT to speed up trains with a focus on reducing dwell times!!! Hooray!
    Save 30seconds at each stop and you Rd just speed trip times up by 5-10 mins!

          1. The units with plug doors in Melbourne seem to work quick enough. I think 30 is bold but if they can’t save 15 – 20 secs that’s pathetic.

  17. And Phil Goff says more bus lanes and a far greater emphasis on public transport generally. Finally we have a leader that recognises that a strong public transport network is needed to reduce congestion, or at least stop it increasing. (Although credit to Len for the CRL).

    I understand that the population of Takapuna is to grow four fold. Clearly they won’t all be able to leave via Esmonde Road in a car of any description.

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