Public Transport that turn up late can be incredibly frustrating, and if it happens regularly and severely enough, it can put people off using PT services altogether. Monitoring if buses are on time is therefore a vitality important task for AT and if done right, can help identify where there are issues on the network or with how operators are doing their job. But correctly monitoring if buses turn up on time, also known as punctuality, is something that we’ve always struggled with and continue to do so.
Long-time readers may recall that in the past, Auckland Transport published each month punctuality and reliability (if buses turn up at all) statistics that would make a tinpot dictator proud. That’s because the results were based entirely on self-reporting by the operators. The foxes were guarding the hen house if you will and as such we would regularly see ridiculous results. The operators would tell AT they had over 99% of buses on time. Any regular user would likely instantly laugh at you if you tried telling them that result was accurate.
Then mid-2014, Auckland Transport mixed things up by moving to calculate the results based on the buses GPS location. This comes from the same system they use to display information on realtime signs. This had an immediate impact, dropping the results from 98.42% in June 2014 to 90.53% in July 2014. The number has improved in the last few years but it remains in the low 90s meaning that almost 1 in every 10 buses is late.
But while things have definitely improved from the old self-reporting days, we still have major issues with just how the number is reached. This is best explained here from AT’s stat’s report.
Punctuality is measured by the percentage of total scheduled services leaving their origin stop no more than one minute early or five minutes late.
In other words, as long as a bus leaves the first stop within 5 minutes of its scheduled time, it counts as one time. The major problem with that assumption is that most people don’t get on at the originating stop but further along the route. As such, by the time the bus reaches people further along the route, it could already be significantly late. The other PT services are now measured this way too, although for rail at least, AT also still publish the data using the old methodology – which counts services based on when they arrive at their destination vs the timetable. How we count reliability is something I’ll come back to.
Yesterday the herald published the results of an OIA by the Green Party into just how late buses are. What’s interesting is they had AT break the results down by route, allowing us to see just what the bad routes were.
Punctuality has always, publicly at least,
Ever wondered how often your bus arrives on time? Now, we can tell you.
New figures from all 280 bus services around Auckland show the percentage of time each service arrives within five minutes of its scheduled departure time.
Auckland Transport say the figures are improving and hit an all-time-high of 96.36 per cent of buses running on time in January.
But broken-down data, obtained by the Green Party under the Official Information Act, shows the most unreliable bus services include the popular Inner Link and routes on a new network introduced in South Auckland three months ago.
Three out of 10 Inner Link buses turn up late, as do many South Auckland routes, according to the figures.
Of the 20 worst bus routes across the Super City, 11 are in South Auckland where Auckland Transport trumpeted a simpler network, more buses and better fares last October.
With so many routes in South Auckland near the top of the list, surely its time for AT to start putting in some bus lanes around the place.
So just how could/should AT be reporting punctuality?
One option would be to adopt the strategy of Transport for New South Wales. Here’s how the bus operators reliability KPI is determined.
(i) At least 95% of Published Timetable Trips and Headway Trips commence each Trip On Time
(ii) At least 95% of Published Timetable Trips and Headway Trips leave the mid-point Transit Stop on each Trip On Time
(iii) <5% of Published Timetable Trips arrive at the last Transit Stop of each Trip Late
What I like about this method is that is that that it takes three measures into consideration for more a balanced result. This means its not just counting if a bus left on time but that it was also on time during it’s journey. This surely wouldn’t be too difficult for AT to do.
AT could report even more detailed information. Thomas Lumley recently built a small bot to check punctuality of the real-time info vs the timetable and tweet the results every 15 minutes. For an explanation of the bot, it’s worth reading Thomas’ post on the matter.
At Feb 02 21:57 I can see 159 buses with 76% on time pic.twitter.com/Oys23zhxM9
— tūreiti (@tuureiti) February 2, 2017
I don’t recall having seen the percentage on time over 80% since the bot started tweeting on 21-Jan and I’d suspect this probably better reflects people’s experiences with the bus network. Either way it’s clearly possible to report the results better.
Ultimately the thing that causes the most for buses to run late is other drivers on the road – also known as congestion. The solution to that of course is to put in more bus lanes so that buses don’t get caught up in it. The map below is a year or more old now but shows where bus/transit lanes exist or are planned. On the isthmus there is generally good coverage of bus lanes, although the existing lanes could still be much better than they are today.
What do you think about bus punctuality and how should AT report it?