I recently had some surgery, and as a result I’ve temporarily had mobility issues. From a transport perspective it has been an illuminating experience. I’ve discovered some great, as well as some not so great, things on the network from an mobility point of view. I thought I’d share them as making public transport more accessible will help to make it more useful to more people.

  1. The accessibility markings at some stations are a lifesaver: it means that I know where to wait, instead of having to slowly move towards the middle carriage which has a low floor and a ramp. It’s also great for other users as it helps lower dwell times. However, it would be nice if there was a system that showed if the next train was going to be 3 or 6 cars long, so you know you’re in the right place for the train that’s coming. Some overseas networks have systems like this.

    Platform Markings at some stations
  2. People are mostly friendly and are understanding about seats. When they’re not, though, it’s usually it’s more self-absorption rather than malice.
  3. People don’t always pick up that you have mobility issues. Not everyone with mobility issues has a cane/walker/wheelchair, but any prolonged standing can be painful. Many people have chronic issues that may not be visible. I had this issue with drivers looking at me for a while when I needed the bus to kneel, or a driver holding me up because my card double-read so she thought I was fare evading when all I wanted to do is really sit down. There was a great article about this recently in Citylab called “What it is Like to Commute with an Invisible Illness”. I highly recommend it.
  4. The lack of communication that exists within the system can make multiple trips hard. For example, a train manager can’t communicate that a passenger might be wanting to transfer to a bus. This often results in rushed transfers or requiring a large time contingency for trips. This is an issue that can be improved with more frequent services.
  5. The City Rail Link and the New Network for buses will make accessing the central city much easier. Currently it is hard for me to get to Uptown or Midtown due to being unable to walk any distances. This means I either have to find a service to transfer to, or not take the trip. Having Aotea Station & K’ Road Station will massively increase the accessibility of the city centre. With the New Network, greater frequency routes (especially crosstown) will also improve mobility.
  6. Some of the older buses are tough to use, and even when I’m in good health they almost require me to jump to get on board. This is accentuated when you have mobility issues so I can’t wait till all buses have better accessibility built in.

I am lucky enough that I will be well soon. However, for people with strollers, permanent mobility issues, or other people like me going through a recovery period, getting this right is imperative. Because building an accessible city benefits you as well. If our public transport is easy for people with mobility issues, it’s easy for those without them too.

Have you experienced our transport system with a mobility issue? What were your experiences? Perhaps you’d even like to share them in a guest post!

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47 comments

  1. I once rode the 881 standing from smales to the uni on crutches and not one seated asshole offered me a seat. Kiwis generally have appalling transit etiquette.

    1. The solution to this is generally a mixture of education and shaming – some people are sufficiently oblivious or selfish that only strong and sustained social pressure changes their behaviour.

      As to the transport system, accessibility is a human right rather than a nice-to-have. New Zealand is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and considers itself a leader. In practical terms that means replacing and altering parts of the system that cause issues before they’ve reached their end of life (which is often extended by many years).

    2. As Harriet indicated above perhaps “it’s more self-absorption rather than malice”. I had the pleasure of a moon boot for 8 weeks and was rarely offered a seat, but I suspect that most fellow travellers didn’t even notice.

      1. Yes I’ve had a similar couple of experiences recently (also in a moon boot from a fractured ankle).

        Manukau Station: The train manager closed the door as I was hobling to the train, like quite literally 5 seconds before I got to the door, as the doors were closing I pointed down at my moon boot, to show her that I couldn’t run, she just shrugged as the doors closed. All the more frustrating when I look up at the display and the doors have closed 15 seconds before the ‘actual departing time’.

        Puhinui Station: Have had train managers hold the doors open for 5-10 more seconds to allow people transferring between southern/eastern lines. Makes such a difference!

        The hurried nature of transfers either at bus stations or train stations is really difficult if you cannot sometimes run.

        Transport during the peaks is often difficult as that’s when services are the busiest and most seem to be in a rush to get on/off the train or bus.

        1. Yeah I quite often see this, apparently the TM’s are supposed to wait for the time displayed on PIDS before closing all the doors, but they often don’t and i’ve still seen departures as early as 3 min before schedule lately. But hey, at least its not as bad as buses, seen as much as 25 min early mid-route. Whats up with Auckland transit operators and not sticking to timetables… late is understandable but early is irritating and unnecessary.

          1. Happened again this morning at Puhinui – Transferring from the southern (north bound) to the eastern (manukau bound) – As the north bound train doors open, the manukau bound train doors close 🙁 Walk around to the platform and look up at the display time and yep, 30 seconds before departure time. Obviously not a big deal in terms of leaving early, but an annoyance to the 6 odd people that just have to wait another 10mins for the next train.

          2. Some weeks ago I was catching the same train that most of the St Peter’s pupils catch in the afternoon. For some reason a number of the regular pupils (I catch a lot of these trains) were a bit late, and one of them was standing by the doorway. One of the older (I think) pupils noticed there was still someone missing and directed the one by the door to open it as it closed. Their friend got in.

            Pretty much as soon as we were leaving the TM comes along to where we were and reprimands the pupil who opened the closing door. The one who directed him to open it made two defences when his friends brought up his culpability. I am not convinced of the truth of either, but anyway (1) the dude in the door was going to prevent it from closing anyway and (2) the train should have been waiting longer to match the timetable anyway.

            If you know anything about the train habits of the St Peter’s pupils you see immediately why there is a problem here if (2) really was true. Newmarket is not just a major stop but it is also one of several stops where the timetable is not just indicative, but theoretically meant to describe “the train will leave the station no earlier than [time]”. At (most) other stations the specified time is just a thing, but not here.

    3. I have opposite experience on the buses. Quite a few times on various routes I offered a seat to few persons (as part of my culture and upbringing). almost every time the offer was turned down with a few words which were indicative as if I was committing some sort of crime by offering the seat and challenging the self respect of the person. I stopped offering the seat to”any one in this country”

      1. Agree I saw someone probably in their mid-to-late fifties berate a teenager for offering them their seat, probably ensured the teenager wont do it again in a hurry.

        I always take seats offered by schoolkids even if I don’t want to sit down as it encourages good manners if nothing else.

      2. Yep I have had that before, offered a seat just to get frowned at. Also had the opposite happen and have some guy yell at me for not offering my seat to an older guy boarding even though there were other priority seats available…

        There is also cases where the bus/train is so packed those who need seats can’t even reach them/those in the seats can’t stand up. Only way to offer a constant experience is increase capacity I guess, i.e. double decks, light rail, 6-car trains etc.

  2. I think I have the opposite situation, Harriet. I’ve just had a hip replacement and can stand and walk a reasonable distance, but cannot sit. Probably the crutches are a giveaway and I find that fellow passengers are very kind and offer me a seat, even though I’d rather stand and lean against the padded thingy that AT helpfully have in all their link buses. What I do find frustrating is the unpredictability of the Link services. Even with the dynamic signs and TrackMyBus on my phone, I don’t know whether it’s going to take me 1/4 hour or 3/4 hour to get from Beach Rd to Victoria St West. I always knew it was 20 mins walking.

  3. Part of the problem is the way the buses inevitably lose their ten-minute spacings and can then end up sitting at the bottom of Queen St for a long period to get back on track. But also there seems to be no info about when the Citylink service coming from Wynyard Quarter is going to end up in Queen St. And the 7150 bus-stop in Queen St had a dynamic display that was frozen for at least three weeks. It indicated that there were several services due shortly but the next Inner Link was 20 minutes away. When a sign breaks down it should be switched off altogether or have a temporary sticker saying: “Ignore this sign – It is bullshit.”

  4. Finally: AT should take a look at the uphill bus-stop at the bottom of Anzac Ave. The site alongside part of it is currently being developed, so there may be an opportunity to make some improvement to a travesty of a bus-stop that has just about everything possibly wrong with it. Ironically it was installed/improved by AT and Kevin Brewer as part of the CTC project just a few years ago. It is scary to navigate on crutches, and I imagine if a mobility scooter ever tried to use this bit of footpath it would simply roll over.

      1. Closed!!? That is a very popular stop and that would mean no stop between Britomart and University.
        To channel my inner McEnroe: you can’t be serious.

      2. Not sure if you’re thinking about removing that stop, but that stop is very handy for transfers to Uni/hospital/Khyber Pass. Anyone coming from the North Shore where 881 doesn’t go, is best to make his/her way to the bottom of Anzac, so that they can transfer onto any of the Symonds St buses going up. It’s impossible to do that around the Britomart area due to the sheer number of services departing from stops scattered all around the place. Bottom of Anzac is good because they all stop there. This also applies for people transferring from train to go up Symonds St too (exit Britomart via Westpac building exit, walk to bottom of Anzac).

  5. I challenge all of your brilliant readers to nominate their worst bus-stops, so we can compile a top ten list of the worst bus-stops in Auckland.

        1. OMG ! At least a mobility scooter could pass through it, but do the bus patrons need jump training to use it? What happens if they miss the landing?

        1. I couldn’t agree more.
          It took me nearly 6 months of running between AT and NZTA to get the bus stop opposite it re painted so the tradie’s would stop parking in it (and abusing me when I asked them to stop doing so).

          My other nomination would be the 3 brand new bus stops that were placed on Fernhill Drive at Westgate mall. In a place which has never been a bus stop and never will be. Good place to eat your lunch if you are working the area I guess. But hardly a good use of $.

          1. Whoops…

            That should have been “bus shelter”, not bus stop. Yep, 3 brand new bus shelters never used for their purpose while others would love some shelter at actual bus stops.

  6. Slightly different topic, but found the other weekend travelling with wife & 2 bikes, each leg of the journey there and back was painfully awkward with people using the seats where you could hold your bike etc, ended up standing up to hold etc, only one has the ties for them, would be good if the disabled ones had those ties too. In retrospect should of asked some of them to kindly move so could sit together etc/hold bike. In all cases I think they were oblivious to the issue and one was a young mother with kiddy or two so bit debateable weather to ask her to move down a bit or something. People tend to go to the middle cars as it’s where the train stops where most are waiting, teenages often come on and plonk down one of the disabled area seats & sit on it.

  7. Please consider looking at Axsmap (dot com). It is a website and phone app that is primarily for rating the accessibility of businesses but also covers bus stops, train stations etc. It currently does not have much uptake, but if people rate the stores and transport stops that they use as part of their everyday life then it would certainly increase its value to people in planning their journeys. Note that as I am not currently living in NZ that I haven’t provided any ratings yet for Auckland.

  8. Like you I had reasonably major surgery (with pre and post drugs that wiped out a lot of red blood cells to add into the mix) a few years back that really opened my eyes to access issues that I’d only thought of in passing.

    I mainly walk places- my work is only 1 km from home- but even short distances became hard and I wasn’t fast which adds a lot of excitement to crossing even minor roads given the speed some drivers travel. I’d often get the bus just to avoid this and the hill climb.

    I did once get the bus into the city, to take the children to the movies and almost didn’t make it. Unless you are fully fit it isn’t safe to cross the road on Mayoral Drive outside the Aotea Centre where western buses stop. The road can be clear to the north but cars come at such speed it isn’t possible to cross in time.

  9. Pushing someone around central Auckland on a wheel chair recently drove home how terrible the footpaths are. Right next door of course are glistening smooth streets for cars. Meanwhile, there are either no pram ramps, no crossings to be found, and terrible surfaces making it a pretty unpleasant experience. Not to mention cars parked blocking the way on off footpaths or even continuing along. Think it’s bad as a pedestrian Auckland, it’s even worse when in a wheelchair.

    1. I started to collect material for a potential aucklandsfootpathsareshit.com in the early 2000s, but then moved overseas. One post was going to be my walk to work from Ronayne St to Shortland St. Even that short walk had dozens of issues, including deep holes with nothing but a piece of 4×2 stuck in them to warn pedestrians… and this was not during a period of construction or repair. That was BAU.

      1. Ronayne to Shortland. Is that Alten St you mention where a deep hole was marked by a piece of 4×2? My wife once saw a pedestrian fall over and wreck her ankle in that hole.

    2. Becoming a new dad last year has made me aware of how bad footpaths are in Auckland. One thing I will say with AT is they are pretty good at responding if you call in a car parked on the footpath. It would be fair to say there are a few less in my neighbourhood since I started dobbing them in.

      1. I had the opposite experience with AT reporting contractors parking all day in the 10 minute parking outside my sons special needs school, two and a half weeks of reporting them everyday (some days more than once) with no result. Two pictures emailed to the Herald sideswipe and the vehicles were gone, two AT cars patrolling the streets and a parking warden outside the school.

  10. I’m currently on a trip around some Northern European cities, and I’ve noticed that in some of them the buses kneel for passengers all the time – possibly this is automated when the doors open? Even for the non-mobility-impaired, being able to step onto a bus almost at kerb level is really great. How about AT specifies this for all new buses?

  11. On the trains in Singapore there are signs above some seats indicating they are for the elderly or mobility impaired . In my experience they were always honoured.

  12. Wow – I think we’ve already got a brilliant Top Ten ! I was tempted to mention one out in Hobsonville Rd, which had never been removed after West Harbour suburb was developed and the ARC bus people decided that a slow winding circuit through all the spaghetti street patterns would serve the locals better. When Adshel came along they weren’t interested in providing any shelters on the West Harbour route, but they jumped at the opportunity of putting one on the obsolete stop on Hobsonville Rd. Their illuminated roadside ads are generally aimed at passing motorists rather than poor bus passengers. Thanks to the AT bus guys implementation of sensible new networks, however, I think Adshel’s Hobsonville Rd shelter is now useful at last.

  13. A timely post thanks Harriet.

    I sent a comment to AT after the Easter Railbus fiasco where the buses from South didn’t come within cooee of making the connection at Penrose.

    My comment was more about the unsuitable nature of train to bus transfers at Penrose for slightly mobility impaired 68 year olds like me. I suggested that railbuses should be run end to end rather than part way to cater for people like me.

  14. Great article Harriet, I had a similar experience when I was on crutches a few years back. The issues I came across were –
    Buses – I was mostly catching the inner and outer link and most of the time the experience was positive. However people did sometimes need to be prompted to move from the front seats, drivers sometimes took off before I was seated and buses were regularly late or didn’t turn up at all.
    Walking – I completely took for granted the ability to break into a run to get across roads ahead of traffic if I needed to. I had no idea quite how slow getting around is if you cant jaywalk. On crutches I noticed that many streets have long swathes of often four lane roads without pedestrian crossings. If you are at all slow on your feet our the distance you can walk is compromised you simply cant cross. We also have a lot of intersections where you cant get across in one crossing cycle (i.e. Fanshawe / Halsey) which makes a slow trip on crutches even slower.
    ACC – I found that neither my doctors nor ACC were up front about what support I could get to help me get around I caught the bus for three weeks on crutches (at considerable risk) before I found out through a friend that ACC pay for taxi to work or the doctors. ACC also made it as hard as possible to access support and seem to assume you are out to defraud them.

  15. When I was pregnant I was mostly offered seats – but even when heavily pregnant I had some people oblivious. I couldn’t stand for long so I would have to ask them if I could sit. Sometimes they’re just too occupied to notice, sometimes I think they’re pretending not to notice! Every time a polite ‘excuse me’ was enough for then to move.

    All but one of the bus drivers were nice and gave me plenty of time to sit down/get up and off.

    My main accessibility issue was some of the bus stops – they’re just too long! In particular (on Takapuna local route from midtown) Mayoral drive outside AUT, Wellesley Street, Victoria Park (especially Vic park!). When you can only hobble along do you wait at the start only for all the buses to arrive and then yours is the last one and they drive off before you have time to get to the other end of the stop, or wait at middle/end and then the stop is empty and your bus whizzes up to the front. I missed the bus a couple of times because if the Mayoral Drive ones are running late they’ll stop only very briefly or sometimes not at all not giving me enough time to hop up and wave them down.

    1. Due to fear of causing various problems, it is not considered acceptable for many in our current society to assume or ask if someone is pregnant. Therefore, for people that didn’t offer you a seat they could be avoiding considering your situation, pregnant or obese?

  16. Just noticed today that the accessibility markings at Fruitvale Rd Station aren’t in the right place when the train is a 3-car unit. Would be fun for people needing step-free access to have to quickly move up an entire 3-car length to get to the place the train actually stops. I’m reporting this to AT now.

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