Earlier this year the NZTA released their interim alternative to Light Rail the Advance Bus Solution. We felt the report had a large number of flaws for the QueenSt-Dominion Road-Airport corridor it was proposed along. These were outlined in Matt’s post on the ABS Study and included:

  • A bus a minute on Queen St
  • Not explaining where North Shore/Mt Eden Buses go
  • Having express buses overtake by passing onto the other side of the road, even with a bus a minute frequencies
  • How they planned to loop and recover large articulated buses around Lower Albert/Commerce

However were there some elements of ABS Study which could be applied on other routes such as the Eastern Busway (AMETI), Pakuranga Rd or the Henderson – Constellation BRT. One example that came to my mind from the study that could be used on these corridors was median running alignments – running the buses in the middle of the road rather than at the edge. Median running running is often superior to kerbside alignments due to fewer conflicts, especially no conflicts with left-hand turns.

Rail systems get around this with doors on both sides (allowing more space efficient island platforms) but it is not so easy for traditional buses with doors only on the left. One of the potentially useful solutions proposed in the ABS were a new design of buses like Boston Healthlines services which do have doors on both sides allowing both island & kerbside stops. Perhaps something similar could be tried here.

BRT – Doors on both sides

The study also showed modern buses designed with the feel/accessibility of an light rail vehicle. They have slightly higher capacity than a standard bus (110 passengers odd compared to 60), different seating arrangements, more/larger doors & single deck to decrease dwell times, as well as being bi-directional making re-staging much easier. One example is the Van Hool ExquiCity Buses made in Belgium. These buses allow you to pick from a large choice of differing power types from Battery, Inductive Charging, Conductive Charging, Diesel-Hybrid, Fuel Cell, Trolley, or CNG-Hybrid which are much better for public amenity as well as for the environment.

Van Hool Exqui City

Another idea from the ABS study which could translate well on these BRT routes is off door boarding, with stops being more like stations. Off door boarding is highly feasible and would be similar to the train, with tag points at the station or you could tag on at any door. This, alongside single decker buses with larger/more doors could drastically cut dwell times for services and ultimately speeding them up. The Webster Ave Trial in New York city led to impressive improvements, according to NACTO:

Comparing service from a year before installation to a year after, bus travel times through the corridor dropped 19% to 23% for rapid buses. A Bx41 SBS trip during the PM peak fell to 40 minutes, compared to 52 minutes on the previously operated Bx41 Limited. The local bus also saw benefits, with trip times reduced by 11 to 17%

as well as San Francisco

San Francisco shows the specific benefit of all-door boarding. At busy stops, a 38% reduction in entry/exit time was found for buses: 1.5 seconds per customer, in a system with 100 boardings per bus in the peak hour. Transit travel speeds increased 2% on average after implementation. Coupled with improved enforcement, fare evasion dropped from 9.5% to 7.9%, reducing estimated fare loss nearly $2 million.

The NACTO – Transit Street Design guide highly recommends the implementation of all door boarding. Another great use of off-board is it allows the bus to be designed like an rail vehicle, where the bus driver compartment can be designed separately providing extra safety as well as piece of mind for the driver.

So while the ABS has some impractical ideas in regards to the specific route the report focused on, there were some great ideas that could be useful across the wider bus network and especially some of the other busway routes.

So what do think would you catch one of these buses potentially electric cruising past the traffic on the median lanes of Pakuranga Rd, or not?

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  1. Definitely not on Pakuranga Road or Ti Rakau, crossing multiple lanes of traffic to get to the median would be most unpleasant. Unless you do gold plated platforms with overbridges/subways.

    1. All depends on the design if done the standard Australian/Kiwi engineering way sure. But if more like European or NACTO standard then can be great.

      Some great examples of median running transit way boulevards in both NACTO Transit Street Design Guide & Global Street Design guide for example.

      1. If you live on the other side of the road you have to cross the main road anyway. Stations would be at or near traffic light controlled junctions.

        1. WIth bus stops in the median or on the side you have to cross the same number of lanes for a return trip anyway.

          With the median you cross half the road to get to the stop, and again half to get back from it.

          With normal side bus stops, you cross the whole road in one direction, and none in the other.

        2. Fair point. Locating it at light controlled intersections and designing it to NACTO standards would work. So some light-controlled upgrades at Williams Road, Pak Plaza, Marriott Road, Gossamer, and Bot could work for Stage 2

        3. The Council the other week also recently endorsed the NACTO guides, and ADO/AT are working on an Auckland version based on it to meet our needs such as left hand drive, Mana Whenua etc.

    2. I’m pretty sure the existing AMETI plans have median running along Ti Rakau Drive. It would be good if this was the case for Pakuranga Rd as well.

      I don’t think it should be called BRT if it is just using the left hand lane on each side, unless it is on a stretch of road with no intersections or driveways.

  2. With our existing single entry buses is there a fare evasion problem? Would new multidoor longer buses using a station with tag on/off posts not just be a fare evaders best wish, much like the trains are right now? Then we are into TIs, Transport police and maybe conductors (bus managers) again?

    1. Other countries are implementing this system and its working great for them as per two examples in post from NACTO. All door boarding is really considered best practice now for major routes.

      Its also a trade off since faster services = lower OPEX costs or allows you to run more services for the same OPEX. More services/faster services = larger passenger growth chance which helps with your Farebox recovery for services.

    2. Depends how you run it. You can have gated stations with a bus just as easily as any other mode. For example the northern busway stations and all the main stop in the city centre.

      And you can do it on the fly anywhere as long as you have a marshall at the stop keeping an eye on the rear doors, which is what they do already at Britomart for the NEX.

      1. Just use the German approach – trust everyone but have severe consequence for breaches. They have very few gated stations and tickets are cheap enough that almost everyone has a monthly pass. Plain clothes inspectors check every route at least once every month and fare evaders are frog marched from trains in handcuffs and face a $500 fine.

        1. While the essence of this comment is accurate, you’re exaggerating. The fine is 60€ and the only time someone would be frog marched off in handcuffs would be if they had gotten violent or aggressive and the police were called. It’s a good system tho!

    3. Having everyone shuffle past a person will always have the lowest rate of fare evasion. However, it’s expensive and inefficient. As a paying passenger I don’t like fare evasion, however I dislike more having a slower journey than necessary. It is a trade-off.

    4. Anyone looked seriously at the costs of cutting fares altogether? Avoiding the whole cost of ticketing hardware, and administering AT HOP and concessions? Of course the induced demand would be huge… so it would have to be phased in to cope. Cut all but minimum funding to roading, and bite the bullet.

      Just wondering about serious analysis; I know philosophically it’s the right thing to do.

      1. After you reduce fares beyond a certain point you get high diminishing returns this was tried in Estonia in Tallinn. After a certain point it is much better to roll the fares back into more services/upgrades than reduce fares, though reduced shoulder/off peak fares would be smart from an Auckland POV.

        In Auckland’s case we also have peak capacity constraints reducing fares would mean less money for services & upgrades which are already feeling the strain.

        From an AT/AC perspective it would be impossible anyway as NZTA has a Farebox Target Ratio of 50% that RCA’s have to meet by 2018 otherwise they could potentially lose NZTA subs.

      2. Yes, basically cutting fares means either halving service levels and capacity, or finding double the budget just to keep service the same. Neither gives better or more efficient transit. If you could double the subsidy for PT overnight, there would be a lot better ways to spend that money.

        Also cost isn’t a barrier for most people, the main barrier is service quality (PT going where and when you want to travel, quickly and reliably). Cutting fares doesn’t fix anything but just gives a free ride to people who already use it and can already pay with a big public subsidy. Also not the best way to help the proportion of people that genuinely have trouble paying.

        My long answer is here https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2010/09/08/is-fare-free-a-fair-go/

        FYI systems like HOP basically pay for themselves. They effectively collect interest on all the small balances on each card which offsets the cost of running the system.

      3. Collecting the stats through the HOP system is another reason to have it, for better forward planning etc. Also don’t think we want homeless sleeping on buses when riding on them all day and night while it rains.

        1. If people are homeless I’d much rather that they ride trains for free all day than any other place.

        2. I put keeping the homeless warm and dry far above pretty much anything else that we do.

  3. Technology is changing fast. Once driverless buses get here AT will be able to double or triple the number of empty buses that say NIS on the front. I call them Hunter Killers. One bus a minute is a joke. Queen Street easily has capacity for 5 NIS buses a minute. I am sure the AT planners are working on it now.

  4. All-door boarding is indeed best-practice in urban transport around the world.
    There may be some increased fare evasion. Of course, it would require additional ticket controllers, but the overall labour cost is unlikely to be higher, as buses can operate significantly quicker across routes and therefore fewer buses and drivers are required on some routes.

    High capacity buses like those shown in the video operate well in several cities, but the more they are like light rail, the more the question of economics comes up, whether light rail would not be better. The infrastructure and operation of separated high-capacity buses is not cheaper than light rail and sometimes more expensive.

    1. I wouldn’t see this as competition to LRT, the routes that need LRT need LRT due to CBD Bus congestion/capacity, level of signals requiring highly spatially efficient vehicles for decent priority & the need to very delicately balance Movement & Place in the City Centre.

      What I think these buses could do very well is specific routes we are not going to have LRT on anytime in the foreseeable future, corridors like 1. Henderson – Westgate – Constellation Crosstown BRT, 2. Eastern Buses where we are building an Urban Busway & Pak Rd where high levels of Bus Priority are planned where many services will terminate at Panmure anyway. 3. An Airport option from updated Train/Bus Puhinui Interchange to the Airport via SH20. 4. Many of the BRT routes in our CFN 2.0.

      1. There is opposition to services terminating at Panmure due to need to change services three times for some destinations currently serviced by a single bus trip

        1. Ideally they would terminate at Ellerslie, but I imagine there are issues with staging and turning buses there.

  5. I was in Mexico City (24 million) in March and saw a similar bus system there (buses running the central median lanes, with platforms at the intersections – like the old trams) and thought it might be a good solution in NZ. Seeing these new European buses I now think it would be a great system. Buses IMO are much more versatile than a fixed line tram/light rail system. These could run down a central median and then easily cross onto (say) a motorway, to augment the train system. IMO adopting something like this must surely be a quicker and cheaper option for the City-Airport link, right?

    With doors on both sides the buses can stop at a central median platform, or the traditional stop at the side of the street, depending on local conditions/infrastructure. And the fare evasion problem is easily solved: use a turnstile to enter the platform (in Mexico the platforms were raised) and entry is via Hop card. Anyone jumping the turnstile is caught on camera, and prosecuted.

    I have photos of the Mexico City buses, if you want them.

    1. “quicker and cheaper option for the City-Airport link, right?”

      No, because you need to spend $2b on a bus tunnel in the CBD.

      1. Are we spending $2b on a LRT tunnel in the CBD then? If not, then why do we need one for buses? Why can’t we run these new buses up Queen Street as is planned for LRT/Trams?

        I’m no expert (clearly) I’m just sharing what I saw in Mexico City. These new buses seem more versatile, and if it’s a solution we can get happening sooner than the current 30 year time frame then that’s better, surely?

        1. Basically an LRV carries about 500 people, one of these buses about 110. This means you need to run around 60bphpd to have the same capacity of 12tphpd.

          This level of Buses on Queen will bunch badly & will be unacceptable from a place making POV as you will basically have wall to wall buses.

          As Nick R said sweet spot is frequency around 3-5m anymore is going to cause issues.

        2. At want point do bunched buses become as bad for place making as LRT? An arctic is 18m, DD 12m and a supertram is 66m, so will need significant bunching to be even as bad as a tram, let alone worse.

        3. There is more to it than length though. That ‘supertram’ is one vehicle that glides in for 30 seconds then has nothing for four or five minutes. The bus equivalent might be three or four buses and still not as long, but they are stopped, inching along, waiting for one to move forward so the second can proceed, pulling in and out etc. Take a look at upper Symonds st on a bad day and picture that on queen st. Compare it to one one LRV slipping through without delay ever five minutes.

        4. Yeah except it won’t be like Symonds if we are talking about platooning sycronised EVs

        5. Symonds st platoons already, the traffic lights force the buses into synchronized bunches. Magic tech doesn’t change that.

    2. It wouldn’t be great for this City – Airport as it requires 60bphpd compared to 12tphpd for LRT on Queen St which would be unacceptable from a place making POV. Any route using Queen has to very delicately balance movement & place.

      It also only saves you money upfront the higher OPEX costs balance it out in the long run.

      I think this system could work great on routes like Henderson – Constellation or Pakuranga Rd but not so much on Queen as the balance tilts back towards movement & the number of buses needed is significantly less creating less of a CAPEX to OPEX trade off.

      1. My view is the sweet spot is a transit vehicle every three or four minutes. If your demand is more than that you need bigger vehicles to stop things clogging up and to give then decent priority and reliability. Less than that and you can just run them more often.

        So if you are running regular buses every two minutes, then advanced buses every four minutes is a good option. But if you’re demand is for a bus every 30 seconds, then the advanced bus still leaves you with one a minute, and you need something larger.

        If I remember right they were talking about five thousand people an hour or so on the airport to city corridor, so you need a vehicle that holds about 300 people.

      2. I’ll leave the numbers to you guys (the experts)!
        BTW – I seriously doubt 5,000 an hour are going to use the Airport-City line. Well, not ex Airport at least, maybe people would hop on further down the route?

        1. The area around the Airport & the Industrial Area just north between Kirkbride & Montgomery road is about 33,000 jobs. It’s expected to be one of Auckland’s fastest growing employment areas, with jobs increasing to 90,000 by 2044. About 71,000 people live in the SW and is highly zoned in the Unitary Plan.

          Not so much about the Airport as the SW Employment area which is one of the biggest in NZ

          Dominion Rd is also one of the busiest PT corridors in NZ

        2. Of course not ex airport! Thats like expecting all the passengers on the Western Line come from swanson.

          The airport is only one of some two dozen stations on the line. It also serves mangere, favona, mangere bridge, onehunga, three kings, Mt Roskil, Balmoral, eden valley, eden terrace, K Rd, Aotea, Britomart, Victoria Park and Wynyard, and a few more places.

      3. Harriet – sorry, I’m not sure what “60bphpd compared to 12tphpd” means. Seems to say 60 back packers hopping downtown to me. I’m sure that is not right. Could you please explain? Thanks

  6. Re boarding onto buses (or LRT for that matter). There is a simple solution – have the buses pull up to mini “stations” (not just bus stops). People swipe their card / pay their ticket on the way into the station, and so the queue happens only there, not on the actual bus itself. Once you are in the station, you can wait in a peaceful, weatherproof enclosure, and seamlessly transfer onto the bus or train when it comes. No delays at doors of bus.

    It has been done before – is it Bogota? And some other places. It wouldn’t work for everywhere, but if the station concept is used at major route points, you can get most of it sorted and speed up the whole journey for everyone.

    1. Yep they do it in Bogota, although do a quick google search of the Transmillenio system and you’ll see they aren’t mini stations, they are huge. Far larger than any of our train stations.

      There are plenty of places that do actually mini bus stations with platforms and stuff, but if you want to push through bus volumes like they do in Bogota you need huge stations.

    2. The easy solution is to issue decent fines and have a reasonable number of inspectors. Do you think many people would risk a $500 fine?

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