Over recent years public transport has clearly improved, as can be so easily observed by looking at the ridership figures. Yet, while it has improved and more improvements are on the way, it often feels like the system is let down by making it unnecessarily hard for users. Here’s one example I’ve been experiencing lately. First a little background.
One of life’s little ironies is that as one of the biggest supporters of the City Rail Link, I’ve probably been one of the most impacted by the disruption that building it is causing. I work in Takapuna and prior to the CRL works my commute would involve catching a train to town, a short walk to Albert St where I could catch a bus that went directly to Takapuna. It was the same in the reverse direction. I also wasn’t the only one and noticed a lot of others doing the same. It wasn’t uncommon coming home to see almost half of a full bus get off at Lower Albert St and walk through the old mall and in to Britomart.
With the arrival of the CRL works all that changed. The buses that I used to catch that go direct to and from Takapuna now avoid the going anywhere near Britomart, instead travelling along Wellesley St. This means that to get to work via PT I have two main options, catch a bus and transfer to another bus at either Victoria Park or Akoranga Busway Station. Either option it involves a fair degree of good luck with the timing of connections and so it’s no surprise I see hardly anyone doing it anymore. Most of the time I now go for option 3, I catch a Northern Express between downtown and Akoranga where I’ve left my bike and I ride the short distance to Takapuna. It’s more reliable and normally faster but for various reasons I’m not always able to do it.
A good and relatively easy solution would be to send all of the Takapuna buses via Akoranga busway station to remove the need to gamble with where to transfer. It wouldn’t solve all issues but would help. Unfortunately, even with the yet to be rolled out new network for the shore it’s not planned to happen.
Getting home has its own challenges, and it’s those that inspired this post. The bus stop outside the Air New Zealand building on Fanshawe St is too small to handle all the buses from the North Shore – as can be seen in the image below (there were actually a few more buses hidden behind those double deckers at the back too)
Since the CRL related changes, buses from Takapuna still use the Air NZ stop, before changing lanes to allow them to turn right onto Halsey St. The Northern Express (NEX) and Birkenhead buses use a newer stop 160m further down the road, near the Fonterra building. In between these there is also a City Link stop on the corner of Daldy St and Fanshawe St. These locations are shown below along the stop outside the KPMG building further along Fanshawe St, I’ll explain the reason for that shortly.
In the new normal course of events, to get to Britomart if catching a bus from Takapuna I’d need to get off at Air NZ and either cross Daldy St to get a City Link or walk a bit further where I could transfer to a NEX or Birkenhead bus. Mobile apps to track where buses to make the best decision have been invaluable for this task. That doesn’t mean it’s been smooth sailing though and it’s no surprise others don’t do it. Closing the Fanshawe St driveways to the former petrol station and moving the NEX stop closer, along with some good comms, could help make this transfer much much easier.
Recently, AT’s apparent disdain for PT users has reached epic new levels with the situation having been made even worse thanks two separate pieces of work.
First, works on Daldy St have seen the City Link bus stop closed. This has seen the City Link services temporarily diverted to use Halsey St meaning the closest stop is the KPMG stop mentioned above. That’s a pain but given most of the time I walked to the Fonterra stop due to there often being more frequent buses, it wasn’t terminal.
But this week things took a turn for the worst. Thanks to work by Watercare, the Air NZ stop has now closed too and the Takapuna buses that once stopped there have now been diverted down Beaumont St. That has resulted in the first bus stop in the city for these buses being a patch of shoddily laid bit of asphalt next to the skate park. To get to Britomart now involves a 350m walk to the nearest stop across three sets of traffic lights (two on Fanshawe). That’s not making things easy on a good day, but throw in some wind and rain and it doesn’t make for a fun time. That AT could even consider such a customer unfriendly move beggars belief. Perhaps the people from AT involved in making this decision need to be made to experience it a few times. The transfer between the stops is shown below.
Of course, ultimately the CRL will help address this to some degree as buses that go via Wellesley St would allow for transfers at Aotea.
All of this isn’t to say that AT shouldn’t make temporary changes for works. But they do need to put more (or even some) consideration into the impacts that changes like this have on their customers. There are probably a lot of examples, both temporary and permanent just like it. Fanshawe St is a particularly good example because of the volumes. As of last time I saw any numbers (before the double deckers arrived), about 70% of people arriving to the city on Fanshawe St in the morning were on a bus. Yet, time and time again when works are needed we’ve seen ATs first choice being to inconvenience bus users.
Stop making PT so hard Auckland Transport.