The original New Network design was really fantastic. It proposed changing our spaghetti on a map of a bus system focused on one seat rides to everywhere resulting in an inefficient confusing low-frequency radial focused network into a high frequency all day integrated grid based one.
Unfortunately, Auckland Transport made many changes from the well designed proposed network in the final version backtracking on many of the solid principles of the New Network such as:
- The replacement of the efficient Crosstown 4 & 6 routes with the current inefficient Outer Link Route;
- The reduction of the 380 from frequent 15m to connector 30m frequency. Thankfully this is being fixed in December;
- The failure to provide interchanges in the NW dramatically affecting the quality of NW roll out of services for the Western New Network.
This was all reported well here and can be clearly seen by comparing the New Network Frequent Routes proposed & final below.
Since AT has made changes even between the final routes and the roll out of networks such as in the West, I thought would be a good time to try and push for saving the Crosstown 4 and 6.
As you can see in the two maps above the glaring missing section between Balmoral and further east exists. Crosstown 6 was planned to continue onto Greenlane, Orakei and Glen Innes with Crosstown 4 running from Onehunga to Mt Roskill via the City. This split the inefficient Outer Link into two strong bus routes providing great grid based connections.
But why is the Outer Link so bad? Isn’t it a popular service people ask therefore we shouldn’t change it?
The Outer Link has many problems which result in a poorer service and that can have flow on effects which create problems for the rest of the Network. This was noted in the early days of the service and stems from it being a loop.
Loops are something that sound great but when analysed properly perform very poorly for PT outcomes as Jarrett Walker in Human Transit puts it:
But there’s a problem with loops, and it’s so obvious that it’s easy to forget : very few people want to travel in circles. Most people experience their travel desires as “I am here and I need to be there.” The desire for transportation is a feeling about two points of space, “here” and “there.” In the geometry of cities, the shape of that desire is a straight line connecting those points.
Because of the nature of loops they have no end point which results in an inability to layover and recover properly, this means when issues occur they compound for a long period of time. That is why you often have situations where you are
- Sitting at a stop for ages because the bus is so ahead of timetable.
- Getting kicked off one service and moved onto another because one is so late.
- Bus bunching where 2/3 Outer Link Buses will come past in quick succession with the next ages behind creating uneven frequency.
It is also poor for drivers as there is no good end point to layover. This is why loops like this are not recommended for PT services and one of the major reasons the London Circle Line was broken up. The inefficient nature of the route results in requiring more buses to run it properly which puts a dent in AT’s OPEX budget. The opportunity cost being less OPEX for services across the rest of the network such as Crosstown 6 or buses for the South/NorthWest.
So, in summary, the current nature of the Outer Link is:
- Poor for drivers;
- Poor for passengers;
- Costs a high level of OPEX taking money from other routes such as Crosstown 6;
- Creates a less grid based network for the City.
So why was the Outer Link in its current form retained?
- The power of branding most people know of the Outer Link & when they heard it was being cancelled opposed any changes (Even though most of the users of the Outer Link would have no changes as Crosstown 4 covered most of the actual patronage). Never underestimate the power of branding.
- Mt Eden Village would lose its one seat ride to Newmarket.
- A group of Grammar School students created a group called Save the Outer Link because they didn’t want to transfer including great reasons for keeping the current route as is such as a driver on the Outer Link saying they like the challenge.
The problem with our current consultation is it biases existing users over future users since the latter are a little hard to consult. Also, people happy with changes are less likely to submit than those against. This creates a tendency towards the status quo.
The reason the Outer Link was able to build up so much patronage was not because of its loop structure but in spite of it because it is so frequent. Frequency is Freedom and we have seen the patronage increases all day frequency result in. Which is why we have pushed so hard to have at minimum 7am-7pm, Monday-Sunday, 15m train frequencies on the three main lines.
So my proposal is we go back to the original design for Crosstown 4 and 6. However, we simply call Crosstown 4 the Outer Link keeping its recognisable yellow buses. This will create a better bus network for the majority of users while continuing to tap into the successful branding of the Outer Link.
At the end of the day, its should be the Outer Link, not the Outer Loop.
So what do you say AT?