This is a guest post from reader Shan L.

In part one of this series I looked at PT commutes for people who use the Dominion Rd bus route, transferring to Wynyard Quarter. Here I’ll do the same, but for the Mt Eden road buses. Note this is also relevant for anyone arriving at Britomart and heading to Wynyard Quarter, whether by bus, train or ferry. 

The Mt Eden Rd buses travel all the way down Symonds St, around Anzac Ave, and terminate on Commerce St outside the temporary back entrance to Britomart Station.

Option 1: Take a City Link from Britomart

Like when connecting from a Dominion Rd bus, the City Link often seems like the most obvious choice for connecting to Wynyard Quarter from Mt Eden – you just take the first bus to the end of the line, and take the friendly Red Bus to your final destination.

The City Link seems like a reasonable choice here – more so than it does when coming from Dominion, but it still suffers from reliability issues which can cause you to wait up to 15 minutes or more for it to turn up, when you should be able to rely on it running at twice that frequency at any given time.

In addition, to get to it in the first place you have to travel all the way to the bottom of the city in the opposite direction from your final destination. This makes it slow.

Option 2: Take a NEX or other North Shore bus from Lower Albert St or Quay St or Customs St near Queens Arcade or 23 Customs St East or possibly somewhere else I’ve missed

There are actually loads of buses besides the City Link which travel from downtown to Fanshawe St, and any of these can provide access to Wynyard Quarter. The problem is that there at least 4 different stops they leave from, so knowing the best one to take at any moment in time can only be done by checking a realtime app on a phone 4 times separately, then guessing which one you can make it to sooner.

You learn pretty quickly that this is far more trouble than it’s worth, and settle on only using the 2 stops near the waterfront and have the highest frequency – one for the NEX and one for some other shore buses (I don’t recall what they are, just that they leave from round the corner from the NEX and they go the same way).

The NEX leaves every 7-10 minutes so is a good baseline option. When you get to the stop, you can check whether the NEX or the bus round the corner is leaving first, and take the first one. I usually use my phone to work this out when I get off my initial Mt Eden bus.

An advantage of this option is that both of these buses seem to leave on time reliably – this is probably because it’s the beginning of their route. And if you end up on a NEX, you’ll get a new double decker, which is always a bonus.

This is like a “Better City Link” option – both buses leave from approximately the same place, have more or less the same frequency, but the NEX (and co) are enormously more reliable, making it the superior choice.

But it has a couple of problems.

1) The journey in its entirety is slow. Like with the City Link, You have to travel all the way to the harbour in the wrong direction to even get to the bus stops.

2) The return journey can be poor. Not quite as poor as the dirt bus stop next to a field in part one, but still not good.

This is one of the inbound stops on Fanshawe you can use for getting home:

Like the temporary stop round on the other edge of the park, this one has some issues:

  • Has no number
  • Has no timetables or maps
  • Has no seat
  • Has no shelter
  • Has no light
  • Is made from leaves

(Note the leaves were eventually cleared after a few complaints)

However, this is a permanent stop, not a temporary one. How does AT expect anyone to use it when there is no indication of what services it’s for and the experience is so poor?

Compare this with it’s counterpart stop across the road, for users heading to the shore:

It feels like AT have concentrated on providing reasonable peak direction facilities on Fanshawe, but have totally ignored them for people heading into the city – which is a big problem for those of us who need to use counter peak services to transfer to another bus in the CBD.

There are several other issues with catching inbound buses down Fanshawe:

  • Drivers don’t make it easy to hail them down – they travel at speed and it doesn’t feel like they want to stop for you
  • Some of the older buses have such ancient signs (think frontlit pieces of cardboard) they’re impossible to read before it’s too late. The numbers on the bus below are almost impossible to see from any sort of distance.

Option 3: Take a North Shore bus from Mayoral Drive

These are the same buses you can use to go from Dominion Rd to Wynyard via Wellesley in part 1, and they have the same pros and cons.

Looking at the map you can see how much more direct the trip is, so if all else is the same, it should be the best option.

To do this, you get off your Mt Eden Rd bus at AUT and walk 2 minutes down to Mayoral Drive where a number of shorebound buses start their route. As mentioned in part one, these have an uneven timetable with anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes between buses, so this option is only best suited to those who are OK with uncertainty in their commute.

Unfortunately, to new users of this route there is another gotcha. Take a look at the shelters:

The two stops closest to the camera have timetables for a two different sets of buses, as shown below.

Where do you think you wait for these buses?

If you guessed, “at that other shelter up there miles away where there is a school bus parked which is actually the bus you, not a schoolchild, need to take to work”, then you guessed right.

To add extra confusion, the shelter up front where they actually stop is entirely unmarked and has no timetable information – so why would you think you needed to wait there, exactly?

If this is your first time at Mayoral Drive Bus Club, you will miss your bus.

As mentioned in part one, these services also seem to be plagued with old buses and musically inclined drivers, so there is an ongoing cost to pay for the faster journey as well.

Finally, this option suffers from the same fatal flaw as when you take it from a Dominion Rd service: the return journey is essentially impossible, so you’ll need to find another way back.

Option 4: Take an isthmus bus from Wellesley St

Similar to in part one, you could walk down from Symonds to Wellesley St outside The Civic, and catch a bus partway to your destination. It’s a bit more of a walk, but it’s downhill and only a couple of minutes more.

Option 5: Take any bus from Wellesley St

Again from part one, this is probably what you actually want to do if you’re OK with walking. Half the time it gets you half the way, and the other half the time, all the way. Good luck getting either of these two options to show up in a trip planner though – it’s something you can only work out by experimentation.

Option 6: Walk

This is a far better option for Mt Eden Rd travellers than it is Dominion Rd ones – the walk across Te Wero Island and down North Wharf is pleasant, and takes 15-20 minutes plus the extra time for your bus to go slightly in the wrong direction before it reaches Britomart. If you’re OK with slow and you want to avoid the extra stress planning for another bus trip, it can be worth it for the scenery alone,.

Many of the same fixes from part one also apply here, with a few additional:

  • Fix the ludicrous situation with the bus stop signage on Mayoral Drive. There’s no reason for it to be so incredibly customer hostile.
  • Fix the poor bus stop on Fanshawe opposite Victoria Park.
  • When many services converge on one street, unify as many bus stops as possible, so customers who want to take advantage of the increased frequency can do so by just turning up at any stop and hailing the next bus. I have no idea how possible this is, but from a customer’s point of view the number of stops you have to be aware of is bewildering.
  • Enforce slower bus speeds inbound down Fanshawe St, and train drivers to slow down and stop for people waiting at the less visible stops
  • Fix all bus signs so they can be read at night, and at a distance required to hail them down before it’s too late

The most frustrating thing about trying to get to Wynyard is not that there is no PT heading there, it’s that there’s heaps of PT heading there – but a combination of subpar facilities, strange scheduling and bus stops which don’t take advantage of converging routes make it far too hard to utilise. It shouldn’t be this hard to take a short trip in the central city and it needs to be sorted out quickly as Wynyard Quarter continues to grow. If this isn’t sorted then there is no way Wynyard Quarter will meet the modeshare target of having 70% of the trips by non-motorised means.

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33 comments

  1. “To add extra confusion, the shelter up front where they actually stop is entirely unmarked and has no timetable information – so why would you think you needed to wait there, exactly?

    If this is your first time at Mayoral Drive Bus Club, you will miss your bus.”

    Lol! This is what happened to me 4 – 5 months ago there when I needed to go to Takapuna. To be fair I was buried in my phone, but expected the bus to depart from the stop with all the timetable info, looked up at one point to see the bus leaving from the stop with no timetable info…

  2. Would there be enough volume for a bus route ftom Dominion Road or Mt Eden to continue through to Wynndyard quarter? The 881 does this , pass Britomart to university and the volumes kept increasing. Will depend on volumes but is a potential solution.

    1. Yes, this is the obvious solution – get off the Mt Eden Rd bus at the Langham Hotel and stay on the stop for the 881. The downside, of course, is the limited service hours and 30 min frequency of the 881. While the NX2 will rectify this, the ease of transfer at Wellesley Street is not yet clear pending clarity in how and exactly where the NX2 will terminate.

      1. Sorry what I meant was changing one of the buses from Dominion Road or Mt Eden road to terminate at Wynndyard Quarter rather than Britomart. Winners would be people who wanted to go from Dominon road to WQ. Also the other buses ,such as NEX, would run faster if had less on/off boarding by people doing short trips from Britomart to WQ. Downside would be need more buses to maintain frequency and also people traveling from
        Britomart stop heading to Dominion Road would not have guaranteed leave time as bus would be coming from WQ.

  3. Thank you for the photo of a Birkenhead Bus in its true livery. No need to worry about its number because it is bound to get you across the bridge and almost certain to go to Highbury. Getting on a Birkenhead Bus at that Fanshawe stop makes me feel I’m almost home .

    1. It’s probably a good thing as I doubt you would be able to see that number from more than 10 metres away at night! Looks like that display came second hand from an old Leyland Leopard bus.

      Rumour has is Bikenhead Transport have recently invested in some buses built this century but that is not one of them.

      1. I think most if not all Birkenhead Bus buses are younger than me. And they are all well looked after and driven carefully. You can see the heritage Birkenhead Bus Livery from a mile away or in this case where Fanshawe street bends; it has saved me having to run for the bus a few times.

      1. ‘wanna’ is colloquial, implying ‘we’re all friends here, I just thought I’d give you a quick heads up before everyone sees it’
        (I choose to think he was tryna be helpful) 🙂

  4. I’ve had exactly that experience at the Mayoral drive stop! Waiting for a shore bus at the stop indicated by the AT website. No bus turns up, then I notice the NIS bus 20 metres down the road start up, close the doors, and change the rear display from NIS to my number! Luckily I was able to ran down and caught it.

  5. “Not quite as poor as the dirt bus stop next to a field in part one, but still not good.”

    Good to see AT has made some changes and has put in a decent shelter here.

  6. The old buses are because of the PTOM changes, none of the bus operators will invest in new buses until start of the new PTOM contract. With North shore being the last one to change they will get all old buses (transferred from South/West/Central)

    At least with PTOM there is a required age limit and standard of bus, but again operators wont invest money towards the end of their contracts unless they really have to.

  7. Absolute shocker. The thing is, if you choose any PT journey in Auckland, you will find similar problems.
    My PT journey from Elerslie to Mt Roskill should be pretty simple – take the train to Onehunga then the 009 bus to Mt Roskill. But there doesn’t seem to be any signage for the walk between the train station and the bus station! Quite ridiculous. And the 009 bus is only every 30 minutes with a timetable that is meaningless. The bus then zig zags between Onehunga Mall and Selwyn street trying to make you wait at every possible set of traffic lights when it could quite easily just continue up Selwyn street. All up the trip takes about an hour by bus as opposed to 20 minutes by car.
    It really annoys me that AT spend so much time and money on rail and couldn’t give the slightest crap about the majority of people who don’t live near a train station.

    1. In fairness to AT I think a big issue with buses is community resistance to change. It goes against intuition but it appears easier to spend money on a fleet of trains than cheap or cost neutral options such as painting bus lanes and optimising bus routes.

    2. Agree. They could paint arrows or lines on the footpath between the rail station and bus station, like they do between international and domestic terminals for people unfamiliar with the area.

  8. The walk option across the bridge is a bit less reliable and more stressful than other walks because of uncertainty about when the bridge will be up for boats – usually less than a 5 minute delay but can be more if multiple boats going through. Not much of a problem getting to work I find but heading home can be the difference between getting my bus or having to wait half an hour for the next one. Building in time for certainty would make a 12 minute trip closer to 20 minutes adding over 50%.

  9. The whole problem is because someone somewhere looked at the Auckland CBD which is the focus of trains, buses, ferries and motorways and they said “no stuff it let’s put lots of employment on the Wynyard peninsula instead”

  10. Is there a solution to the “buses depart from widespread places” issue?

    Given there’s no space in the CBD to have a massive bus terminal, won’t we always suffer widespread departures?

    Even travelling to Auckland Hospital from Britomart is an issue. There are dozens of routes that depart Britomart and travel past the hospital. But it’s easier to catch a bus from Anzac Ave than reliably find and a bus around Britomart

    1. “won’t we always suffer widespread departures?”

      No. We could massively rationalize departures into a few simple stops at each of five interchange locations.

  11. Get yourself a kick e scooter or foldable e bike
    Perfect for the last mile commute and for cross PT transport.
    I got a scooter a couple months ago and ride it from Glenfield to Takapuna, takes 18 mins peek hour, vs 15 by car and 45 by bus. Can get up you to 32 kmph. Perfect in the bike lane and just kick along (no motor) when on busy footpath.
    I catch the bus back home from Takapuna most days. Now have 3 extra bus services I can use on top of my usual 911 bus.
    Local buses are not usually busy so I put it in the wheel chair pram bay if not in use. Or stand it in the seat next to me.

  12. You’re not travelling to Britomart, so you’re not the target audience for our PT network. Stop being surprised by this.

    /sarc

    More seriously, how are you supposed to figure this out if you’re not a PT geek? Trial and error? I looked for a map of where buses go in the CBD, but the only map of the CBD on the AT website shows departures only.

    Maybe there’s a case to be made for more through-routing. Currently we have this mess around Britomart, and good luck figuring out in which back street your bus departs (even with that map above). To me the logic thing to do is having at least some isthmus buses go via Wellesley Street and have them turn around on Wynyard Quarter.

  13. “When many services converge on one street, unify as many bus stops as possible, so customers who want to take advantage of the increased frequency can do so by just turning up at any stop and hailing the next bus. I have no idea how possible this is, but from a customer’s point of view the number of stops you have to be aware of is bewildering.”

    Exactly what I am proposing. The whole bus network in CBD needs to simplify to form a grid network that are high frequency, easy to understand and transfer.

  14. Thanks for the post Shan. Also minor thing that springs to mind…what is it with bus stops (suburbs mainly?) that have the timetable on a post near the stop itself instead of in it, especially needed when it’s raining?! I guess a lot of these things all come to $$$ on a tight budget & priority.

    Ironically once light rail is in down Queen St and onto Wynyard this journey will be the best most legible one the city has. LRT vehicle will be frequent,obvious & display “Wynyard Quarter” for sure. I guess the other way will be something like “Airport via Queen St/Dominion Rd”? Before that is fully built will be “Mt Roskill via Queen St/Dominion Rd”? I agree AT need to do a better job at things in the interim before this big projects are completed.

  15. Thanks for the very detailed explanation Shan. Not great. I often think that PT services to places like Wynyard can wind up looking better in engineers’ computer models than in real life. In the model, the computer chooses between walking, cycling, car and bus alternatives knowing exactly all the possible combinations. If an obscure combination of connecting buses and intermediate walks will work, the computer will allocate people to use it. But in the real world, nobody knows the details of all the bus connections that are possible to use. People only choose between what they know, so obscure bus stops and buses are unlikely to be considered by most users.

  16. I use Option 6 (wero island walk) on a fine day when I am not rushed (and not riding).

    On wet days I use a version of option 5 – “Take any 22x or 24x bus from Wellesley St / Symonds St corner”, gets me to corner of Victoria Park, walk from there. Two minor annoyances, (1) very slow crossing Fanshawe / Halsey intersection (takes 3 different phases), encourages you to nip across in gaps between streams of cars, and (2) lack of canopies over footpaths in Wynyard Quarter.

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