This is a guest post from reader Shan L. See also Wynyard Quarter transport troubles – Part 1 and Part 2

Recently, AT decided to close a bus stop which is well used by many workers in Wynyard Quarter. It’s the one below, stop ‘A’, circled in red below.

Stop A is a City Link stop, and could be used when you wanted to travel towards the city. In particular, lots of people used it to get home after work, transferring to another service at Britomart.

However: it’s a good thing it’s closing. The stop sucked. It was in the wrong place and made the trip home for hundreds of office workers longer than necessary. This is because Stop A was serviced only by the City Link, which has a peak frequency of every 7-8 minutes.

This actually sounds quite good, and by Auckland standards it is. But, at the stop just around the corner – Stop B in red above – you can get on any bus, and enjoy a frequency of approximately ninety-bazillion buses per minute, because there are (technical term) shitloads of them.

But there’s a twist: the City Link only stopped at Stop A, not at Stop B. So if heading to Britomart, you had to choose between two stops. This was generally done by looking at the realtime tracking app of your choice, inevitably deciding that getting one of the bazillion buses at Stop B was superior, walking towards it, then swearing as a City Link sailed past as you waited helplessly at Stop “No City Links Allowed” B.

Now Stop A is gone – folded into Stop B – which means that travellers towards the Britomart can just get on any bus they see going past without having to play silly games with their phone or get frustrated when they miss services they could’ve caught, because they went to the wrong stop. All stops are equal and all is well in the world. Thanks AT for sorting it out.

Except…

This isn’t just the story of AT closing a bus stop, it’s also a story of how they closed it.

About a week ago
The first indication that anyone got that things were changing was when, a few week or so ago, the realtime board at Stop A stopped working.

Shortly after this the board itself disappeared.

As capital punishment has been abolished in New Zealand I assumed this meant the board had been taken away for repairs. But a while passed and it didn’t come back.

I looked on the AT website to see if this meant something potentially disruptive, but found nothing.

Friday 27 October – Morning
This turned up in a realtime app I use:

But there were no physical signs on the stop itself to indicate that the stop was closing. 99% of passengers would’ve been totally unaware of this change to their travel. And there was no indication of where services would move to instead.

Friday 27 October – Afternoon
A sign turned up on the stop indicating that it would temporarily close on Sunday for the Auckland Marathon.

Not sure how you remember to signpost a temporary closure but completely ignore the permanent one – which has much a bigger effect on customers – only the day after.

Monday 30 October
The stop remains the same, and buses are still picking people up, despite it being closed in at least one comms channel.

Wednesday 1 November
This sign turns up at the bus stop, 2 days after it actually closed.

But it’s a pretty good sign, and tells you where to go in future.

Going round to the stop on Fanshawe, a City Link timetable has now been attached to the previously bare bus stop pole.

This is not so good: The City Link is only one of many buses that service this stop, and the signage should clearly indicate this. What’s the good of running a bazillion buses a minute down a road if no one knows they can use them?

This is now a really useful bus stop and should have clear signage indicating, “TAKE ANY BUS TO BRITOMART”. Similar signage would be useful at Stop C (in blue in the map at the beginning of this post), as when taking buses from there I’ve noticed people wait ages for City Link to turn up, ignoring loads of NEXs and other shore buses, only to get off at Britomart – when any bus would’ve got them there. Without some clear wayfinding, exactly the same fate awaits passengers using this stop too.

And to confuse things a bit more, despite the old stop being signposted as closed, I saw some buses still stopping at it, although most users had gone round the corner to wait. And when we hailed a bus at the new stop, it refused to stop.

Additionally, the realtime board has yet to reappear at the new stop – hopefully it’s on the way.

How to Close a Bus Stop
It’s great that AT moved the old Daldy St stop to a more sensible location. But suddenly springing it on customers with no warning, and then stuffing up the move with incomplete service information, poor wayfinding and drivers not knowing about the change is less great.

One final suggestion: move the new stop slightly westward down Fanshawe St. Right now it’s awkwardly mid-block and if you’re borderline close to a bus’s arrival time, there’s nothing more frustrating than having it go flying past when you’re almost at the stop. Moving it a bit closer to the Daldy intersection would ease this frustration and put a bit more distance between it and the next stop at the AT building (ex Vodafone) which is currently only 200m away.

Extra Bonus Content
Several days after this post was originally written – almost a week after the bus stop moved – I’m hearing reports that buses are still refusing to stop at the new location.

So we have a weird situation where buses which say they will stop there don’t, and buses which don’t say they will stop there do. A couple of extra signs and a word to the bus operator would sort this out, how about it AT?

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27 comments

  1. We actually have such a good public transport system in the CBD but it’s so not user friendly.

    E.g. I want to catch a bus from Britomart to the Langham (now Cordis). I could catch any of the 274s/277s/500s/881 etc. But they all depart from different stops. Why not just have one stop. Then you would have a useful 3 minute frequency.

    1. “We actually have such a good public transport system in the CBD “. This certainly is not true if you want to take either the outer or inner link from Parnell to the city at peak time. It turns up whenever and arrives whenever because there are no bus lanes. As someone has said, roll on the trams.

  2. Great story, Shan. If it is any relief poor execution exists in the parallel universe of SOVs. I don’t have the photographic evidence as I never thought this would play out for as long as it had, and so incompetently!
    Someone in NZTA, I think, has decided that Huapai’s 60km/hr zone should extend a couple of hundred meters further west before stepping up to open road status. (not a bad idea as it extends the slowdown zone before a blind corner & intersection)
    The process started with some temporary cover on the existing signs and temporary new signage both of which got blown off and over every now and again so at times it was quite confusing where the speed limits actually changed. After some months of this to & fro new permanent sign stands were put in place but they only attached the speed limit roundels on the western side so for the two weeks it took them to come back and put up more temporary signs on the eastern face the 60km/h limited technically extended all the way to Waimauku.
    The inefficiencies and wasted costs in these two stories is what I find really frustrating. Do it once do it right or don’t do it at all. Neither of these changes would have suffered from a week or two’s delay while those responsible for the execution held off until they were totally clear about what had to be executed, had all the materials to hand and did the job once.

  3. I’ve come to the conclusion that no one who plans bus stops for AT has ever caught a bus. It is the only possible explanation for why this is so deliberately bad. It happens in other cities too. Gold Coast bus map. No indication that the Theme park buses don’t stop at all north of the river crossing. Makes it impossible to plan a journey.

    1. I think that you are on the money Sailor Boy.
      All the indirect buses from the Shore (Long Bay, Takapuna, Milford etc) terminate near the Civic. For those who want to go to Britomart the logical transfer is at Victoria Park, because after alighting a NEX turns up every two minutes or so. (The alternative is to alight at the Civic and take the much less frequent City Link). The alighting at Victoria Park used to be outside the Air NZ building and use the same stop to catch the NEX. Now the bus stops are separated by about 600m and on rainy days this is just unpleasant. Only someone sitting in an office somewhere could make such a senseless decision.
      AT say that they want to prioritise public transport but I am not sure that they even no where to start. Just because they are building the CRL doesn’t excuse them for general inactivity.

    2. As people have said before, it should be a condition of employment that AT staff are required to cycle or take PT at least 10 times a month- regardless of where they are in the hierarchy.

      Right now, how are staff supposed to understand the problems faced by PT commuters everyday if they are in their car?

  4. The public transport is designed for exactly one narrowly defined use case: commute to Britomart in the morning, and the other way in the afternoon. Even a small deviation from that use case, and the system breaks down miserably.

    So let’s look at the case above: you’re starting from Wynyard quarter, not from Britomart. So that’s going to be suboptimal indeed.

    This is reflected in the bus maps we saw during the consultations for the New Network. There was a plan with buses from the south and isthmus (I think). There was a separate plan with buses from the North Shore. And so on. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a map of the entire bus network in the CBD.

    And then while living in an apartment in the CBD, through trial and error I figure out it’s a lot easier to go to Newmarket by car than by bus. Think about how weird that is. Surprise (or not).

    1. It’s impossible to get from one side of he city to the other. I bought an electric bike and regularly drive to my eden, Newmarket etc because it’s such a nightmare to bus. You’re right about the maps being he give away – city is designed around commuters getting vaguely close to their offices. Shitty Red and Green Link busses left doing a bad job for inner city residents.

  5. I always posted many times the city central buses’ wayfinding, maps and bus stop information is not user friendly.

    It is extremely difficult for casual user and tourists to use the city bus network to travel around city.

    Bus stations just all over the place, with so many different routes and they stop at different places. Not to say the bus stop doesn’t have much useful information.

    If I wish to go from point a to point b, it takes me 15 minutes to download all the different bus maps from different bus operators to research the routes. And the bus stops for each routes and the timetable are also complex and inconsistent. It shouldn’t be like that.

    What should be done is to redesign the city bus map to make it easier to understand. It should only take a casual user 10 seconds to find out where to take bus from point a to point b. As well as have that map in ALL major bus stops.

    A few suggestions:

    Group buses on common direction together and put that on the map and make it simple to read and understand.

    Bus on same direction should all share same bus stop.

    Make bus route number display dual coded and dynamic – For example after northshore bus passed the bridge, all britomart direction bus on share same route should change its display to a shared number. For example “City A”. That makes it easy for people to understand instead of remembering all different routes.
    Same would applies to western, eastern and southern bus. They would be dual coded in city with number like “City B / 550”, “City B / 500”

  6. I wanted to travel from the city centre to Ponsonby at about 6 pm and back again about 9:30 pm. I ended up walking home at the end. What a disaster. That should be an easy to use route. I wish we had trams/light rail.

  7. AT removed the bus shelter on Picton Street Howick outside the Good Home bar (a transfer and originating stop for buses to Botany) in July – in the middle of bloody winter – it still hasn’t been replaced. Meanwhile, a kilometre down the road on the other side at much less well used stop is a new shiny shelter changed almost overnight.

  8. You suggest it doesn’t matter which bus you take from stops B and C to Britomart, and wonder why some people wait for the City Link. In fact it does matter if you are NOT transferring to another bus or train at Britomart, as you would pay the City Link fare vs 1 zone. https://at.govt.nz/bus-train-ferry/fares-discounts/bus-train-fares/
    (Of course with a transfer to another bus or train you would pay for the overall journey when using the HOP card, so then it really doesn’t matter.)

  9. Added bonus content:

    1. They just moved the sign from the old bus stop, so now the new bus stop has the wrong bus stop number – the number for a bus stop which no longer exists.

    2. They haven’t updated their real time feed so the new stop doesn’t show city links on it when you look at it in an app – to see them you have to look at the feed for the old, closed stop.

  10. A few million years ago, humanity invented this wonderful method of covering short distances (like walking to Britomart from here), called “walking” or (slang) “Shank’s pony”

    1. 🙂 And there is no better exercise for us. We should probably be walking for hours each day.

      However, if we’re choosing not to have an A to B type system – with lots of routes, each one taking people pretty much to where they want to go, but infrequently because there are so many routes – and instead going for a network, with frequent services but transfers required, then the transfers need to be smooth. There’s already the walk at the beginning and at the end of the journey.

    2. This corner is not that close to Britomart. I’d say walking instead of taking the bus would add almost 10 minutes to your commute. People like short commutes a lot more than long commutes.

      Then again, waiting for a City Link to show up is probably the last way I would try to get around — is there any probability at all those buses actually show up every 10 minutes during rush hour? Even on Sundays you’re usually SOL if you try to catch one.

  11. Shan, I live and work in this area. Ever thought that lot’s of people deliberately wait for the CityLink because it’s only 50c fare (HOP price) and free if they transfer to another PT service within 30mins, compared with what, $1.80 on any of the other buses? I almost always prefer to let the other buses pass and wait another 2 or 3 mins for a CityLink.

    1. I have thought of what you mention and while it’s probably the case for some, every time I’ve asked people if they know they can take any bus to Britomart, the answer is no.

      There are a large number of workers transfering at Britomart and the price difference between the city link and any other bus for this is zero.

      There are no doubt some who are going up Queen St or are terminating downtown (and price sensitive) for which the city link is better, but that these people exist doesn’t excuse the dogs breakfast of a wayfinding mess that we have created for general case.

  12. I use the bus stop opposite 371 Khyber Pass Road. Using the mobile app, having selected the route, you cannot enter the stop number on the shelter (which is I think part of the timetable) as it does not exist in the database. (There are no obvious street numbers at this point, so the stop number is easier). Oddly it will accept me selecting the stop just up the road even though my bus does not stop there. The times for the bus are wrong though.

    1. Lordy lordy. Have you advised AT? I’ve noticed people have put up information on the bus stop signs on the top part of Queen St to better inform Sky Bus passengers. I’d be tempted to put a notice up with this information. AT intends to use “tactical urbanism” so they’d appreciate the effort (or one would hope so).

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