Auckland Transport’s new network is still in the middle of rolling out, with the last two key urban areas still to go. The Isthmus routes are due to start 08-July and North Shore on 30-September. Where the new network has already been implemented, the results are looking positive.

At its core, the new network is based on three key principles, frequency, connectivity, and simplicity. The design on the network covers off the last two but the frequency is ingredient that makes it all work. Within the network there are a series of routes with the minimum accepted “turn up and go” frequency of 15 minutes. Here’s how Auckland Transport describe it.

The key routes in the network are called ‘Frequent’ routes. These routes meet our ‘frequent promise’ – each route runs at least every 15 minutes, 7am to 7pm, 7 days a week. These routes also run earlier and later than this, and many will run at a frequency higher than 15 minutes.

Bringing all the factors together, AT have created this map which shows all the frequent and rapid (busway/train) routes.

But the map is actually a bit misleading. As you may have noticed many, many of the routes are dotted and described as either being a reduced frequency extension, such as at the ends of Dominion, Mt Eden and Sandringham roads, or a route AT hope to make frequent in the future, such as the route over Upper Harbour. In addition, not all of the routes listed as frequent actually meet ATs frequent definition. The most notable of these is the rail network, because the Eastern, Western and Southern lines only run every 20 minutes off peak and every 30 on weekends. The next timetable change will bump weekends up to 20 minutes but that’s still not enough.

So, what would the map look like if more accurately reflected ATs definition and we took all non-frequent parts out? A lot less impressive for one thing.

The first thing I notice from this is just how much less comprehensive it feels, In many cases it’s not all that many routes that are taken out but it makes a big difference. The west, south and eastern isthmus all feel particularly void of connections thanks to the disappearance of the rail line

Next week the new Government Policy Statement should be announced and one thing we’re expecting is that it provides a lot more funding for PT services. Assuming much of it will eventually make its way to Auckland, here are list of priorities for how we think i needs to be spent:

  • Boost rail frequencies to ‘frequent’ status. Rail is meant to be the backbone of the network across much of the city but it’s absurd that it is often running less frequent than the services that connect to it.
  • Upgrade the ‘future frequent’ routes on the map to frequent status and maybe some of the extensions too.
  • Move towards improving all frequent routes to a minimum of a 10 minute frequency. The current 15 minute frequency is good, but it’s right on the borderline of ‘turn up and go’ usefulness, especially if a transfer is involved. I have personally found that moving to a 10 minute service on the rail network at peak times made a huge difference to my perceptions of how useful the service is.
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  1. I would have thought a campaign of mass requests for refunds under the consumer guarantees act as the provided service does not match the advertised service – should force AT to sort it out?

    1. Yes I’ve often wondered about the risk of AT being accused of false advertising too. Less worried about the lower frequency dotted tails of frequent lines (which are fairly clearly labelled as such) than the inclusion of rail lines, which is just wrong going by ATs own definition. Does the consumer guarantees act apply in this instance?

      1. Actually the rail lines aren’t labelled as frequent lines at all. They are labelled as rapid lines, with no mention of the work frequent. So technically that is correct, they are rapid without being frequent.

        But technicalities aside the inclusion on this map does insinuate they’re all frequent services.

        1. But AT documents do. In a democratic society where these documents are available, we can expect AT to use words correctly if they have defined them in their documents.

      2. Is the 009 from New Lynn to Onehunga meant to be frequent? It doesn’t seem to be dotted, but it is excluded from the second map.

  2. It certainly is not perfect, but I think we should acknowledge just how good it is compared with a few years ago. I am a bus enthusiast, but until quite recently I had NEVER been on a bus in NZ. Nowadays, despite being a 2-car family, we frequently use the bus and train services as they are so convenient. Praise where praise is due, please.

    1. I disagree, Mike. Improvements are most likely to happen when criticism is to the point. Intended service levels have dictated important infrastructure investment such as whether or not they put a buslane on the NW motorway. Feedback as to whether they are meeting the intended service levels is critical or the whole process becomes a farce.

    2. I used to have a bus that went right past my house, straight past my work in the city. Now I have to walk a bit, take a bus or cycle to the train and then walk a long way or cycle or catch another bus to work. It costs more and takes much longer than before. The new network is not better for me.

    3. Mike it might appear that praise is due, but you are part of a privileged minority having access to frequent bus and train services. Check out how sparse services are out West past Avondale, or to the North outside of the motorway. Look at the whole Devonport peninsula!

      This looks like a network made by central Auckland for central Auckland, a pointless geographical bias that has been holding back progress in this city for some time now.

      1. I don’t think it is a bias, I think it just a response to demand and the cost to provide the service. Also I think the areas with frequent buses have been more accepting of bus lanes – hard to give Devenport frequent buses when all the locals want four lanes of traffic on lake road.

        1. Yes thats not bias, its just the application of limited resources to where they will be used the best. That’s actually the opposite of bias, it’s fairness and equality to spend about the same amount per passenger. It’s just that those core inner routes can easily get ten times the passengers for each hour a bus spends in operation.

          There are a few factors at play, the catchment/population density, the efficiency of running the bus route (i.e. the wiggliness of the road network) and the propensity to use public transport.

          The inner parts of the isthmus meet all three, dense population catchment, efficient use of vehicles on relatively short direct corridors, and folk that choose to live there because they tend to use a lot of PT.

          The answer here isn’t to cut the routes where frequent service is ideal to favour the less effective outer suburbs. It’s to keep the efficient ones working nicely and expand the frequent service coverage further out.

        2. Well said. Maybe you should save this comment for the next time its brought up (tomorrow probably)

        3. True.

          Except the “propensity to use public transport” one, I thought that was debunked a long time ago. And you may want to live in the inner suburbs, but unless you have half a million or so to spare you just can’t.

          I also wonder how much future development should be taken into account. One of the larger blobs of higher density zoning on the North Shore is Northcote, which is not connected with any solid or dotted line at all.

          Or maybe it’s the other way around and planning such a centre away from any good transit is a poor idea.

        4. It’s a fine comment indeed, but I hope you’re not buying into the old idea that people in central Auckland like to use public transport, while the rest of Auckland just love driving their cars.

          It’s no surprise that folks there are more willing to use public transport – they get cheaper fares than everyone else, better frequency than everyone else and more nearby frequent routes than everyone else. The reverse applies in other parts of Auckland; my two-zone fare is $8.60 rather than $3.30, frequency is 30 minutes rather than 10, and there’s not a single nearby frequent route. I can assure you we’re not driving for the love of it!

          I get the density argument, it makes sense but it doesn’t justify one area having three or four frequent routes (all within a few hundred metres of each other) while other areas get not even one.

        5. While I agree with most of your comment. Everyone’s two zone fare is $3.30. There is plenty of good points in your comment, but that ruined it for me :/

        6. Just to clarify SB, on a rainy day I have to pay exactly that to get from Devo to work near Newmarket, using bus, ferry, then bus. There’s no fare integration so I get charged $1.90, then another $4.80, then another $1.90 for the one trip. You can check it out on AT’s trip planner.

          I wish that it was $3.30 for everyone, which is what it could be and should be.

        7. David B, to be clear I never said people of central Auckland necessarily like or want to use public transport more, but they certainly do use it more. There are plenty of factors in that, including the density, directness of streets, proximity to demand centres etc that I noted above.

          It makes perfect sense to have three or four frequent routes within hundreds of metres of each other because those all among the busiest bus corridors in the city. Any one of those will always have more users than the devonport peninsula, for example.

          You say they have cheaper fares, that’s not actually true, not overall at least. They have cheaper fares to the city centre… but only because they are located very close to the city centre on direct corridors that lead to the city centre. That’s a huge factor in usage. They don’t have cheaper fares to Takapuna for example. It costs a three zone fare to go from Balmoral to Takapuna. But from Devonport to Takapuna it’s much cheaper with a one zone fare. Much more expensive fares, depending on where you are going.

          These are simple geographic and structural factors that influence how many people will use a public transport corridor, and how efficient it is to run the line.

          Like I said above, there is nothing to be gained complaining that other parts of Auckland have frequent service, efficient bus lines and lots and lots of regular passengers. There’s nothing to be gained by cutting service from where people do use buses to run it where they don’t. By all means lets get a frequent bus route on Lake Road to boost service levels and give a good dependable service… but we shouldn’t pull full buses off Mt Eden Road to do it.

    4. I’m pretty sure that used to be called the 2016 rapid and frequent network and used to have many less dotted lines. So its going to be worse than it was meant to be 2 years ago.

      There is no point in spending billions on transport infrastructure when you can’t afford the opex cost to run frequent services.

  3. Or when it simply does not work
    Just arrived at a bus stop in Ellerslie at 7.58am and the 8am bus is due in 27 minutes !!!
    This is supposed to be the 10 minute buses and I’m now going to be very late for work

    1. Yes, a person I was meeting in Owairaka yesterday had a 45 minute wait on K’Rd, from 9 am to 9:45. Not sure if a bus was cancelled (in which case had the sign put her wrong – she could have taken another route and walked further). Or if the bus driver hadn’t changed the sign from Not In Service, which also happens.

    2. That’s a bit confusing – The 700/70 bus goes through the village a great deal more frequently than that. Were you waiting for a 500 series, or 321 behind the village?

        1. Yeah I’ve had problems with 70s. I was catching one from Panmure towards the city at a time when they were supposed to come every 10 minutes. I was waiting for about 25 minutes from memory and then 3 came at once. I can’t wait for the busway.

    3. The new network has been terrible for bus users on the Ellerslie Panmure Highway. Previously there were typically three buses every 10 mins, which meant even with bunching the gap was usually no more than 8 mins.

      Now with 8 min frequencies on the 70 route bunching means there can often be a gap of 15-20 mins between buses. I’ve stopped using it to connect with the train at Ellerslie and now park my car on the street near the station.

        1. Heading west to catch the train at Ellerslie in the morning and east after getting off the train in the evening.

          The bunching doesn’t happen all the time, but often enough that it is more reliable just to take the car. I think 8 min frequencies are quite reasonable, the problem is a lack of bus lanes at some key choke points on this route.

        2. If buses bunching is your problem, then the best answer is usually bus lanes. There is plenty of space for bus lanes on the Ellerslie-Panmure Highway, and also on Main Highway from the lights by the Best Western as far as Ramsgate St (the town centre is a tricky one though).

          Chances are your buses are getting caught in the same congestion as cars do, which often tails back from the town centre past the BP, even as far as the lights by the Best Western.

          Even just peak-hours bus lanes would make an enormous difference. Worth thinking about.

          BTW if you’re not that far along the E-P Highway, have you considered cycling to the train station? That would give you reliable journey times and remove parking hassles…

        3. I imagine that anyone who has ever considered cycling there has probably said ‘no, I like living’.

        4. In the morning I imagine the bunching is happening somewhere east of Panmure. The full Eastern Busway and Pakuranga Rd bus lanes would probably solve this.

          In the evening the main choke points are Newmarket, Greenlane and the worst of all the tail back from the pedestrian crossing in Ellerslie. Good bus lanes in each of these areas would certainly make things easier.

          Ironically the section I travel on the EP Highway actually flows quite freely, it’s the other sections that appear to stuff up the route.

          As for cycling I did it for a while but decided I value my life too much and had a couple of locked bikes stolen. I’d be on my bike every day if there were good cycle lanes and storage.

        5. jezza, agree on the bike storage. There is space for it in Ellerslie, but no one seems to want to make it happen.

          about cycling safety – yes, Ellerslie is short of cycle lanes as well as bus lanes, but I’ve cycled in the area daily for six years and it’s not bad if you pick your route. If you can’t avoid the E-P Highway, then you have issues.

          There is potential though. I would personally love for the motorway underpass from Gavin St in Ellerslie to McNab St in Penrose be reopened, as it would open up a cycling route to Penrose and Onehunga largely on quiet streets. Good things take time though…

  4. There is a huge difference in West Auckland frequencies when comparing the two maps.

    I personally would like to see all rail frequencies increased to at least 15 minutes off-peak and in weekends. The maximum frequency should be 30 minutes, not one hour. Services should also operate earlier in the day and later in the evening to maximise the catchment of workers.

    The bus services in the area are also an improvement but need further timetable improvements.

  5. Local bus services, especially the frequent service routes, need more intersection priority and bus lanes urgently. The 15 min frequency means nothing when buses become bunched.
    I hate that I always have a little feeling of nervousness when using a bus to get somewhere for a meeting or appointment.
    “do i take the earlier one just in case, or even the one before that?” – that sort of question shouldn’t cause anxiety for someone using PT.

  6. Are the bus lanes in place to support the entire rapid network?

    I’d love to see that second map with only lengths of bus right of way in place. That’s the real rapid network.

    1. Yes, and AT’s figures show that, of the arterial road network, 24% of it was congested at peak times last year (up from 18% two years prior. What will it be next year: 32%? I wonder how that compares with the percentage of the arterial road network that has bus priority measures?

  7. This is an Incomplete Network created by AT. At present you can not “turn up and go” especially so during off peak & weekends. The true & correct 2018 Rapid & Frequent Public Transport Network Map shows too many gaps & lack of coverage. Until this is fixed by AT the new network won’t achieve the three key principles of frequency, connectivity, and simplicity for Auckland’s Public Transport System.

  8. Would be good to get confirmation the third main is going ahead, as this is vital for having frequent services on the Eastern and Southern lines.

    The next timetable really should have 15 min frequencies off-peak on the Western line though.

    1. +1. Can’t see the 3rd main progressing until Middlemore station rebuilt and thats likely to take a year or longer. Maybe not during this govts term

  9. Great post. I’d love to know what that last bullet point list of improvements would cost, because upping the frequency and extending a few more lines on the frequent network would really create a super effective system.

    My guess is the cost wouldn’t be that great, maybe a 10 or 15% increase in the operating budget, because all those lines already run 10-15 mins at peak times, so the vehicles, infrastructure and most of the drivers required are already out there. If anything it would mean less split shifts.

    I’d also add something around the span to the Wishlist. If the frequent network started around 5 or 6 in the morning and ran to about 9pm (with a bit extra on the weekends) that would cover the vast majority of travel. I got stuck last night at 8pm after a very long meeting and realised I’d need to take three buses to get home, one of which was only running once an hour. Took a taxi, but I can’t afford to do that every other day…

  10. Would hovercrafts work in the Manukau harbour? Given that on Google maps it looks too shallow for standard ferry services.

    For example – Place a couple of hovercraft ports somewhere in between Green Bay along the shore line all the way up to Waikowhai Bay.

    Giving commuters access to some key stops being
    – All the way into Onehunga inlet to the Portage Rd Walkway at Otahuhu, essentially linking up to Otahuhu station.
    – Mangere Bridge as suggested by many others already
    – Airport
    – Clarks Beach/Waiuku

    But yes, I’d imagine the economics of it would be the sticking point……………

    1. The hovercraft was always a solution looking for a problem. I guess if you felt there were just too many arctic waders out there in the Manukau mudflats, then yes, a hovercraft would be one way to kill some and chase the rest away.

        1. And the economics usually work well as long as things like arctic waders and eels get killed, so it should be a goer. 🙂

        2. It is as if some Englishman sat around thinking that the current forms of transportation were becoming too quiet and fuel efficient and had steering systems that were not vague enough. He also noticed that too few people were vomiting when crossing the English Channel and in a single eureka moment he fixed all of those problems by inventing the hovercraft.

  11. I take the train from Glen Eden most days and with ten minute frequencies it’s great. However weekend journeys or if I am leaving for work later are a nightmare. Sitting at a translation for half an hour? what a waste of time. Frequencies should be the number 1 priority for AT. It’s the ultimate quick win. Obviously they need money to do it (hiring and training drivers) but as soon as petrol tax comes on line this should be task #1.

  12. It’s hard to operate high frequency buses at peak without proper bus lanes. Increased speed = increased frequency with out the need for more buses.

    New network is better, but we need more. Tying them in with trains at major hubs would be a start, it’s pretty annoying to get off a train at Panmure and see I’ve got a 15 minute wait for a connecting bus.

    1. Couldn’t agree more. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve got off at Panmure and seen the 70 bus pulling out as I go up the escalator.

      1. Twice in the last week I’ve gotten off the 70/72 at Panmure, with the 70/72 waiting to go. Twice it’s left as I’ve been walking towards it. You’d think they could wait for the passengers from the bus that has just arrived to get on? I know that keeping a timetable is important, but I was about a 15 second walk away.

  13. I cannot really argue with any of this post. Running services with less than 15 minute frequency will not get anyone out of cars.

    1. It seems pretty stupid to be spending billions on light rail etc when for much less they could make all of those services 10 min frequencies full with dedicated bus lanes.

  14. AT Rapid & Frequent Transport Network needs 4 Main Services to be complete: 1.Extra trains with Extra services & Rail network improvements, 2. Extra buses & more bus lanes, 3. Improved & New ferry services & 4. New light rail services built & introduced asap. Regional petrol taxes can help start & fund these Public Transport Services.

  15. +1 to all of this.

    We need to get the network up to a decent frequent grid and sort the rail ASAP. AT need to release a policy statement on timing as well to show that these are the priorities.

    It’s also incredibly disappointing that AT did not make the 380 frequent with the recent service upgrade. From the timetable it looks like 1 service a day each way was the difference! For the sake of 14 services a week they couldn’t show the public that they are expanding the reach of frequent service!

  16. Frequencies could be improved without a lot of investment if the bus lanes where there. If the bus route off-peak takes 40 minutes to complete but at peak it doubles to 80 minutes this means that in order to provide the same frequency there must be more buses on the road. Some green paint could improve the service without spending a lot of money.

  17. re Trains: “The next timetable change will bump weekends up to 20 minutes”….yawn, such glacial change. Why not just make a minimum of 15 mins 7 days for goodness sake.

    1. Can’t be done fully until the third main is built between Westfield and Wiri. Of course this is a project that should have happened ages ago.

  18. No more need for thousands of printed paper based Bus, Ferry & Train Timetables if there are 10 minute services all day 7 days a week provided by AT the public transport provider. Only need to go online to check transport options & print if required.

  19. Bit off topic but couldn’t find a reasonable recent or relevant post. I vaguely recall someone commenting or something that the trains may run in driverless mode in the CRL sections of the rail network. If anyone want to get an idea of how this sort of works, here is a recent video…reasonable entertaining but dragged…. on this sort of thing in the UK – First Automatic Thameslink Train in Passenger Service. – this is “to get 24 trains per hour through the ‘Core’ section”.

    1. Now that Harriet’s post about Fixing Rail Congestion is up, why don’t you put it there, Grant? Nicely relevant. 🙂 Will watch it when I have time, thanks.

  20. You can’t stress too strongly that to be useful for ‘any time any place’ trips with transfers, the network has to be frequent *and reliable*. A nominal 15-minute frequency, but you have an even chance of waiting 25 minutes and then two come at once, is completely useless for transfer trips.
    So more bus lanes, queue jump lanes, traffic light pre-emption etc to reduce bunching, has to be an integral part of developing a frequent network.

  21. Map is inconsistent – You’ve merged route 14 between Henderson and Westgate, but you have not done so for route 72 between Howick and Botany.

    1. Route 14 isn’t merged to Westgate, it’s only merged as far as the common section to Lincoln Road.

      I’m pretty sure a pair of routes that are only frequent between the two end points doesn’t count.

  22. Matt L,

    On the flipside of the coin, true “public transport” should have a full coverage network (max 400m walk to all destinations) with maximum 30 minute headways & ideally near 24/7 as a base before we worry about increased service levels.

    It doesn’t all have to be fixed route – on demand transit can be used where fixed routes are not efficient.

    How does Auckland stack up on that basis?

  23. There are various comments on this thread about bus lanes or green paint.

    I’ve always thought that if the road is route that is important enough to have a number, so as to form part of a route between places, it shouldn’t have any parking on it, so that it can be a route and not a carpark.

    Doing this would provide a lot of space for the bus lanes required to provide the consistency required to provide a rapid and frequent network.

    1. Anyone else noticed one of the two car dmus is parked up at Henderson along with the usual few am emus. Whats it doing there? Are we going to see it used for a Henderson Huapai shuttle

  24. People experiences with a service is either hit or miss. I would rather to have a few good services that people can have positive experience, than a lot of useless services that will give PT a bad reputation.

    5 minutes frequency with all day service – People will like it, people will trust it, people will rely on it. It will be their favourite mode and it will be their to go mode.

    15 minutes frequency peak only with no late service and unreliable times – People missing bus will be frustrated, people will be regret using pt, people will hate it. They will swear and never think about PT anymore. Their to go mode will go back to car.

    With such a bad experience, it will gets harder for people to support more PT investment.

    It is better to focus on a few strategic routes. It then builds a successful example for people to see. So more people get it and support it.

    Now AT just try to split their budget all over the place so none of the service becomes a hit.

  25. Does anyone know if the proposed increase in funding for public transport announced in the latest GPS will have any impact on the central new bus network, such as increased route frequencies, particularly those “frequent” routes that disappeared in the latest network version? It seems reasonable to think that it could have a positive effect, but would that be seen in 2018, 2019, or further down the track?

    1. There was some suggestion of increased operations funding and/or a reduced farebox recovery requirement. However I don’t think anything specific.

      This could be very important and very useful. As little as 5 or 10% more service budget could be enough to upgrade maybe a dozen or more routes to proper frequent services and really complete the bus network.

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