In two weeks the new bus network on the isthmus goes live. That’s going to be followed on 30 September by the North Shore network. Last week, Auckland Transport released the final version of what changes we’ll see then – as well as changes to Hibiscus Coast services and the introduction of services from Warkworth.
The North Shore will have a new bus network from 30 September, which will be simpler and better connected, and there will be more buses coming more often.
The new network includes a second Northern Express, the NX2, which will take customers from Northern Busway stations to Wellesley St and the city centre universities every 5 minutes at peak-times, and every 10 to 15 minutes at other times.
Connections to local destinations will also be improved. There will be better access to North Shore Hospital, a service linking Albany Station and Corinthian Drive, and Beach Haven residents can look forward to getting to Glenfield using a single bus, via Kaipātiki Road.
North Shore ward councillor, Chris Darby sees this is a turning point for bus services in the North Shore, “We’re looking at the horizon of the biggest step-change in bus access for Shore residents.
“We’re pushing go on improved services to universities and North Shore Hospital, a new cross-Shore link, frequent ferry feeder buses and much better connections from neighbourhoods to town centres and the Busway.”
Fellow councillor, Richard Hills, says the popularity of local bus services is on the rise, “In the past three years, the monthly seat capacity of the three major North Shore routes (Onewa, Takapuna to the city centre, and the Northern Busway) has increased by 460,000 seats.
“This new network will respond by increasing services even more, with a 45 percent total increase – that’s huge. This is a big win for people who face challenges of full buses, or wanting a direct service from Beach Haven to Glenfield and Takapuna.”
Cr Darby agrees, “Not only will users receive better services, but they’ll do so in next-level comfort, travelling on brand-spanking new buses. The wave of bus users is getting larger by the day as Shore residents swap congested car travel for frequent and reliable bus access. With the new network rollout, this wave will become even more popular.”
Auckland Transport’s Network Development Manager, Anthony Cross says, “The existing North Shore network can be confusing. Some services do different things at weekends or off-peak, and depending on when people travel, they may have to take different services from different stops to reach the same destination.
“The New Network is more straight forward. We’ve designed frequent, more direct bus services that connect to busway stations and shopping centres, where you can easily transfer between services to access more destinations than ever before.
“To make these improvements we’ve had to reduce the number of routes that run all the way into the City Centre, so for some journeys a transfer will be required. But the increased frequency and connectivity of the new network will give many people reduced waiting times and increased flexibility.
“We’re also running out of suitable space for buses in the City Centre, so we need a more efficient bus network. A higher proportion of the services that come into the City Centre will use double-deckers and the Northern Busway.”
As a comparison, here’s the existing network.
There are quite a few positive changes here.
- The Northern Express (NEX) becomes the NX1 and services to Hibiscus Coast will increase to every 6-10 minutes at peak – another good example of improved service leading to demand for even better services.
- The NX2 replaces the 881 with access to the universities via Wellesley St. This will be also be very useful for anyone working in the middle of town.
- The 881 also currently serves Newmarket, this will be replaced by the 866 which goes via Ponsonby – but only Monday to Friday.
- Buses between Takapuna and the city get improved. Currently Takapuna is served with direct buses to the city from six different routes. While in theory they already provide a frequent service, in reality it’s often not as some start their run from as far north as Long Bay and work their way down to Takapuna on local roads which can be subject to congestion. The new 82 service to/from Milford replaces the busiest part of these routes – Takapuna to the city – and should be much more reliable as a result. In addition, with the changes in routes serving Akoranga, it appears that catching a NX bus to Akoranga then transferring to a local service might be getting easier too.
- Like with Takapuna, Onewa Rd is currently served by a myriad of different bus routes. These are mostly consolidated into a few more frequent routes.
But there are a few interesting/odd aspects to the network.
The 83 route looks like a classic case of joining a couple of different routes together. For example, if you were in Mairangi Bay and wanted to get to Albany, you might be better to catch the 83 to Constellation and then transfer to a NX bus instead of going all the way up through Browns Bay. And we talked the other day about serving Albany, AT seem to have taken the position of looping the buses around almost every road – again showing how stupid the street pattern is there. There’s also the bizare little route that runs from the busway station around Corinthian Dr, at only about 3km return, is that the shortest route in Auckland?
There remain a few other buses that do some really long, detours, such as the 906 between Constellation and Smales that detours through the back of Glenfield.
In addition to the North Shore, for the first time buses will run up to Warkworth and through the surrounding areas. It would be a long trip but it will soon become possible to catch a series of buses from town all the way to Omaha.
What’s not shown on these maps is what happens in the city centre, although it appears it will be similar to now with the NX1 and Onewa Rd services going to Britomart and Takapuna services to Wellesley St, along with the NX2. The NX2 will take a slightly different route in the city though and AT are consulting (till tomorrow) on some changes to accommodate it. They want to send the buses up to Symonds St where they would terminate before heading back to the North Shore – as shown in the map below.
There are a couple of problems with this. Firstly, this is exactly the busiest point for buses on Symonds St, which is already over capacity according to AT. One wonders if they’ve been down there in the morning peak, it can be chaos and full of buses.
Secondly, as the map shows, there are a number of changes to be made to enable the buses to use these streets. Most of that is removing carparking to replace with bus parking but the most concerning is the turn from Wakefield St into Symonds St. There AT are ignoring their own design rules to make things worse for pedestrians in this heavily walked area. Currently pedestrians can walk straight down Symonds St and across the pedestrian crossing. The plan AT are consulting on would shift that back by a few metres, which may not seem like much but takes pedestrians off their desire line. To make thing worse, they plan on installing barriers to “guide” people to the new crossing. This is completely at odds with their own Code of Practice which states about railings that using them for “Guiding pedestrians toward a desirable route or towards a preferred crossing location” is no longer a valid reason for installing them. They also plan to cut back the kerb and relocate the traffic light which will significantly narrow down the footpath in this section.
It’s worth remembering that this is in large part due to the University of Auckland being hostile towards buses and opposing them using the ramps up from Wellesley St.