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.”

There’s a lot more detail here, with the network map shown below.

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.

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  1. Amazing how much of the PT network is screwed over by the university opposing the sensible option of running buses up that Wellesley St ramp.

  2. Those “guiding” fences are awful. People will always take the desire line. The effect of the fencing will simply be to increase risk dramatically, as people step around it and walk down the very edge of the pavement along Symonds St.

    1. I note, too, that the lampposts have to be at least 1.0m from the kerb, so they will clutter the little space remaining. This is a surprisingly backwards step, AT, given that I would have thought anything compromising pedestrian safety would be under considerable scrutiny at present. Get thee back to the negotiating table with the University before you go ahead with this or any other bad designs.

    2. We have guide fences where I live, they do work. Your assertion that everyone will take the desire line assumes that everyone has the same level of mobility and same appetite for risk.

      1. Surely those with lesser mobility or appetite for risk don’t need guide fences, they would just go to where the crossing is.

  3. The Albany wiggle jumps out from that map, doesn’t it? It screamed “Indirect! Don’t travel times matter on buses?” so I’m glad you pointed it out, Matt.

    1. I do wonder whether the frequent buses through there could scoot around the outside loop instead staying on Oteha Valley Rd, given a rough connection to the Albany Village edge. Just need to improve some ped links then inwards to the shopping centre & village. Perhaps it could continue to Constellation instead of terminating in the University (only 300m walk in) or in the future could terminate or also pass through the new Rosedale Station (except that fact it would be a loop route!). Perhaps it could travel up Rosedale Rd and terminate up in that small shopping ctr there.

  4. I think that 83 looks great, and can imagine it being the busiest non-city route in Auckland.

    It is obviously the combination of several corridors, Browns Bay to Albany via Northcross, Browns Bay-Rothesay-Murrays-Mairangi to Constellation, and Constellation to Takapuna via Smales Farm.

    But that is great, it links up a whole lot of places quite directly (or at least as good as you can given the street network up north). Mairangi Bay to Browns Bay local bus, check, Rothesay Bay to Massey Uni, check, feeder shuttle from Murrays Bay to Constellation, check, feeder shuttle from Northcross to Albany station, check, Constellation and Smales Farm to Takapuna express, check, Smales Farm to Mairangi, Browns Bay to Takapuna etc etc.

    Sure some of that isn’t the most direct way, in fact for Mairangi to Albany central (remember nobody goes to the station as their final destination!) you’d probably be best to catch the 83 to Constellation, the NX to Albany, then back on the 83 to get to the mall or uni or whatever. The frequencies planned make that a feasible trip.

    In my opinion the biggest gap on the northern network is the lack of an equivalent frequent “joiner-upperer” route for the west side of the shore. IMHO the 941 and the 942 should be frequent, one C shaped route called the 94 that stops and starts at Takapuna. That would tie together all the main centres of the lower and western north shore (including Northcote, which is bizarrely not on a frequent line), and would create several strong feeder corridors to Smales Farm and Akoranga.

    1. Yes I noticed how good that 83 is, simplifying things nicely. One I would of caught way back to get to university or work if I still flatted on Browns Bay Rd.

      1. I grew up in the Mairangi Bay area, and that 83 would have covered literally everywhere I ever went until my teens (school, local shops, friends houses, Takapuna) and after that pretty much still everywhere I went via a convenient shuttle to Constellation for the NEX to town.

        1. Kind of like the upper North Shore’s answer to the Outer Link, in terms of game-changing route, then. But without the loop drawbacks. 🙂

  5. Loss of the 945 direct route between Takapuna and Glenfield with no options at all for some of those living in Hillcrest and Northcote. Loss of the two 952 services from the city in the evening rush hour via Akoranga offramp, College Road, and Northcote, which took some pressure off the 921 and 922 services for passengers who found 952 more appropriate.

    Enough backward steps to push me towards buying a campervan to live in (there are other issues pushing me in that direction but these route losses add weight).

    1. I strongly support the purchase of a camper van to live in! We’d absolutely be living in one if we didn’t host travelers and dinner parties so frequently!

  6. The services on Onewa Road are identical to the current ones, but they’re just a bit harder to figure out:

    – Line 97 is identical to the current lines 973 and 974
    – Line 95 is identical to the current lines 955 and 958

    These pairs already form a regular connection between the city and the point where they diverge.

    There’s a similar pair, 975 and 976, currently going to Takapuna, which is being replaced by the 942, with the frequency staying the same at half-hourly.

  7. Where’s the bus between Westgate and Constellation on all this? At the moment there is a service that goes as long a way around as possible tripling the time it takes between them.
    Should leave Westgate via Hobsonville, onto the motorway maybe make a short trip through Greenhithe then back on the motorway all the way to Constellation and not along through Sunset Rd etc. The congestion on Upper Harbour motorway in the mornings is getting really bad (considering it’s supposed to be the Western Ring Route alternative to SH1). A lot of these people are simply going to around Constellation (or joining the motorway where they could be transferred to the NEX instead).

    1. Yes they like to show it as a ‘Future Rapid’ on their nice pictures without ever doing anything. It would make a great light rail route from Westgate to Constellation with stops at Luckens Rd, Hobsonville, Tauhinu Rd at Greenhithe, and William Pickering Dr. This should be a committed goal for completion by 2030.

      1. A great bus rapid transit route maybe, but I don’t see the need for light rail with relatively low demands and no real spatial pressures.

  8. With friends who live in Omaha, I’m going to love being able to get there by bus more easily. Going by car is so dismal and puts me off visiting. Thanks AT. While I don’t think every far-flung sprawling suburb can be connected well by bus, I think it is great to provide options for Aucklanders to get to the beautiful beaches without a car.

    1. I remember making a trip to the Waiwera Hot Pools a few years ago on a tediously indirect, infrequent and lengthy route. Looks a lot easier now.

      1. Its still infrequent. Length/indirect was resolved by the 110 which is mostly along the motorway, vs the 080 which went via Te Atatu Sth/Henderson/Massey.

        1. Sorry for some reason I thought you meant Parakai pools. Haha. I never really had an issue with Waiwera buses, unfortunately are still quite infrequent though, would be nice if more continued to Waiwera as opposed to terminating in Orewa.

    2. Its going to be hideously infrequent though, with 8 buses a day on weekdays, 4 buses a day on weekends. But I suppose if you plan it well it should work ok. But knowing the way buses are running in Auckland, they will probably run early/late/not at all at random :(.

      1. The thing is, Omaha can’t expect more frequent than this. But at least it’s much easier than it was. Generally, going by bus means you have to be picked up in Warkworth. It feels fine to have the hosts pick the children up from the bus in Warkworth, it’s a really different social situation to be asking them to pick me up just so that I don’t have to drive. Other times I have gone up on days that didn’t really suit just so I could manage the connection to Omaha, and that was sometimes with a 2.5 hour wait in Warkworth for a nearly 1 hour tiki tour leg from there to Omaha.

        It may not look much but this is far, far better.

  9. That 890 route to Corinthian Dr must be in response to local businesses/workers having a moan about the priced parking in Albany to be implemented alongside the new network. It’s going to be a horribly expensive route to run, no doubt it’ll eventually get dropped like one of local routes in Papakura

    1. Agree, easily the most useless route in the entire Auckland bus network. It’s so close to the 83, and it appears to be a peak only service.

    2. It’ll probably be very cheap to run actually. It’s a short ten minute loop a few times per peak, I’d bet it’s just utilising a little spare capacity from one of the other lines terminating at Albany. I.e. if you’ve got a hourly route that takes 40 minutes to run, you might as well send the bus up to Corinthian Drive and back in ten minutes for tiny marginal expense.

    3. Its a short route alright, the 632 that runs between Stonefields suburb [in the old Mt Wellington quarry] and the GI train station is a similar short route, the 632 is slightly longer at about 5km per round trip, but s 632 does do a slightly longer dog leg than this one which adds the extra distance.

      Both locations are prime examples of how not to do a suburb, they have poor integration of the area with the nearby major transport hubs.

      But are too far to generally conveniently walk and yet are at the same time just close enough to have suffered from years of “bus neglect” – as its usually considered to be too close to the transport hub to need their own service.

      I don’t know how well used the 632 service is these days, it was only every 20 minutes peak a while back. So at that frequency most times it would likely be quicker to walk the distance unless you live at the very far end of the “loop” or have kids, elderly/infirm or are disabled/unable to walk.

      Both of these locations would be good candidates for running an all day fully automated [driverless] service, a couple of those buses trundling around [1 in each direction] would actually work well as a transport service.

      1. To be fair Albany (and Stonefields, I assume) was designed specifically for car access only, 100% focused on cars and parking. Retrofitting buses and anything else is always going to be pretty inefficient and ineffective.

  10. Why is AT changing route numbers?

    I accept a simplified route number would be far better than the current 3 digit meaningless number but to make matters even more confusing why do they, for example, now change the well established 974 route to Beachhaven to the 97R or the 976 to the 942 or yet another meaningless 3 digit number. I am sure the bureaucrats at AT love this shit but for users and those not familiar, its a own goal mess. Stick to two digits as much as possible, give them easy to follow logic and tell your passengers what the numbers mean.

    And why are some services still Monday to Friday? Is it an admission PT is a poor alternative?

    Secondly and I get that buses should not be doing a tiki tour through every road to cover several routes in one hit but as is evident on the map some roads are ridiculously over served and yet large swathes of the North Shore are missing a service altogether. And I can guarantee that the North Shore is a hilly place that most won’t be bothered walking for the bus, Greenhiithe through to Albany, Birkenhead/Birkdale etc.

    Surely terminating and starting some routes in the voids would be far better than the system they are now bringing in, of several routes all starting and ending at the same place?

    If AT are trying to encourage growth then why make it harder?

    1. Or just get rid of all the 3 digit routes altogether. If they aren’t used enough to support 15 minute frequencies are they actually worthwhile at all?
      The new map still looks like spaghetti, a lot of squiggly lines to nowhere.

      1. There are more than 100 routes in Auckland, so they can’t all be two digits.

        Actually if you follow the convention of avoiding leading zeros, there are only 90 two digit numbers available.

    2. The new numbering system makes all Frequent routes two-digit, while the remainder are three-digit. For the casual user, that’s a real plus – if you see a two-digit bus route then you know for sure that a bus will be along quite soon.

      1. Yes the frequents are two digits, and the tails of a frequent route are two digits plus the third letter which keeps it consistent. So the 97 is the frequent route from town to Verrans Corner, and the 97R is the non-frequent continuation past Verrans.

      2. To be fair, to the casual user it is an cypher code, it truly makes no sense.

        Question, the 97B or R will run every 30 minutes around Birkdale/Beachhaven rather than the current 973/974’s every 20. I am misreading or does the 97B go on the 30 and hour or is it once per hour?

        1. It makes more sense than the current numbers for the casual user. The only thing going for the existing numbers is that you know them already.

          I haven’t seen the timetables so not sure, but the 97 is at least every 15 minutes which suggest the 97B and 97R are at least every 30 minutes each.

        2. I think it will be identical to the current service. 973/974 = 97B/97R. The part up to Verrans Corner runs at a regular schedule (every 15 minutes, or every 7.5 minutes at peak), and from there on the buses will alternate between the the R or B variant. Similar to how many other frequent lines have two tails.

          The number + letter pattern will make it a bit easier to figure out that this is the main line to Birkdale.

  11. What I find disappointing is that now not only Newmarket effectively loses a good connection (881) to the Shore, but also the other frequent routes that could be used to make the trip don’t really have a convenient transfer point. I guess 70/75 + NEX2 is the best bet, but it’s still a walk in both directions between the stops.

    1. The 886 is the Shore to Newmarket service now but not in the weekends and you have to accept the dawdle in traffic down Ponsonby Road.

        1. Yep, they’ve got to fix Curran Street for those buses. Much quicker in the evening to train from Newmarket to Britomart and get on a normal NEX

        2. I guess the south direction getting off at Shelly Beach Rd off-ramp at least is pretty quick & misses the Fanshawe & Custom St stops/slow section.

  12. So the end of the 881 bus. It went from 5 per day in 2009 to 70 odd now with some campaigning. It’s replacement Nex2 and 866 look good. Particularly like later services. Been asking for this and think will be well patronised. Pleased to see people are asking for bus priority in Ponsonby as these buses are painfully slow in evenings heading North. Also the buses should have access to Wellesley ramps. If cannot get this before NEX2 starts maybe someone could help the students do a campaign to get it.

  13. The big problem I see with this hub and spoke approach is that say if you work in town but work somewhere in the Beach Road vicinity, the 2 buses you need to take are the 856 to/from Smales and then a NEX into town. One is a high frequency service (the NEX), the other much less frequent (856) and given its torturous route, will be less reliable. So at the end of a day at the office, you might be waiting 30 minutes plus for your connecting bus home – that is quite off putting. I won’t even talk about the situation for people who don’t work in town, but work say in Takapuna. There your options are arguably worse than what they are currently.

    1. Not really worse? The current combination of 822/858 seems about the same frequency, in fact worse with the NN 856 every 15 mins towards the city at peak compared to 20mins/30mins inconsistent. So just small wait at peak for the very frequent NEX service. Perhaps you are talking about the loss of the 881 going up Anzac St in the city?

      1. Ok, the new route map says every 30 minutes not every 15 minutes, maybe I misread that. Even so, I am not sure potentially waiting 15+ minutes for another connector bus at Smales for a trip that should only take 5-10 minutes more is going to impress many CBD commuters around Beach Rd area.

        As far as the 858 is concerned, going to Takapuna that way via Smales and then back tracking via the hospital (which is what 856 does) takes twice as long as the 822 – so is the one I take only if I am desperate. Yet the 822 is disappearing…

        1. If you are going to the CBD though the new 858 always misses the hospital which is nice a predictable & faster. I guess going to Takapuna or the more central part of the CBD the other option is transfer to the frequent 82, which may work a lot better for a lot of people (esp originating south of Milford) but probably not for those people coming from that small section of Beach Rd around Castor Bay.

    2. Well the NEX runs so frequently all the time that the wait is basically irrelevant… so its the 856 you wait for. That will run every 15 minutes at peak times, every thirty minutes at other times.

      Compare that to the existing 858 from town to Beach Road, which only runs every half hour at peak times (although this is along with the 839 depending on which bit you are on).

      So basically at peak times you have to wait up to half an hour now, but it will only be every fifteen minutes with the new network… unless you leave quite late then it’s back to half an hour.

      Also in my experience routes like the 858 were always late leaving town in the PM, probably because they run all the way from Long Bay into the city first. The new 856 should be quite a bit more reliable because it stays on the Shore.

      1. I think there is a big difference between timing your arrival at the departing bus stop so you don’t have to hang around for too long versus waiting at an interim stop for the next bus to take you on the next leg, when we’re talking about 15+ minutes. Psychology maybe. Anyway, time will tell.

  14. Looking at the map overall, I’m wondering if our “network experts” like the form? There are circuitous routes, and lots of routes terminating at the stations on the northern busway rather than crossing them as a grid network would. Is this as good as you can do with an area built around the car with a mainly dendritic roading pattern? Would a grid network not work because travel demands are very much into and out of the cbd?

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