The new bus network on the isthmus rolled out on Sunday and many people have been finding the changes positive. It follows on the heels of the roll outs in the South, West and East of the city, all of which have so far proven successful at increasing the number of people using PT. We expect we’ll see similar positive results from the Isthmus network and in the future the North Shore network too.
But while the buses have improved for many, it’s inevitable that the change will result in some people getting a worse PT experience, or at least a different one. Where previously they may have been able to catch a single, possibly infrequent, bus to their destination, now they might need to transfer. Those people will also tend to be much louder than those benefiting from better coverage.
Transferring does introduce more uncertainty, but it also opens up greater opportunities for travel. When it works well it can be just as good, if not better than direct buses – as our friend Jolisa experienced and tweeted about the other day.
Testing the #NewNetwork like a big bus nerd. The 030 used to get me from Coyle Park to K Rd, door to door in about 25 mins, but only ran on the half hour; always a bit of a time management challenge. 1/n
— Jolisa Gracewood (@nzdodo) July 9, 2018
I’ve copied the text of the rest of the tweets below, follow the links to see accompanying pictures if you want
First bus of the new two-bus tango: the Route 66, which runs every quarter hour, a straight shot down to the Pt Chev shops. Boarded @ 5.32 (slightly late), did the run in approx seven parsecs, sorry, minutes.
Then a gallop through the town square (creating a new desire line through the planting next to the bus stop) with a minute to spare to catch the #18. (Not a double decker, alas.)
Also not a fan of this desolate-feeling bus stop tbh, even with frequent buses. This will be the sketchiest part of my return trip, despite alighting in the warm glow of the KFC: I have to cross the town square to another more desolate bus stop.
Rattling along the Great North Road ridge and K Rd at an efficient clip. Nearly at my destination. This bit is good!
And stepping off the bus at 5.56. Journey time 24 minutes, if you make the transfer, which involves a bit of a trit trot. Satisfactory so far. Homeward leg, later!
Homeward bound from K Road. It’s true what they say about buses: you wait ten minutes and then three turn up at once! I hop on the 132 (even tho the one behind it is a double decker). K Rd to Pt Chev shops: 8 minutes.
Running the gauntlet: first, Auckland’s slowest pedestrian crossing; then the empty town square, then the motorway intersection with aaaalll the slip lanes; then the desolate bus stop.
My reward: the 66 arrives just as I do! It’s mine, all mine, and gets me home before I can even finish typing this tweet. Total travel time: 18 minutes door to door, K Rd to Coyle Park. What the hey!
In conclusion: if your timing is good and/or you’re a brisk walker, this new frequency lark is just the ticket. But I wouldn’t fancy sitting at the bus stop for 14 minutes; luckily I didn’t have to, this time. Also: safe and convenient pIedestrian crossings will be essential.
Caveat: the buses were great, but the dark scary lonely parts are dark, scary, and lonely. Possibly more actively dangerous – but fixable by AT: the tedious beg button crossing (after two minutes waiting, the temptation to jaywalk is strong!) and the ‘orrible slip lanes.
Frequency is key to having transfers work well but as Jolisa highlights, that’s not the only part of PT experience that needs to work well. We also need to ensure that transferring is comfortable, easy and safe. On that score, AT doesn’t come out so well.
That brings us to the 2013 Regional Public Transport Plan (RPTP). The RPTP lays out how PT will work and what services will run and the 2013 version was the first to officially introduce the new network. The document also talks of the need implement accompanying infrastructure to support the network.
Table 8-2 also shows the delivery date by which the infrastructure project needs to be operational to align with the planned staging of proposed service changes. The table does not purport to be fully comprehensive but does cover all public transport modes, and includes Park-and-Ride
The projects are broken down into the three categories below
- ‘Essential’ means required in advance in order to run the proposed services or the project significantly enhances patronage growth
- ‘Highly desirable’ means crucial projects to maximise the benefits of the proposed services in terms of patronage growth and/or enhanced connection environment between services
- ‘Desirable’ means useful projects that complement the proposed services, eg by improving customer experience.
Here’s the table for the central network along with some of the expected costs at the time. Some projects, such as Newton Interchange, simply don’t exist anymore, but most do and despite many being ‘highly desirable’ and not that costly, it seems no progress has been made.
The combined cost of the cluster of town centres listed from Blockhouse Bay to Glen Innes amount to just over $16 million – although that’s likely to have changed. Getting them rolled out would help to make a difference in how the network is perceived.
We even have an example of what some of the important suburban interchanges may look like as a result of the bus shelter trial a few years back. We’ve seen the small and medium versions but not the large neighborhood ones. The image below is of Balmoral and is a far cry from the usual windswept bus shelter on most roads.
Improving the infrastructure surrounding key transfer points won’t solve everything but will go some way to improving the experience for customers. That these haven’t been implemented and, as far as I’m aware, there’s no current plan to do so, brings into question ATs commitment to improving PT outcomes.
This questioning is compounded by AT dropping the infrastructure segment from the 2015 version of the RPTP.
For those interested, here are what they say was needed for the South, East and West.