Next month the final stage of implementing Auckland’s new public transport network will be completed, as the North Shore network goes live.

This has been a long time coming, as the new network has been in the works since 2012. But now we have reached this milestone, it does beg the question “what next?”

I think having made this big change, the key next step is to really make the most from the new network – through a combination of improvements:

• Bring rail into being a true part of the frequent PT network. Incredibly the rail system, despite being identified as a critical part of the frequent network, is not yet part of it as it still operates at pathetically low frequencies off peak and (especially) at weekends. While the upcoming timetable change will make some improvement, more is needed for it to meet ATs definition of a service at least every 15 minutes 7am-7pm, 7 days a week.
• Expand the frequent network by making some services that currently operate every half hour more frequent, so they meet the “15 minute” standard.
• Increase the standard of a frequent service to be every 10 minutes (proper turn up and go) instead of every 15 minutes.

These changes will require more investment in PT operations. While the Government has made good noises about increasing PT funding, operational funding for public transport services will always be tight. The trick is to look at all the different variables that go into making each dollar stretch the furthest.

Alon Levy has a good recent post that digs into some of the simple maths that sit behind operational costs, including the different levers that can be pulled to make a difference. In a nutshell it is quite a simple story:

Daily service hours * average speed per hour = daily frequencies * network length

Alon runs through a series of calculations as part of a project he’s undertaking to see how the bus network in Brooklyn, New York can be improved. But these all build off the formula above, which can be applied in most places (especially to buses where costs are most variable). To get your head around this, let’s work through it bit by bit:

• Think of “daily service hours” as the amount of money being invested into PT operations. This buys a certain number of hours each bus is used for, multiplied by the number of buses you run.
• Once that’s multiplied by the speed vehicles travel at, you have the total amount of service kilometres being delivered.
• Now looking across the other side of the equation, the total amount of service kilometres being delivered can be split in two different ways. You can either run really high frequencies across relatively few or relatively short routes, or you can run lower frequencies across a longer and larger network. The more you do of one, the less you can do of the other.

The new network really looked at the right-hand side of this equation. Things like how many routes there should be, what frequencies should each route run at, how might we find an optimal balance between frequency and network length? If we then take “daily service hours” as relatively unlikely to dramatically change, this leaves “average speed per hour” as the main tool for getting much more out of our bus network.

A good way of thinking about this is to imagine a single route – let’s say one that’s 10 kilometres long so the maths is easy. If the buses on this route average 20 kph then they will take half an hour to travel end to end, or an hour to do a ’round trip’. You would need 4-5 buses to operate a service every 15 minutes on this route. Increasing or decreasing the speed of the service will increase or decrease the number of buses you need to maintain the same frequency – and therefore drive up or down cost. Furthermore, a faster service will be more attractive to passengers and likely mean that fares cover a greater proportion of operating costs (after all, busy buses make money, it’s really only the empty buses that require a subsidy).

So, if we want more frequent services or to expand the frequent network, we must make the buses go faster. Fortunately it seems like Auckland Transport have a plan for this:

Auckland Transport is preparing to speed-up many suburban bus trips, in a bid to boost patronage while major long-term projects continue.

Some of the changes along key routes won’t be an easy sell to local communities, chief executive Shane Ellison told Stuff.

The agency has lined up 11 main routes where it believes giving buses a better run, even at the expense of general traffic or kerbside parking, could make a big difference…

…”We are looking at where we can improve the bus journey time, the frequency and the consistency of journey times – all those things matter to customers,” said Ellison.

“That could have a huge impact.”

Auckland Transport has yet to release details of the first routes or timings, and met on Monday with industry consultants and firms, to discuss how best to make changes.

Legislation enabling Auckland’s 11.5 cent-a-litre regional fuel tax, lists Sandringham, New North, Mt Eden, Remuera and Manukau roads as five areas to be funded for upgrades.

Five others were earmarked for capital spending for initiatives such as “dynamic lanes”, which switch directions in peak times, on Great North, Blockhouse Bay, Patiki, Redoubt and East Coast Roads.

Progress in expanding Auckland’s bus lanes in recent years has been painfully slow, but these lanes are critical in speeding up the PT network and thereby making it much more efficient to run. They also obviously make PT much more attractive and squeeze much more out of the road network (a busy bus lane can shift many times the number of people as a congested car lane).

We also need to look at other ways of making our buses faster. This includes changes such as:

• Along many routes bus stops are still located far too close together, resulting in unnecessarily frequent stops. While we don’t want people to have to walk too far to get to a bus, sometimes things are just silly.
• The design of buses can help speed up or slow down boarding and alighting. Wide doors and numerous tag posts are critical to ensure people don’t get stuck behind those paying with cash or don’t end up in long queues to tag off.
• Allowing all door boarding, which has been proven in many cities to help get people on to buses faster.
• Considering options for off-bus payment for fares, especially on busy stops
• Looking at articulated buses with three or more doors for some routes. Double Deckers have been critical in increasing capacity as demand has grown but they can be painfully slow to unload at busy stops. Articulated buses can address some of these issues.
• Road rule changes that would give buses “pulling out” the right of way also would speed up services.
• Giving buses priority at more intersections (i.e. the light automatically turns green as the bus approaches) could substantially reduce delays, although this becomes challenging at high frequencies as there will nearly always be a bus approaching the intersection.

What we really need to see from Auckland Transport, once the new network is fully in place, is a relentless focus on all the different ways we can speed up the bus network, make it more efficient and then use those gains to boost frequencies across Auckland.

1. Heidi says:

Good post. And great news from AT. You’ve missed one major point that will get more value from the new network, though, and it is almost opposite to your “Along many routes bus stops are still located far too close together” point.

At the intersection of the main routes, we have poor connections. To get more people transferring, fixing this must be a priority. The bus stops need to be closer together, meaning they need to be closer to the corner, meaning the vast swathes of land used at intersections due to a hopefully past mindset on traffic flow above all else need to be reallocated to bus stops. These massive intersections are huge causes of severance, too, and should be reduced on that front anyway.

We should also start talking about how to encourage TOD at these nodes, with more interest and amenity along the way between connecting routes, but the first stage has to be to get the raw distances down.

1. Peter N says:

There is also routes that are a bit further out and the stops are too far apart. They really need to be optimizing this overall. I’ve seen a number of routes that go past heaps of residential and there is no stop in sight.

1. Heidi says:

With bus lanes, priority at lights, and all-door boarding, large distances between stops shouldn’t be necessary. And while our pedestrian amenity in Auckland remains so poor, it’s not desirable. If people with limited mobility prefer public transport because of how easy it is to use, that takes a lot of wind from the sails of the brigade who use these users as reasons for retaining car priority.

But the connections have to be the most logical place to start.

1. Waspman says:

Some of the bus priority lanes in the CBD defy logic and their benefits highly questionable.

I’m talking about those short ones at the top of Wellesley and Victoria Streets that seem to hinder traffic flows and as a result hinder PT too.

2. Heidi says:

What I don’t understand is why there are enough cars around to have a traffic flow issue, in the cbd.

2. jezza says:

Putting stops near intersections shouldn’t require more stops it just requires better placed stops. Even without transfers, stops near intersections are optimal as they enhance the walk-up catchment.

1. Peter says:

Bus stops near intersections are a pain in rush hour because the cars trap the buses in the bus stop. I’ve sat in a bus locked in for three changes of the light while the outer lane the bus needed to be in was free flowing.

1. Heidi says:

I wonder what they do in cities that have them at intersections then. Is it that they put the other bus priority measures in place as well, like bus priority in the signals and bus lanes where the buses will actually be?

2. We need like Australia (well at last some states?) where you have to give way to a but pulling out.

3. Heidi says:

🙂

3. Ray says:

A lot of the current bus stops are artefacts of bus stops used by older bus routes, so when a new bus route is implemented AT doesn’t think about the relocation of the stops, rather they just use what they already have.

BTW, has anyone noticed an extra new stop on Mt Eden Road southbound, outside the Tahaki reserve as you approach Mt Eden?

1. Ossu says:

Yes, I saw that recently. I thought it was odd. That new one and the one across the road should be rationalised out. They should also remove the stop outside Mobil in MT eden village as it is very close to two other stops and there is no corresponding stop on the other side of the road.

1. Ant S says:

Yes! Agree 100%.

Southbound from Esplanade Rd shops to Brigman Reserve/Lovelock Ave there are now four stops in under 800 meters, the shortest distance between stops now being 180 m. Utterly absurd. Should have redistributed these stops and the ones northbound.

What compelled them to believe this would be a good idea we’ll probably never know…

2. Steve N says:

The Grange Road stop opposite the Mobil was removed several years ago, but its outbound partner was retained for some reason. It’s probably only 2 mins walk from Mt Eden Village stop.

4. Agree re the corners. The one place there definitely is too many stops close together that I use now and then, this morning in fact, is along St John’s Rd. The time the bus waits a little to pull out in rush hour after a couple of people boarding it’s time to pull over to the next stop..I nearly got off on the earlier stop instead. Would give more consistent times, easier to timetable as the difference between every or almost all the stops been used and just a few from one day / time to another is huge. Problem is all the nice shelters are in place etc, one stop is right on a corner with just a seat which I think should be removed, people crossing with limited view each direction from both them and drivers.

2. Peter N says:

I guess that just leaves New Network for Waiheke and Waitakere Ranges.

Waitakere ranges there will be two new routes, New Lynn to Huia and Glen Eden to Piha. I am hoping for hourly frequency – but from what they are saying its likely to be lower. These routes are likely to be very popular, probably more so for visitors than for locals. I always find myself pretty cut off from west coast beaches despite the proximity – they are a bit too far and hilly by bike which leaves car as the only option at present.

I guess once its all done they can work on optimizing the existing network, I have seen very little to no changes since most of the launches, the only one thats changed quite a bit since launch is hibiscus coast.

1. Peter N says:

One improvement that baffles me is why the 195 wasn’t made into the 19, frequent, and terminate at Avondale train Stanton instead of the CBD, where you can get an 18 or a train. Its half the distance, so the cost would be similar/the same as the connector (30 min frequency) 195 at present. I believe this was the original proposal but they scrapped it at some point for some reason?

1. Nick R says:

This was almost certainly because some local users complained, and after having someone scream in their face in a public meeting ten or twelve times and call up their local politician each day, the staff have to cut a loss and move on to get the rest of the network in place.

1. Peter N says:

So a few vocal idiots ruin it for everyone else, a frequent connection to the train station (where a bulk of people get off anyway) w/ the option of continuing on another frequent bus is miles ahead of the existing service. AT seem to be in the awful habit of obliging idiots and ignoring any legitimate improvement…

2. Heidi says:

Yes. My point would be, has AT taken every opportunity to raise awareness and provide education?

As I understand it, the head of communications at Transport for London earns more than the CEO does, because the educational component is considered critical to bringing change. How committed is AT, or do they just leave their communications staff at the front line with little support or ability to really help?

3. Nick R says:

In my experience the face screamers willfully ignore all the consultation and eduction. They aren’t interested in why the change is happening or how it might benefit them. They’re only interested in stopping the change and not having anything be different.

4. Nick R says:

Oh and Heidi, the public meetings, consultations and drop in sessions were run by AT planning staff, the same people who did the design and implementation of the network. They’re out there on their evenings and weekends talking to public, so you can understand there is a limit to the volume of abuse they can tolerate week after week.

5. Heidi says:

Absolutely, Nick. Staff have their limits. But is the communications and education side of AT getting enough funding to do it as well as, say, TfL?

6. Nick R says:

No part of AT gets enough funding really!

7. Sacha says:

Not enough steel. All staff involved in communicating with the public need clarity about the scope of feedback sought and knowing how to tell vexatious people to shut up. If current staff do not have the skill to do that, keep them away from such situations and hire people who do.

8. Heidi says:

It’s more complicated than that, Sacha. NZTA were able to advertise heavily their travel time rot about Waterview. I just don’t see the same level of funding available to explain why parking will slowly evaporate as we make a shift to a more compact city, or why we can’t narrow the footpaths to make cyclelanes if we want to not have such a big obesity problem, and why road space needs to be given up to allow for a more liveable city, etc, etc.

AT is already losing its talented staff because of its thrombosis in strategy. They need support, and that means funding.

2. Kevin S says:

The 19 frequent was on the proposed network for 2023 but not the 2016 network map, so post-CRL?

I thought that it should also pass by Unitec… but traffic congestion.

A fifth dynamic lane for buses only on Gt North Rd would help.

1. Heidi says:

Fifth dynamic lane on Great North Rd? That road is super dangerous for vulnerable users, and butt ugly. It needs to go on a diet, and is the ideal recipient of love from almost every document in the Council umbrella (Sustainability Framework, Auckland Plan, Parks and Open Spaces Strategy…). I think dynamic lanes could work wonders along there, but only in order to reduce the width of the road, reducing the severance and all its costs to society.

How about reducing the road to 3 lanes, including one dynamic bus lane, and adding cycle lanes. Council was promising cycling lanes along there before AT was even formed. Must be time.

2. Kevin S says:

Motorists can’t go back in lifestyle 🙂

I don’t know what’s best for that road, but in the morning it is an extended light-controlled motorway on-ramp to at least Blockhouse Bay Rd. A peak flow bus lane would be great.

3. Heidi says:

Traffic evaporation is real and aids access if accompanied by PT and active mode priority measures. People can go forward in lifestyle. 🙂 What is the split at Waterview now, do you know? Is it worth it to get onto the SH16 in the morning, or do more people from the Blockhouse Bay direction now use the inner west?

4. Kevin S says:

It’s been a while since I have regularly enjoyed the lifestyle benefits of queuing up on Great North Rd (Last time I turned around and went local). Anecdotally? Into the tunnel gives a better entry to SH16 than Waterview. That’s even with Waterview interchange being closer. It’s also more picturesque and I get to complain about people falling asleep at the wheel (60 kph). Sorry, no data.

2. david L says:

Peter this is the post/email I received from AT about the new Waiheke network and as around 10% of the population of the island submitted to it ,it seems possibly they are listening . But our problem here is we have a both winter and summer timetable .
Here is the link to view what they have said so far :-
https://e.at.govt.nz/mail/view/Rt_P-YOTFUSpuwjV-TidWg

1. Peter N says:

Why is there different timetables based on the season? I knew someone who did nightshift in the CBD and left the island on one of the latest services and returned on a morning service.

Should be consistent across all seasons imho. I guess there is probably more visitors over summer but the same could be said for anywhere.

1. david L says:

Peter all the buses on the Island are designed to meet the ferries , during the summer Fullers have sailings on the 1/2hr from 9in the morning and it changes during the winter months to 1 every hour . But the commuter sailings stay the same all year round . So our new summer timetable usually starts around the end of October and the winter timetable starts around April/May . And the evening sailings are the same all year round unless it’s a public holiday then it’s a Sunday timetable that applies

3. Heidi says:

The other benefit of all-door boarding for buses, is that a trip can be held up quite a bit by people walking to the back of the bus before it is safe for the driver to take off. It’s good to walk to the back and leave seats at the front, but the time delay would be shortened if some of these people were able to get on at the back door.

4. Levy’s equation also shows yet another way low density sprawl suburbs help keep society poorer. Extending or adding long rambling PT services out into these new spread out communities costs ever more and more to run, and with usually low utilisation rates. And of course PT is nowhere near the only public service that suffers from this permanent additional operating cost burden…

5. Waspman says:

Speed is of the essence to take PT from the meandering days of the 1940’s to 2018 and to counter the use of rideshare Uber etc.

The 974 has 28 potential stops from Beachhaven to the bottom of Onewa Rd. I am going to guess, having followed or been on some of these buses, but their average speed would be well below 40 km/hr (20’s at times early into a run), and rarely on that trip even get to 50 km/hr.

And during the run it enters the half km Twilight Zone of the Highbury shopping centre, 2 stops, 6 pedestrian crossings, 5 of such a height, traffic must crawl to mount and dismount.

What can in less traffic take a car 15 minutes (avoiding Highbury) takes that service 35 plus. Oh my God, it is painful and discouraging!

Yes some stops are needed but so many, so close together?

How about an intermingling of genuine express services, 2 stops in Birkdale, 1 before Highbury (avoiding that centre altogether), 1 at the top of Onewa, one at the bottom and boom, you are getting to your destination in real time, not PT time?

1. Nick R says:

Their average speed is probably more like 15km/h, maybe 20. The northern busway is in the mid forties, FYI.

2. lol, sounds like fun that route. Do you think the new network will be better there? I sometimes think they are putting in so many stops because they know how long you have to wait an light controlled intersections to cross to perhaps another one instead.

6. Good post, Matt. What could be added to the list is discouraging cash fares as that can hold things up considerably. There is, of course, the issue that you don’t want to discourage PT newbies too much with making cash fares too expensive. But the differential pricing needs to be part of any discussion about speeding buses up.

1. Heidi says:

We’ve already got plenty of difference between cash and HOP, though. Particularly when you put integrated fares into the equation. Given that Auckland has high fares compared to other cities, I don’t think there’s room for any more difference.

2. Peter N says:

Cash fares are already shocking, had two visitors recently who forgot their hop cards and we forked out \$18 for their cash fare home (2x 4 zones – Adult) as they didn’t have any money.

3. Nick R says:

Yes cash fares are already significantly higher than Hop, and Hop usage is now at 94%. So there’s not much more to be done in that regard.

One easy move would be to have offline ticketing at major stops and terminals. If you want to pay cash you buy a ticket from the machine at the stop, then show it to the driver on the way through.

4. Nick D says:

I think part of the problem is that HOP cards are non-refundable, which is out of sync with a lot of other places I’ve travelled to.

At \$10, I suspect there are some short term visitors to Auckland who don’t see it as a good up front cost to using public transport in Auckland. Or for people who have forgotten their card at home, it’s not worth buying a new card for just a couple of trips.

1. JimboJones says:

Agree. Sell the cards on the bus for \$2 – surely the actual card doesn’t cost more than that?

1. Nicolas Reid says:

The cards can go into negative balance, so effectively the \$10 card comes with up to \$10 credit.

If you sold the card for \$2 you’d not be able to go into negative balance on the last trip, so you’d always have the risk of running out in a place you can’t top up.

2. Peter N says:

But that is already an issue anyway, you could buy a HOP card with \$18 balance, go to Waiheke (bringing it to exactly \$0.00 – the minimum for an IOU) and then come back and it will be -\$18.00 – and then discard. Giving you essentially a free trip (however card cost \$5) so you essentially steal \$13.00 (Turning \$36 of travel into \$23 of travel).

I don’t think there is any reasonable way to mitigate that kind of issue.

2. Bryce P says:

Rather than full hop cards the mifare paper tickets should be offered as a solution for visitors etc. We used these in Shanghai recently.

5. Ray says:

We can have off-bus boarding at certain stops. An example is Mt Eden Village northbound in the mornings. With hundreds of people who have come here to ‘park and ride’, there should be a few
‘tag-on’ posts at this stop, for people to tag on before the bus comes. This will be a great use of time, since buses are often bunched up on this route, with no bus coming for 20 minutes, then 10 buses coming at the same time.

You won’t need to worry about fare evasion because people will still need to tag off on the bus at other stops further down the road. Cash fares should still be purchased on board, so that those passengers have receipts, which means that if you don’t have a receipt you are a HOP card user, and will be forced to tag off. Can’t ride for free.

7. Heidi says:

AT undoubtedly has time-distance info about each bus and route to help them decide where interventions are best warranted. Buses that go along Onewa Rd would be the first ones I’d love to see. Are there time savings to be had along the main stretches that mean you don’t have to lose the amenity of going through centres? If not, is there anything that can be changed in the centres to cut down the time involved?

1. Sailor Boy says:

A stop right next to that centre at both ends would be more than enough for through services

1. Waspman says:

There is stops at the top of Onewa and one at the other end of centre albeit about 300 metres from the actual shops at that end which means can bypass Mokoia Rd into the shopping centre.

Honestly negotiating the snails pace speed through there plus waiting for parking cars means it is a big time waster for only one stop of any significance. And that stop is not big enough for all buses using it anyway and is only 100 metres or so from the stop at the top of Onewa Road.

Highbury should not be a main port of call if we are to have quicker, dare I say, modern services!

1. jezza says:

The stops at each end of the Highbury Bypass could do with being brought a bit closer to the respective intersections. The intersections could do with a bit of a tidy-up and removal of slip lanes as well.

It’s completely nuts running the buses through their current route, however it would be ironic if the biggest impediment were the business owners complaining about the loss of buses!

2. Waspman says:

One at the top of Onewa Rd, (East bound) is not more than 40 metres from the intersection. It could not be any closer without being very problematic safety wise owing to it being a two lane road each way.

The other stop across the road west bound needs to be where it is as buses turning right into Birkenhead Ave (950’s buses) need to change lanes from the kerb side to the right turn lane. Any closer and that option is not available. A solution is to have a stop for those buses on Birkenhead Ave instead of using the one at the tp of Onewa.

3. jezza says:

Agree, there is limit to how much closer the eastbound one can come, but every metre counts as a pedestrian.

I think your solution of moving the 950 to Birkenhead Ave is probably the best option.

4. I’m not sure about this. If you are on the little shopping square on Mokoia Road both eastbound stops will be about 500m away. That is quite far. We could create a stop on the bypass road but that will require careful thinking about how you can walk to that stop.

The other alternative is to think about how to speed up buses going through the town centre. Both Mokoia Road and Birkenhead avenue currently have a parking lane on each side. Which I think is part of the reason for that crawl. Work something out with the mall if parking becomes a problem. There’s this chunk of paid parking which is now sitting empty, while the crawl outside goes on.

Maybe for a start, stop giving away that on-street parking for free.

8. Ari says:

Great post. Currently until now we have had no strategy from AT, so just doing lots of random bits and pieces all over the place with no cohesive focus.

This post is common sense, but trade offs must be made. Sacrifices must be made and AT refuses to make any. They want safer,faster,better,cheaper for everyone. Which will never happen. So instead they just plod along doing the same old thing.

I haven’t really seen any major effort to speed up PT, except for a few short bus lanes. They need to do more.

It means making the hard choices and stick to them. Stuff like has already been mentioned. More bus lanes, fewer stops, more tag machines, multiple door boarding, 3 door buses on the busier routes, no cash fares, more bus priority, accept more delays for general vehicles. Everything to reduce delays to buses.

1. Nik says:

I’d expect that there was a strategy, but that it wasn’t communicated effectively, so it felt like a void.

1. Don Robertson says:

In the community there are at least four transport strategies operating in parallel
The first, devised by diligent and competant network planners, but who lack the required authority or even infuence for implementation.
The second, noisy and often locally influential people, who want only a solution for their perceived need, whether that be no degradation of SOV freedom of movement, or a point to point bus service from their house to wherever they want to go.
The third strategy is that of the political activists and vested interests on the right, relentlessly promoting private provision of services against any public provision of services including transport. Even delaying provision of public services is for them a victory. This group is extremely well resourced, including expensive media advisors and it effectively uses a tame media. This is because the majority our media is beholden to these same interests because of it’s heavy dependence on their advertising revenue.
The fourth strategy, is from managers and politicians wanting to quieten the hubbub by offering even more cosultation and appeasement.
This results in degraded outcomes.
Unfortunately I also suspect there are four similar strategies operating just within AT that are not yet being effectively managed.
The majority of the public have now consistantly requested improved public transport as the preferred method of limiting congestion. So the direction for AT is clearly set and this should not be allowed to be derailed by noisy but minority interests.
Build those bus lanes, now. But also ramp up your communication selling the advantages and successes of the public transport network.
It is a measure of Government, Council, and AT’s failures that Greater Auckland has been so successful. We have now radically changed the first two but sufficient change is yet to become apparent in AT.

9. Kelvin says:

“although this becomes challenging at high frequencies as there will nearly always be a bus approaching the intersection.”

Technologically, they can install bluetooth 5.0/long range sensors on bus and traffic light.

The algorithm counts how many bus are approaching a intersection. The more bus waiting, the faster the traffic light turns green.

This algorithm will naturally brunch the bus together to make the signal priority efficient.

1. Heidi says:

Do you know places where this is used, Kelvin? Sounds good to me.

2. jezza says:

The last thing we need is buses that are bunched together more than they currently are, this is definitely not efficient.

1. Heidi says:

Ha ha… point. Let’s use the same technology, then, to ensure there’s a signal change between bunched buses. Ha ha. Hmmm…. I think the answer might just be bus lanes after all.

2. Kelvin says:

Bunching different bus service that uses the same coordior.

1. Errol Cavit says:

Even if the bunched buses have different destinations, you then need larger bus stops than otherwise.

2. jezza says:

It’s still not a good thing on a number of counts. Along with needing huge bus stops, the need for following distances means they don’t move efficiently. If there are multiple buses for each light cycle, then it is time to hook them together, lay down some rails and call them an LRV. Saves on driver wages as well.

10. AKLDUDE says:

Also many smaller routes could benefit from smaller feeder buses that can travel faster in narrow streets than larger buses can and are easier to use. They do this in a lot of cities. Big buses are expensive (and also damage the roads if they aren’t designed for heavy vehicles). Take Herald Island for example… has big but empty buses that have rutted out the roads there. Smaller 20 seater busescould be used instead that would be cheaper to run and do less damage while still not being full.

1. jezza says:

Agree, I noticed last time I was in Christchurch they had some of these on the connector routes.

2. Nick R says:

This only works if the route is never busy and the buses never get more than 20 people on board.

Usually, most routes are busy at peak times and less busy off peak (obvs). So the bus they need at peak is not so full off peak, and looks empty. But what do you do, have one fleet of big buses for peak times and swap them out twice a day for a second fleet of offf peak little buses? That would be expensive!

1. jezza says:

From what I have seen of the connector buses in my area since the new network went live last month is that they are nowhere near busy enough to justify a full sized bus even at peak times.

1. Peter N says:

Good to have that capacity just in case, if there is a rail issue most people are going to be jumping on the bus.

There is also situations where roadway might be blocked for a certain route (i.e. due to an incident or etc.) and people have to take an alternative route. Or events in the area. I.e. the 146 out west normally pretty low patronage but when there is something on in the Trusts Stadium it is often overloaded.

2. Nick R says:

Yes but those connector buses are almost certainly part of a larger fleet that is scheduled across several routes, school runs, peak extras etc.

It’s probably efficient in the end, but you’d need to recontract and reschedule the network to do it.

3. AKLDUDE says:

Yes depends on location etc but there are definitely places where big buses are never full even during peak.
The other thing is that during peak if they were starting to fill up you could look at adding additional frequencies until such point as the route needed bigger buses. Smaller buses are generally able to complete a route faster by being more manoeuvrable to get around parking/turning vehicles etc and faster to accelerate and brake. There are definitely areas where they could be used to both reduce costs and improve service.

11. JimboJones says:

I think I made a post on Transport Blog probably 8 years ago asking for exactly those changes. Its frustrating to see so many relatively cheap and simple improvements continually overlooked.
If you want to know what changes are needed to the bus network, think about what we consider acceptable for trains. You wouldn’t run a train with stops every 200m, a single door to board with people paying the driver, one overloaded carriage when you can have two, cars being allowed to drive over the train tracks, etc.

In addition to this, one big advantage of trains is that they are self advertising. People can see the train tracks, they know where they go, the stations are big and well signed. Train lines have memorable names that people can remember, not numbers. Most Aucklanders would know where to catch a train from in the city, but how many would know where to catch a specific bus from, or which buses go where. AT could do a lot better in these regards. I think the most frequent routes should have 24×7 bus lanes the entire way (regardless of whether they make sense in terms of congestion), they should have a route colour such as the red line, and that colour should be painted in the bus lane. Numbering the frequent bus routes in the new network was a big mistake, I wonder if any thought was put into it.

1. Ray says:

There was an international study done a few years ago that looked at the overall benefit to cost ratio of installing 24×7 bus lanes. Turns out that once a bus lane’s hours exceed 12 hours per day you are creating much more opportunity cost – for example Symonds Street is 24 hours, but Symonds street is never congested at 3am in the morning. There aren’t even any buses at 3am in the morning (except skybus maybe). So from say 9pm to 5am it shouldn’t be a bus lane, let cars drive in there without fear of being ticketed, let cars park there for \$1 per 3 hours, make some money this way, much better use of the bus lane.

1. JimboJones says:

I’m a bit dubious on that – having personally been responsible for holding up many buses by parking in a bus lane and forgetting to move the next morning. Permanent yellow lines are much harder to ignore than bus lane signs.
Did the same study find it OK for cars to park on train tracks over night?

1. Ray says:

I don’t think there’s been a study on that, sounds a bit dangerous and impractical for cars to be left on train tracks overnight – probably run into some ethical issues doing research in this sort of area

12. Waspman says:

I absolutely agree about the slow load/unload of the double deckers. They are great in respect of capacity but inefficient in respect of dwell times. And the top deck is very problematic for the not so mobile. Great idea for express services where I think they would work best.

Articulated (Bendy buses) supplementing them is a very pragmatic idea for non express.

1. JimboJones says:

I never understood the double deckers decision. Especially with all that extra work required to raise canopies, etc. Why were they chosen over Articulated?

1. jezza says:

I think it was mainly to do with the amount of space an articulated bus takes up at stops, especially in the CBD.

1. Nick R says:

Yes that’s it, an artic takes up the space of two rigid buses at a stop, so when your stops are already congested it doesn’t achieve much.

2. AKLDUDE says:

DDs are great especially for longer distance travel like the NEX. We could of course look at DD articulated which does exist overseas.

3. Also the view from top helps drive new patronage.

2. david L says:

The articulated/bendy bus were removed when they [nzta] changed the law about people riding on trailers and as the enclosed rear of the bus is classed as a trailer on a drivers licence it then means the driver of said vehicles can be done for carry passengers in/on a trailer

1. david L says:

And that is the reason they weren’t on sold as second hand vehicles to the 2nd tiered bus companies here in NZ

2. gk says:

Interesting that Bayes Coachlines currently has a bendy available for charter then.

I thought the reason the old Auckland ones weren’t on sold was that they had had it

3. roeland says:

2 years ago I would still see a bendy in service on line 881 every so often.

4. Nick R says:

Umm, we still operate bendy buses in Auckland so this can’t be right.

5. gk says:

NZTA do not regard bendy buses as having a trailer – they are articulated.

In their requirements for heavy buses, they explicitly state:

“An articulated bus is not allowed to tow a trailer”

1. jezza says:

That doesn’t sound right, it has been illegal to have someone riding on a trailer for years, I imagine the buses operate under an exemption for it being a rigid connection.

13. Ray says:

Another example is to use ‘staggered starts’ for bus routes during busy times.

E.g. 27T in the afternoon, southbound from city. Bus frequency = 1 bus per 2 minutes. 1st bus is filled by Anzac ave, picks up no one, so these people have to wait for the next bus, which in turn is filled by University, so uni students have to wait 6 minutes now for the next bus that comes, which is filled by Grafton bridge, so people at Grafton bridge are waiting for 15 minutes for an empty bus!!!

Start bus 1 at stop 1, bus 2 at stop 2,…. bus 5 at stop 5, and then we can still have this 2 minute frequency but no bunching of buses and no fill buses! The buses are empty by Mt Eden Village anyway because it’s a park and ride. I repeat, Mt Eden Village is a park and ride.

14. miffy says:

They could make the buses much smaller, get rid of the timetable, get rid of the fixed route and let one of the passengers drive them.

1. Heidi says:

That would definitely prioritise place over movement. We’d all learn to love the place we’re in, since we won’t be having any movement anywhere. 🙂

2. JimboJones says:

That’s pretty much what they have done for the past 50 odd years…

1. I think that was the “joke”. Miffy finds change away from cars hard.

15. Heidi says:

The photo’s great, Matt. It displays well what the biggest physical impediment to improving the buses are, and also the land-abuse involved in disconnecting people from the places they want to go.

16. kelvin says:

Apart from bus journey time, Here is my list of what to do next:

-Better shelter seated bus stop
-Simplify the bus stops and transfers by consolidate fragmented smaller bus stops into bigger and better bus stops
-Better wayfinding with maps around bus stops, train stations and near popular point of interests
-Simple to understand maps and transfer information for both casual and regular users
-An intergrated map instead of disjointed maps for different suburb bus providers
-Better timing for transfers
-Queue line for busy bus stops
-50 cents city zone that are not restricted to City Link

17. Alex Bonham says:

Articulated buses can be more dangerous – for cyclists particularly. The new network is more efficient, more frequent, more legible. If you are doing the same journey as a commuter then it will work better for you. Those who are missing out seem to be school kids, and non-work journeys. Adding buses that serve schools at appropriate times, so say two in the morning (one early to get in pre-school activities), two in the afternoon (one to go after post-school activities) and perhaps use these buses for more leisure routes in the weekend, might work really well. It would make it easier for people without a car to access all the city has got to offer and boost the economy as well.

1. Alex Bonham says:

There are arguments over bendy bus safety over double deckers but can I add this. Double decker buses are much more enjoyable and comfortable. There are far more seats, and because articulated buses can fit more standees it can run fewer buses with more people standing. However standing on a bus crushed next to other people is deeply unpleasant. Sitting down and looking out of the window from an elevated height however is pleasurable. For a family travelling on an articulated bus is deeply stressful. Adding to this that going anywhere on the new network outside the CBD or on the route to it is going to avoid a change, then a walk, then a wait, then another potential crush will mean that most families if they can afford it will avoid the bus altogether, and either drive, or miss out on the opportunities the city has for them and their kids, which ain’t fair.

1. Waspman says:

You’ve lost me on why an articulated bus is more dangerous for cyclists, there’s far longer trucks everywhere.

And how can they be more stressful for families? It’s a bus!

1. Heidi says:

I avoid cycling on any road where articulated trucks are commonplace. The articulated nature means the gap between the truck or bus and the kerb varies wildly when turning. I would be very surprised if this doesn’t show in safety and crash stats.

I think Alex finds articulated buses stressful for families because of the standing, and being crushed problem she mentions. I haven’t been in one for so long I can’t remember how well the moving parts are protected from little fragile people, but that was definitely what I was worried about. On the hand, there are certainly worries from the stairs on double deckers. It is a cool experience for a child to be up high, but there are some safety considerations. I suspect the driver training has to be particularly good for a double decker as I haven’t come across any problems.

18. MikeP says:

Isn’t the NEX eventually being replaced with LR? What about removing all those double decker diesel pollution belchers and replace with double deck or single deck longer electric busses with trollies to an overhead electric power supply.
That would be a nice interim move until rails get installed. Same overhead for busses and LR.

1. gk says:

LR conversion of the busway would likely involve railway style catenary rather than trolley bus / old tram type designed for booms with graphite slipper contact. Also trolley buses require a return wire, whereas LR/Trams is through the track. So not massively compatible.

Probably better off to go for battery electric with top up charging via a pantograph at terminus (similar to what is being installed in Wellington for the electric double deckers).

19. ”We are looking at where we can improve the bus journey time, the frequency and the consistency of journey times – all those things matter to customers,” said Ellison.

I think it only fair that we acknowledge we are served by an organisation that seem to be world leaders in this area – looking at things.

1. Yes world champions. Doing things however…

1. gk says:

GWRC’s record of looking at integrated ticketing takes some beating. 30+ year farce…

(Currently seems to be in a “reinventing the wheel” stage. Just another few years … )