On Sunday Auckland Transport roll out the new bus network for the North Shore which is the final major implementation of the network. It’s been a long and windy bus ride to get to this point with the first discussions of the network occurring all the way back in 2012.
Below are some thoughts, both positive and negative of the network based on both the routes and the timetables.
The Northern Express²
The Northern Busway has been one of the fastest growing and most successful public transport projects we’ve seen in Auckland in recent years and it’s about to get even better.
The original NEX becomes the NX1 and becomes even more useful with a boost off/counter peak frequencies. Now, buses will run between Albany and Lower Albert St in each direction at a minimum of every 7-8 minutes throughout the day till around 8/8:30 before dropping back to every 10 minutes till almost midnight. Services will obviously run more frequently in the peak directions too. This is pleasing to see as counter peak services are now frequently heavily used with people struggling to get on services. Improving from every on average 10 to every 7.5 minutes might not seem like much on paper but does make a noticeable difference if you’re waiting for a bus. Peak time services from the Hibiscus Coast are also improved but frequencies remain low off peak.
The 881 service becomes the NX2 and travels to the Universities via Wellesley St. Off/counter peak frequencies are also really strong on this route too with buses most of the day every 10 minutes or better and very frequent in the peaks. Given its access to the Universities and to a much greater employment catchment, I can see this service being very popular.
The only thing that seems odd with these are some of the timings. For example, the timetable shows it taking 17 minutes for the NX1 to get from Akoranga to Britomart but that it will take only 18 minutes to get from Akoranga to Symonds St.
The 82 – Takapuna
Takapuna is currently served by a myriad of buses that first travel down the eastern North Shore. My personal experience is that this has often led to unreliability. From Sunday, the 82 bus will serve Takapuna with most continuing on to Milford. Given the buses will only be travelling a short distance on local roads this should help make services much more reliable. In another positive move, peak time services in both directions are to get a much-needed boost with extra services starting or terminating at Takapuna to give a frequency of every seven to eight minutes. On a personal level this will make it much easier for me to get to work, and I’m sure plenty of others too.
Of all the frequent routes in the new network, the 83 might end up being the most successful one that doesn’t go to the city centre. That’s mainly due to it serving a number of unique trips. In the upper North Shore it’s the connection from the Albany Busway Station to Massey University, the local bus to/from Albany from the upper East Coast Bays and also to Constellation, in both locations where people can transfer to one of the NX services to get to the city. At the southern end of its route it provides an important connection between Smales Farm and Takapuna
Services for Warkworth
For the first time there will be bus services linking Warkworth to the rest of the region (via the Hibiscus Coast busway station) and there will also be services linking Warkworth to the local seaside communities east of there.
The myriad of services currently on Onewa Rd make it one of the busiest corridors in the city and that will remain, largely unchanged, with the new network. One thing that did surprise me though is that the high frequency doesn’t extend till midnight like many of the frequent routes on the Isthmus are now doing.
The missing East-West connections
Perhaps the most obvious thing that stands out is that the western North Shore is largely isolated from the eastern side, especially on the lower North Shore. This is reminiscent of the network today. There are only a few services that cross the motorway divide and they don’t run frequently. This means it’s easier to get to Takapuna from the City than it is from Northcote even though the latter are only a few kilometres apart. The most obvious route to improve to achieve this would be the 941 from Beach Haven to Takapuna.
Likewise, a lot of the connections to the rest of the North Shore map could be solved, or at least made easier, if there was an Onewa Rd Busway station.
What are your thoughts on the new North Shore network.