The go-live of the New Network for the North Shore happened on Sunday last month – the final major chunk of new network to go live since the south changed over almost two years ago. I took my usual ride around on launch morning to see how it went.
- No computerised journey planning
- No smartphone realtime apps
- Some shopping or something to do to at each stop, except when it’s transfer on the way to somewhere else
The old network
The new network
- Brunch at Takapuna
- Coffee somewhere around Albany
- Shopping at Browns Bay
- Shopping at Birkenhead
The approximate route (pay no attention to the additional harbour crossing Google seems to have forged for me):
A few people suggested that I go up to Warkworth/Matakana, but instead I was extremely lazy.
Leg 1a: Mt Eden to St James
Wait: 3 minutes
Travel time: 11 minutes
Technically not the shore network, but I’ve got to get there somehow, and the now always-frequent buses down Mt Eden Rd got me to mid town without any issue.
Leg 1b: St James to Takapuna
Wait: 8 minutes
Travel time: 19 minutes
The most direct way to the shore from most of the isthmus – and in particular to Takapuna – is to take a bus from mid-town over the hill down Wellesley St.
Previously there weren’t too many options available to actually do this, with only a few unevenly spaced services running at best every 5 minutes, and at worst every 15. But now with the new network the frequent NX2 and 82 run this route, along with a spattering of less frequent options.
These combine to give good frequency from this part of town to the shore, although they still suffer from somewhat uneven spacing, which might be more of an issue if you’re using them to get across the CBD, rather than go to the shore. However, that’s a topic for another post.
It’s a quick walk across Queen St to get to the connecting buses outside The Civic.
AT installed a large temporary looking monolith with some information about which services go where, and connecting services on the busway, in addition to the normal signage.
I managed to get a (supersized!) network map from the AT guy who was stationed at the stop, and after an 8 minute wait I was on an 82 to Takapuna.
Although it didn’t affect this particular trip, looking at the map it seemed off that the 82 bypasses Akoranga Station – surely it would be far more useful to pass through it and allow connections to other busway services?
Arriving at Takapuna the first thing I noticed was the recently resurfaced sea of tarmac, with a steady stream of pedestrians trying to cross it – and exactly one pedestrian crossing.
Why we’re still putting in this sort of infrastructure when we have the opportunity to make it safe and respectful to its users, I’m not sure.
After locating some lunch by the beach, I made my way back through the various carparks and driveways to the same bus stop I arrived at.
Leg 2a: Takapuna to Smales Farm Station
Wait: 13 minutes
Travel time: 11 minutes
Most major bus stops are festooned with information about the available services – which is good – but I do often find that I have to lean in (often over people sitting down) and study intricate diagrams more than I’d prefer, just to get to correct platform. There are probably ways to guide people to the right stop with more bigger, clearer signage.
I worked out I could take any bus that goes to the Albany Busway Station, and the first one that turned up was an 845. This was a brand new bus (the first on the journey so far), but it seemed like it was missing something…
I’ve only had one experience with a single door bus and it wasn’t great – it was busy and unpleasant to get in and out of. Hopefully this one will stay quiet – although it was running between Smales Farm and Takapuna which I’m assuming can be pretty heavily used.
Leg 2b: Smales Farm Station to Albany Station
Wait: 12 minutes
Travel time: 13 minutes
At Smales Farm I needed to change to a bus to Albany. The busway stations are pleasant places to transfer, but the wayfinding could do with some work. The realtime board was broken, and I had to go on a hunt to find out which stop to wait at.
The wayfinding is OK at directing you to a particular stop, but it would be much easier for customers to be able to follow signs to named destinations and directions instead of having to look up stop numbers on a board. It feels more like a regional station where you have more time to see which platform your services is going to, than a metro-style one where you want to funnelled to the right place with as little thinking as possible.
I ended up just wandering around various stops for a bit until I found one with buses in the Albany direction – a bit of a pain since you actually have to cross the busway to get to some of them, so not something you want to do unless you mean it. As a result I missed the next bus and had to wait 12 minutes for the subsequent one.
Leg 2c: Albany Station to Westfield Albany
Wait: 5 minutes
Travel time: 3 minutes
At Albany I managed to catch an 83 to the mall without any trouble.
Leg 3: Westfield Albany to Browns Bay
Wait: 4 minutes
Travel time: 16 minutes
Arriving at the beach on another 83, I sought out some classic confection for some very particular associates.
Leg 4a: Browns Bay to Constellation Station
Wait: 2 minutes
Travel time: 17 minutes
Apparently I really like the 83 bus! This time there was a slight delay as an AT hi-vis helper very impressively sorted out a question a customer had for the driver, using a random passenger as a translator.
Leg 4b: Constellation Station to Birkenhead
Wait: 9 minute
Travel time: 18 minutes
Annoyingly, there is no frequency service connecting most of the western half of the shore with the busway, so I took an infrequent 95C down to Birkenhead.
I was briefly confused by the way the 95C appears to split off into the 95B in the map, but eventually figured out that the 95B starts somewhere else just before it goes off on a diversion to Bayview (where it starts isn’t clear). It’s a pity that the 95 can’t make a frequent connection to Constellation.
18 minutes later, I was in Birkenhead and picked up the local speciality.
Leg 5a: Birkenhead to Downtown
Wait: 3 minutes
Travel time: 17 minutes
I was considering going over to Devonport and taking the ferry back to the city, but without the ability to change at Onewa Rd (buses from the west only go south over the bridge!) and the lack of a frequent service down the peninsula to Devonport put me off.
So after a brief wait I was back downtown.
Leg 5b: Downtown to Mt Eden
Wait: 10 minutes
Travel time: 15 minutes
A two minute walk and I was at the stop outside Britomart waiting for the 27 back to Mt Eden. Given the stack of people waiting to get on maybe it’s ready for an upgrade to from 15 minutes to 10 minutes all day Sunday…
The first thing I noticed was how smoothly everything seemed to be running – AT have come a long way since the launch of the first, southern segment and people jumping out in front of buses going the wrong way trying to make them stop. Sure, this sort of thing probably still happened in places but the sense of absolute chaos dropped as each new part went live.
The network itself handled most of what I attempted pretty well. But it does feel more commuter oriented than some of the other segments: there’s not as much in the way of well connected frequent crosstown routes and it still feels like there are little bits weirdness around the place. Perhaps this is due to the geography or the street network or something – I’m not sure. At the very least it seems like there’s a giant interchange shaped gap somewhere in the vicinity of Onewa Road.
Now all the the new network segments are live it’ll be interesting to see how it evolves: there are some obvious things that need fixing like bus priority, route tweaks and train frequency. But from doing these rides it’s become obvious that there are number of low hanging fruit that could be picked more easily, like improving wayfinding, or simply letting people know that the network exists and how they can use it. Hopefully it doesn’t stay static and AT continue to improve it aggressively as time goes on.
Summary for nerds
|Origin||Destination||Route||Wait (min)||Travel time (min)|
|Mt Eden||St James||25L||3||11|
|Smales Farm Station||Albany Station||NX1||12||13|
|Albany Station||Westfield Albany||83||5||3|
|Westfield Albany||Browns Bay||83||4||16|
|Browns Bay||Constellation Station||83||2||17|
Average wait time: 7 minutes
Average frequent service wait time: 6 minutes
Total number of services taken: 10
Total cost: Probably about $10 (can’t tell exactly as for some inexplicable reason AT shows less than a week of transactions online – it cut off half-way through the journey)