Every weekend we dig into the archives. This post was first published in May 2011.

Over the past week I’ve sat at the bus stop outside the hospital waiting for a fair few buses – either to head into town or to catch the Link bus back to Ponsonby. Park Road is part of the Central Connector and therefore forms one of the most core parts of the Auckland bus network. By my calculations 510 buses a day pass through Park Road in the inbound direction (and I assume a similar number head the other way). There seem to be a huge plethora of buses passing through the area – often with the unnecessary complexity of their route numbering and their CBD departure point that I mentioned in this previous blog post.

Using the MAXX website’s timetable tool, it’s relatively straightforward to work out the different routes that pass by the hospital on any given weekday – plus it’s also possible to work out how many times a day (and at what times) each of the routes passes that stop. Putting this altogether highlights the extreme (and unnecessary in my opinion) complexity of the bus system – or at least of the parts of it that pass by the hospital. This is put together in the table below: The excel worksheet is here if you want to play around with it. I’ve put an X next to the two express routes and a start next to routes that appear to have the same route number, same beginning and same end, yet are somehow different enough to warrant a separate entry in the MAXX system – it seems generally because they miss a particular stop.

It’s interesting to see the vast number of different bus routings through here – with many of them seeming nearly identical. For example, let’s group together all the services from Manukau to Britomart: It seems truly bizarre that we have three variations of the 328 route, we also have a 327 route which has two variations and seems pretty similar to the 328. Plus the 347, 348 and their variations. Perhaps this is a reminder about how dire Mangere’s buses are and how in need they are of a dramatic overhaul.

The 500 series bus routes also seem overly complex, with relatively few services spread out among a comparatively large number of routes. There are two main services (the 502 and the 595) but then we have four routes (or variations on routes) that only operate once a day. Does the 502 really need to be different to the 512? Does the 511 need to be distinct from the 532? While I haven’t had a good look at the route timetable maps to understand the reason behind the variations, there does seem a lot of unnecessary complication here.

We could achieve a lot by vastly simplifying the table at the beginning of this post. Clearly we’re running a lot of buses between Manukau and Britomart (as an aside, will that be necessary once the rail station is open?) but do they really need to have so many different routings, and so many small variations on their routes? If many of these services were grouped together into a single and obvious service (much like how the 625 works) then their timetables could be structured in a logical way and the system would be more intuitive and simple to use. For others, obviously some level of complexity will need to remain, but I’m sure what we see now is massive over-complexity.

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  1. A great illustration of how far PT has come in the last few years. As a regular user across the network, the improvements brought about by the route simplification are a huge factor in creating real PT accessibility – along with the frequency increases. And the RPTP promises more of the same between now and 2028.

    1. I still have up to a 30 minute wait for a bus or ferry to arrive, I’m still waiting for integrated fares, and I have a 7km walk to the nearest rapid transit station. For many people public transport has not improved at all, despite the massive rates hikes that were supposed to fund it.

      1. It’s all relative to what was available before. Of course it’s not perfect and doesn’t suit everyone but no one could argue that PT now isn’t vastly better than just a few years ago.

  2. That really shows you how mad it was. Evolving into trying to do every little area that needed a service but with big service gaps. I remember our 512/502 not coming our way for ~1.5 hrs weekday before around 6pm. Yet normally was 1/2 or hourly. Was all over the place.

    In saying that I think the new network could do with a little more great south road coverage from Otahuhu to the city or to Ellerslie, seems a little light now especially weekends or later at night when the 321 doesn’t run. Ie. basically beef up the 321.

  3. Anyone remember how the Maxx website used to allow you to choose walking speed, and whether fewer transfers, shortest overall journey or cheapest journey was most important? (I think I’ve remembered those right.)

    Back then, when transfer times were longer because frequency was hopeless, no integrated fares meant transfers were expensive, and cross town routes were non-existent or so infrequent as to be useless, and my little children were slower than the average speed, all those features were important.

    1. Yep, my partner wants to minimise walking (and is slow), but the current site won’t show her bus options from Britomart that halve her walk. Good thing it’s actually the same bus that she used at her previous contract.

    2. I loved the Maxx site. It used to tell me to walk to Ranui Station and ride the train into town- a trip of about 4 1/2 hours.

        1. The famous story of stopping to ask for directions in Ireland, the way to Dublin, answered with: ‘you’d not be startin’ from here’

          (Ah; my people)

    3. Yes the Wellington online journey planner has these features or at least that walking speed function which I think is important. Apparently a lot of Wellingtonians walk really fast. I think it’s their lack of integrated fares making them just walk from the main train station, they were passing me and I walk pretty fast.

  4. What, exactly, is the ‘625’ mentioned in the last paragraph? I cannot find any such route number, which is what context suggests it is, in AT’s route listings.

  5. For me, the biggest improvement to our bus network has been the introduction of the HOP card. Now, 20 people can get on a bus within about 2 minutes. In the past, it used to 30 seconds per person to pay the driver, wait for the driver to give change, and then give the ticket. It was long enough for one person to get on the bus, but when 20 people were getting on, we would literally be sitting on the bus for 10 minutes.

    1. I think depended on where you lived. I lived in Takapuna and commuted to the city, it was more than good enough. When I was a student I commuted from Milford, again not a problem. And it hasn’t really changed for the better or worse.

      1. Milford? That is not what I remember.

        I tried to catch a bus to the city there at some point. Bus came hourly, but the departure board showed a delay of 40 (fourty) minutes. How are you supposed to catch that? There was practically no public transport there.

        The one thing you could do was walking to Smales Farm. And wonder why bother with that transit lane if even at peak only 3 buses per hour use it.

      2. MC, during peak the 82 (Takapuna – city) is at less frequency than it used to be, but probably acceptable.
        The 82 from Takapuna to the city is 30 minute frequency evening off peak, and up to 25 minutes at many other parts of the day. That has decidedly changed for the worse.
        There is a simple solution and that is to terminate the 82 at Akoranga and they could triple the frequency, “turn up and go”. The 82 would connect with the NEX1 and NEX2 which run at great frequency and the network could function as it is intended.

        1. A bit questionable that someone who lives along Kitchener/Hurstmere can get one bus all the way into Takapuna or into town (the 82) whereas if you live along Beach road, you have to take two buses to do the same thing with irregular connections, or in the case of just going to Takapuna, take a painful circuit of the Smales and hosptial (856) and that’s only every second bus. Bring back the 822!

        2. AB, I am struggling to understand your issue. Journey Planner tells me that you have the 82, 843 and 856 as connections at Milford. Those gave a travel time of 10 to 12 minutes to Takapuna. Isn’t that how networks work? Sometimes you need a couple of changes – or more. And if the connections are good then the cause for complaint is limited.
          I agree with you that off peak there shouldn’t be a direct city to Takapuna/Milford bus. Thirty minutes standing outside the Civic in the winter is not a great experience. My last two evening trips have seen a cancellation so the wait has been almost an hour. In my view it is far better to run the 82 from Milford to Akoranga and this would give you 10 minute frequency to Takapuna – does that give you the frequent and regular connection you desire?

        3. Is that 82 pretty full at peak, if so I don’t think you want the whole bus load transferring to a NEX? Direct services are good from main centres to others, but a stop at Akoranga would be good if they can improve right turns into there. I tried out interpeak weekday in the holidays just after the new new network opened and it seems that a few of the services all just need increasing in general. Browns Bay 856 going south was pretty busy with activity.

      3. It depends wen you travelled as well. Peak hour takapuna to the city was fine. I was often doing that route at 11am (after sailing, before uni). I’d frequently get there and wait 40 minutes for a bus on the old network. Sometimes there wouldn’t even be a bus to Smales Farm that I could catch and transfer either.

        IMO the new network is slightly worse for some 9-5 city cmmuters and slightly better for others, but far better for almost all other journeys.

  6. Some observations from the NN in terms of frequency to more “remote” areas.

    Warkworth now has pretty good connectivity, but links out into some rather infrequency routes, but better than nothing
    396 to Waiuku added an all day service to an area only services by 2 peak-only buses
    389 to Beachlands/Maraetai was boosted to hourly frequency, up from 2-3 hours frequency which is great but it seems the “remote area” boosts stopped there.

    125 to Waimauku/Parakai/Helensville still sits at a horrendous 2 hour frequency.
    398 to Tuakau still sits at peak-only service, but this is funded by Waikato Council, however I doubt AT have approached them about making it better
    171 to Laingholm still has 2-3 hour frequency despite its popularity, and NO Sunday service, last service is also way too early, you have leave New Lynn before 6pm to make it home.
    986 along Dairy Flat went from reasonably great frequency as all the buses to Hibiscus Coast went via that route, down to a 2 hour frequency service with no weekend service at all, despite complaints from rest home users and others along the route, and despite future SHA.
    Huia and Piha buses were spoken about in 2014 confirmed to be introduced with the NN, yet they remain silent on the matter and refuse to respond to any of my requests for an update. These routes would be immensely popular for westie beach-goers, tourists and residents etc. The Piha one would of been super useful for the music event put on there just the other day.

    1. Yes, Port Waikato’s Thursday only one service run per direction is an interesting one too, wouldn’t want to miss it! I think that ended up about the same just different times.

      For Helensville you now have that new 128 service to Hibiscus Coast Station via Kaukapakapa and Waitoki, every 1.5 hrs, wonder how fast that is to get to the city as opposed to going on a NW motorway express bus.

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