This is a guest post from Malcolm McCracken and Pim van den Top
On Sunday 23 August Auckland had its first day of free fares to celebrate hitting the milestone of 100 million public transport trips within 12 months. As a fun way of taking advantage of this event, I created the “Auckland Transit Challenge”. Based on the London Tube Challenge, the task would be to pass through every rapid transit station in Auckland as fast as possible.
The rules were as follows:
Some quick points to note:
- Hibiscus Coast Station is not complete so was not included in the challenge
- The city stops for the NX2 were not included (perhaps one day the University bus station and Wellesley Street busway will be part of future editions!)
I was inspired to try this by the Tube Challenge in London. Although admittedly the Underground has 270 stations across 11 lines which is significantly more than Auckland’s 47 stations across the 5 lines. The radial nature of the network meant there was a real challenge in finding the best transfers and other public transport connections between lines. This meant that, as far as I know, everyone competing was attempting different routes. I personally spent a couple of hours calculating the times for different variations before arriving at the route below
|Britomart to Onehunga||Onehunga Line||8:48||9:10|
|Onehunga to Penrose||Onehunga Line||9:16||9:22|
|Penrose to Papakura||Southern Line||9:38||10:08|
|Papakura to Pukekohe||Pukekohe Connection||10:14||10:30|
|Pukekohe to Papakura||Pukekohe Connection||10:43||10:59|
|Papakura to Puhinui||Southern Line||11:14||11:31|
|Puhinui to Manukau||Eastern Line||11:39||11:43|
|Manukau to Britomart||Eastern Line||11:53||12:30|
|Britomart to Swanson||Western Line||12:42||13:34|
|Swanson to Henderson||Western Line||13:42||13:50|
|Henderson to Constellation||120 Bus Route||14:00||14:53|
|Constellation to Albany||Northern Express 2||14:53||14:59|
|Albany to Britomart||Northern Express 1||15:11||15:44|
And off we went, charting our progress as we ventured out to the end of every line.
On paper this route should take 7.06 hours. However, thanks to a very quick connection at Constellation Station, which I didn’t think we would make, we saved a 10 minute wait. A light jog between Lower Albert Street and Britomart also saved a few minutes bringing our total time down to just under 6.50 hours.
— Pim van den Top (@pimvandentop) June 23, 2019
There were two key transfers to get right. The first was between the Onehunga Line and the Southern Line at Penrose. The lines operate at different frequencies during the day. When I calculated the times by doing the Eastern Line, then Southern Line and then Onehunga Line, I found that the northbound southern line service is timetabled to arrive when the Onehunga bound service departs Penrose. This would’ve left us a 30 minute wait. Doing the reverse transfer, from the Onehunga line to the Southern line, left us with a mere 16 minute wait.
The second key transfer I found was between the 120 and Constellation. The 120 route has no bus priority and therefore has a higher risk of running behind schedule, but by doing the 120 to Constellation Station, the higher frequencies on the busway means a shorter wait regardless of the scheduling of the 120. In this case we got lucky, taking less than a minute to transfer onto a Northern Express.
Other participants used different tactics. Some simply went to the end of the Western Line and Northern Busway and then doubled back. One person tried the 68 frequent bus route from New Lynn to Onehunga. The route we took may not have been the fastest possible; if you can think of an alternative connection you may be able to find time savings to beat our time.
Learnings and other thoughts:
The free fares day was a resounding success; there was heaps of kids on the network, including plenty of unaccompanied teens exploring all parts of the city.
The Pukekohe shuttle was well patronaged in both directions. Having 2 fare zones between Pukekohe and Papakura likely makes free fares more enticing than in other places were only 1 zone is saved.
Despite attempting the challenge on the weekend, the longest wait time for a transfer was 16 minute wait at Penrose. This shows that the improvements to weekend frequencies makes a big difference to what we’ve had in the past–despite the rail lines still not having true RTN frequencies. It would be interesting to see how much time could be saved by doing it in a weekday peak when trains are operating at 10 minute frequencies on the four main lines.
If the fares were not free, a daily fare caps model would make this sort of adventure much more accessible, as well as other (less nerdy) adventures that take you across Auckland.
You can read all of Malcolm’s tweets here and Pim’s here. In the future, this challenge is likely only to become more fun and interesting! Our future RTN means more lines and many more route possibilities, and we look forward to trying it again in the future and hope that some of you, will join the challenge.
Notes from Matt:
I look forward to seeing how this evolves once we get new bits of the network online, like the City Rail Link, the Eastern Busway, Airport to Botany and Light Rail to Mangere.
I thought about the cost of this were it not free but perhaps surprisngly it is less than most might expect. ATs rules on what is considered a journey are below
- Up to 5 trips on buses or trains.
- Tag on within 30 minutes of tagging off your previous service.
- Complete this journey within 4 hours, otherwise it will be considered two journeys and you will be charged accordingly.
But because if you’re transferring trains, you don’t tag off and back on again, in this example the four hour time-out would occurred just after leaving Britomart for the second time on the Western line. That’s $7.60 for adults and $5.85 for students. The second half of the journey would involve six zones but only 4 tags so within the rules. That would be $8.90 for Adults and $6.85 for students. So all up the cost would be $16.50 for adults or $12.70 for students.