Whether you’re trying public transport for the first time or you’re a regular user wanting to try to use PT for a new route, journey planning will play an important role in understanding your options. However, Auckland Transport’s journey planner has always been a poor experience.
I had hoped that might be about to change when last week Auckland Transport announced they had updated the planner on their website.
We are excited to unveil our new look public transport tools on our website. With live departures, the Journey Planner and timetables all in one handy place, it has never been easier to plan your journey! Visit our website to try it out for yourself: https://t.co/62t4xnzfWQ pic.twitter.com/kBE6z0GqQH
— Auckland Transport (@AklTransport) July 12, 2019
Unfortunately it appears that the new look is about all that’s changed and the functionality is as bad or even worse than ever.
Here’s the new look tool with styling that matches the mobile apps. The journey planner and real time boards were also both in the old toll too but the timetables section is a new feature – but more on that later.
For comparison, here’s the old version.
The problem is the look was never the main issue, it was, and still is the data behind it and the recommendations it makes. Below are a few examples of what I mean.
Let’s say I want to get to Smales Farm on the North Shore, the image below shows the first items that appear. As you can see, the options shown are not the location, or even the busway station as a whole but instead each individual bus stop. The actual destination only barely visible at the bottom of the scroll box. The number of people who could say exactly which specific bus stop they want to visit could probably be counted on one hand, and most of them probably read this blog.
And here’s what Google offers for the same search with the most likely result showing right at the top.
My local train station is another good example. Searching for the Sturges Rd train station I get the following
- 126 – Sturges Rd Train Station (up until writing this post I had assumed 126 was referring to a street number but now I realise that’s actually ATs stop number).
- Sturges Rd Train Station, Henderson
- Train Station Sturges Rd, Henderson
- Sturges Road Train Station, Henderson
Which one do I choose, does it matter?
This should be basic stuff for AT to get right and yet they seem to have no interest in doing do as it’s been this bad for at least a decade.
The one new feature added as part of the revamp is the Timetables section. In other cities, this is used to deliver a stop specific timetables which can be really useful for those with regular commutes as can be saved to a phone or printed out and put in a wallet or stuck to a wall/fridge etc. To search for a timetable you need to know the specific route number or destination and only then can you find intermediate stops.
Despite saying to search for a route, it requires specific route numbers or the origin/destination of a service.
A lot of the frequent routes on the isthmus are high frequency through the core of the isthmus but split at their southern ends. But say you’re living on Mt Eden Rd and just want a list of all the 27 buses past your stop. The AT tool will only show you the for each individual service pattern, which defeats the entire purpose.
And even if you do manage to find a stop, it appears the system isn’t working properly and will only show you the times after about 2:50pm (this was happening when I tried it last night too).
Neat. how does the timetable view work? It only seems to show me buses after the current time of day, but I want to know what time the bus runs until, or the schedule for tomorrow morning for (NX1 obviously not relevant, but it highlights the issue!) Am I missing something? Thx! pic.twitter.com/i8H8m2VQXK
— dr (@boop_it) July 12, 2019
Overall the timetable feature is a good idea for AT to add this but ATs implementation leaves a lot to be desired and feels like it needs much more time in the oven before having been presented to the public as it requires an arcane knowledge of our PT system to be useful.
All of this makes me wonder. Why is it so hard for Auckland Transport to get this right, especially when other cities, an even apps designed by people in their spare time are often better. What are their customer experience team doing all day?