As I wrote a few weeks ago, one of the biggest things our next council should do is to focus on how we can turn PT up a notch by improving frequencies. In particular, we should look to bring forward Auckland Transport’s aspiration, as expressed in their Regional Public Transport Plan (RPTP), to improve frequent services from being every 15 minutes to every 10 minutes.

As I wrote at the time from my own personal experience.

The difference between a service every 15 minutes and one every 10 might not seem like much but in my experience makes a significant difference to how people perceive the usefulness of PT. I still recall the impact it had on my commute when train frequencies were improved from 15 to 10 minutes at peak times. When the prospect of a just missed train meant a 15 minute wait I would go out of my way to make sure I made it, precisely timing when I left work or as often happened, having to run to make it. That all changed when services were improved to every 10 minutes. Suddenly the wait didn’t seem anywhere near as bad and it means now I often don’t even bother checking the time, only seeing when the next train is when I turn up at the station. I expect improving frequent buses to be every being 10 minutes to have a similar impact for many others across the region and is even easier to market to potential users.

We can’t afford to wait till 2028 to maybe get these improvements, we need them as soon as possible if we want to make PT much more attractive and play a bigger role in Auckland. The biggest challenge to doing this is of course money. So in this post I’ve set out to try and estimate what it may cost to improve frequencies.

How many extra services?

For this estimation I’ve built a model to compare the current timetable with a hypothetical one where frequent services run every 10 minutes. I had no desire to trawl through timetables so using ATs GTFS data, the data that is used by third parties like Google to show PT timetables, I worked out how many buses for each route (and route variation) depart the first stop for each hour of the day. This has been done for both direction on weekdays and weekend days.

While there could be some issues with timing, in general we can assume that four buses an hour means a bus every 15 minutes and six buses an hour is a bus every 10 minutes. For every route variation and branch I’ve also used the data to calculate the distance travelled. As an example of all of this, an NX1 bus from Albany to Britomart is 17.7km while an NX1 from Hibiscus Coast is 30.8km. You can see a sample of this in the table below for weekdays but the data extends for all services and all hours (so is quite large).

The eagle eyed amongst you may also notice that this shows at peak times there are 71 buses an hour, streaming down the Northern Busway to the city, most of which are double deckers. There are other routes that use it too.

There are 28 current frequent routes and I’ve put them into the categories in the graph below. The five that already meet the aspirational target are: NX1, City Link, Inner Link, Dominion Rd (the 25 routes), Botany (the 70 route). A number of the second category are quite close to this too, for example the NX2 and Mt Eden Rd buses largely only needs better frequencies on the weekends for it to qualify while the Outer Link needs one an hour.

That leads us to the second part of the process. I’ve replicated the table above and where things aren’t already, I’ve increased them to six per hour for between 7am and 7pm. In cases where frequent routes branch, such as into two half hourly routes, I’ve increased each branch by enough so that the core frequent route is 6 buses an hour). There are many changes that are tempting to make but the only other one I did was have more NX1 services from Hibiscus Coast and fewer from Albany – currently there are only two buses an hour to/from the Hibiscus Coast Station off-peak and on weekends.

By multiplying the number of services by the distance we can get the total distance travelled on both the current network and the proposed network and compare the two. This showed we would need an extra:

  • 14,900km service km’s on weekdays
  • 17,600km service km’s on weekend days.

We have about 250 working days a year and 115 weekend or public holiday days. Combing these it adds up to about an extra 5,750,000km per year. That sounds like a lot but to put that in perspective, AT say that following the roll-out of the new network, the total number of service-kms now travelled was about 59.1 million annually. So, getting current frequent services to be every 10 minutes is less than a 10% increase.

What could it cost?

To get an idea of what it would cost to add those extra services I’ve combined some of the PT data the NZTA publish on public transport such as fares, farebox recovery and the total in-service km’s travelled by buses. This works out at about $5.50 per km, which for 5.75 million km would mean a total annual cost of about $32 million.

However, there’s good reason to believe this cost could be a lot lower. For example:

  • Much of this will be able to be achieved without needing to buy new buses as just makes better use of existing ones so the marginal cost is much lower.
  • I’ve heard in the past that the figure AT use internally to estimate the cost of new/extended services is a lot lower than this.

Taking this into consideration, a lower end of the scale could be as little as $14 million annually.

Obviously these aren’t small figures but they are smaller than I had expected and doesn’t seem like an unreasonable sum to pay, especially for the government who have made a lot of noise about improving PT, including in the Government Policy Statement (GPS).

These figures were just to upgrade the existing ‘frequent’ buses to have even better frequency but that isn’t the only improvement it would be good to see. There are a number of routes it would be good to see turned into frequents, such as the 650 along Balmoral Rd, or services along SH16. The RPTP has a few maps shows all the routes they want to eventually see become frequents. I haven’t worked it out fully but as a guide, using the figures above, to upgrade a 15km route from every half hour to every 10 minutes would cost about $2-4 million annually.

I’m not sure why the Northern Busway disappears in 2028

If all of those 2028 routes, with services running at least every 10 minutes, could be delivered in the next few years we’d have a pretty good network.

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74 comments

  1. Nice work Matt.

    Improving bus priority, ie continuous bus lanes, especially at intersections, will improve both journey times and bus efficiency (both bus and driver available for more trips by reducing delay on each trip).

    This is where the resources for higher frequencies needs to be sought. While of course making the journeys more appealing and therefore also helping to grow ridership, justifying the additional capacity. Virtuous circle.

    Additionally, improving the whole network for everyone, is a clear example of what Jarrett Walker means by ‘efficiency is equity’, in public services.

  2. Forget that
    How about some equity first like Auckland Transport not slashing feeder busses and busses running in our industrial complexes in South Auckland

    Hourly services do absolutely little to get patronage going in our fastest growing sub region that also has the highest transport poverty rates.

    1. Cutting buses that aren’t used and increasing buses that are full is the very definition of equity.

      Perhaps you are thinking of equality, which is actually very different.

    2. Divide and conquer, again, Ben. They shouldn’t have slashed those services, but don’t complain about good public transport plans. Complain about the money being spent still on Mill Rd and Penlink and Matakana Gold Rd and the Supporting Growth in Emissions programme.

    3. Totally agree,
      Public transport is just that – public transport.
      The governments role (central & local) from an equality perspective should be to provide a full coverage network (for the transport disadvantaged) with no worse than say 30min headways before increasing service levels above this for commuters.

      It doesnt have to be fixed services and can be on-demand where that is more efficient (equitable)

      1. If it’s about equity then surely we should be running services into every corner of the country and providing the same level of service to Whangamomona as we do along Dominion Road.

        1. Ideally.
          But all local & central government spending should go through social cost benefit analysis. Funding may not stretch that far depending on how it ranks against other initiatives given there is always a limited financial funding pool.

  3. The logic of increasing frequency of major routes is flawed if the passenger still has to wait for another 20-30 minutes for their connector bus to go the last few kilometres, particularly going home in the evening. This is a problem that exists now on the North Shore, since most of the patronage lives some distance from the Northern Busway.

    Improve the feeder bus service frequencies and route coverage before putting more frequency on the major route services.

      1. For people not going to the city, that would be the entire part west of the motorway.

        Note that there is no Onewa Road station. The closest point where you can connect between 95 or 97 and the NX is at Victoria Park.

      2. Milford/Castor Bay for instance is not a reasonable walking distance from Smales Farm. i.e. the northern busway tracks the motorway, generally people need feeder buses to use the northern busway. Do you disagree?

        1. ACB, I absolutely agree that there needs to be good feeder buses to the northern busway.
          I note that there seems good frequency from Milford to Smales using either the 845 or 856.
          Alternatively the 843 provides a good connect to Akoranga going down the southern side of Lake Pupuke.
          Is there enough patronage to have a better frequency from Milford to Castor Bay? I am not sure.
          I have proposed a ten minute off peak frequency from Milford via Takapuna to Akoranga, transforming the 82. With the town centre in Milford being transformed by apartment development, as is Takapuna there seems a wonderful opportunity to connect residences, restaurants, facilities etc at each location.
          I also think Takapuna is missing a wonderful opportunity to connect via public transport to other population centres and hence revenue for local businesses and services. Could present day Takapuna ever recreate, or want to, times like a night at the “Mon”.
          While the concept is foreign to most kiwis some of the great beaches of the world have their visitors arrive by public transport. Copacabana streets are heavy with visitors making their way from the train stations and Bondi is very accessible by bus and tram.
          So yes better feeder services, but I also think for the sake of our health we should be prepared to walk some way to those feeders.

    1. I wouldn’t say flawed. Look at the second map above, the North Shore has quite a lot of core frequent corridors covering a lot of population and most of the main town and village centres.

      You say most of the patronage live some way from the busway, now the busway isn’t the only frequent service on the shore, but I assume you mean population not patronage?

      It’s an interesting distinction, because evidence from abroad suggests that patronage isn’t even across population, you get much more patronage serving the main trunk corridors intensively that attempting to serve a multitude of side streets and dead end neighbourhoods with the same kind of expenditure.

      In short, doubling down on what work already is usually more effective than spreading out.

      1. Well… in one word, no.

        Going to and from the CBD is reasonably well covered. But many other trips are not. From west of the motorway you can’t easily take the bus to Takapuna or Albany due to the lack of cross-town buses. One of the main growth areas, Northcote, is not served by a frequent service at all.

        1. Needs to be redesigned to suit a teenager or a parent with young children who like to do things all over the Shore, I reckon.

        2. Quite right. I cannot count the number of times I’ve had to drive from Devonport to Takapuna to pick up my daughter because she’s been left stranded by a half-hour wait for a bus. To me the priority is indeed equity, by which I mean giving the majority of people decent access to the bus network rather than further improving services for the minority who currently are well catered for.

      2. I am not talking about buses “serving a multitude of side streets and dead end neighbourhoods” I am talking about the current feeder buses to the northern busway (or other corridors) relatively matching the increased frequency you propose of the NX etc themselves. Otherwise you just end up waiting around for a long time for your feeder/connector bus to get the final leg home. Trust me, it’s not a great experience now. Think your logic is correct about more frequent services for high density areas but where are these on the North Shore busway. Not many if any.

        1. DavidB
          I agree with you that the Devonport service has very poor frequency. While not knowing the history regarding frequency it is appalling with the level of congestion that exists on that road that AT has not tried harder with buses. A reply I received from AT says that their obligation is to connect with the ferries.

          I suspect that scrapping AT Local would provide enough revenue to double the frequency.

          Maybe Devonport businesses might see merit in greater frequency? The free PT day saw business rise by 25% on that day. Hard to believe, but just like overseas, people on PT do have disposable income.

    2. Late afternoon yesterday I took PT from Ellerslie to home, a journey by car that would be 15-20 minutes max door to door. By PT, 1 hour 35 minutes using the most efficient modes, namely train and bus rather than bus and bus. The reason was the frequency or lack thereof, indirect route and then the connecting times meaning large waits from one mode to another.

      PT cannot hope to compete or attract compared to the private vehicle in this city while such a gulf exists in travel times. And no, the default temptation to make the use of private vehicles just as awful is not the answer.

      1. Bus lane priority needed! And if it was provided, these buses would all speed up, complete more km per hour, and a far lower amount than Matt’s estimate for providing these 10 minute frequent services would be required.

        AT should up the frequency of these buses as an easy step now, and look at providing the bus priority and bus lanes as an investment that will lower this annual cost significantly.

        1. Bus priority lanes would make no difference, especially on a Sunday. One part of the trip was by train anyway, so that is purely down to frequency. And for the latter half traffic was not an issue also.

          It’s simply the infrequent services that are disjointed in their times and in the case of the bus, another issue was it stopping at about halfway in the trip for a few minutes to wait for the timetable to catch up which was really annoying too.

        2. True enough. I heard a new term for the Outer Link and Inner Link ‘depot’ recently. “Vicsnoria Park”. I like it. That wait is outrageous. It’s just a pity they’re fixing it, though, rather than canning the Outer Link and providing direct frequent buses to replace it.

          Which will undoubtedly be due to their aversion to anything that might make someone say “boo”.

        3. Consider the problem of poor stop spacing too:

          Route 20 has a bus stop every 200 m from Bond St to Three Lamps. That’s a distance of 2.7 km.

          At morning peak it stopped at every one of them ‍♂️

    3. ACB, here’s my contribution to the idea that feeders should be increased first: there’s a need to look at this from the perspective of different types of users.

      For commuters in steady jobs who take a feeder and then one frequent bus, and don’t do errands, 10 minute frequencies on the FTN will assist them slightly.

      For people who are trying to juggle multiple roles – doing errands, mixing study with work, working multiple jobs, taking children places en route to work, etc – this will assist them hugely. Because their patterns are far less to do with one simple trip morning and night.

      For example, with the jobs I do in all parts of town, which are far more likely to be in the isthmus area served by frequent routes than on the outskirts on feeder routes, the difference to me of being able to connect in all sorts of places to a bus within ten minutes, regardless of what time the earlier bus happened to get there, would be huge. If I lived on a feeder route with 20 minute frequency, the fact that this wasn’t improved would be a minor input to the huge benefit of all the other random trips I make.

      Putting what we know about gender, age and income to the different user types, Matt’s suggestion will improve travel for younger and poorer users, and for more women.

      Just thought it might be useful to look at the situation from some other users’ perspectives.

    4. The frequent services in the south are good, but as soon as you need to transfer too a less frequent its rubbish. Try 380 from airport to 309 – often have to wait 20-29 mins and almost miss the transfer window.

  4. I absolutely agree the frequency issue badly needs addressing but I think there are a few issues:

    1) Thanks to the PTOM and the race to the bottom in costs, bus companies are struggling to attract and retain drivers, losing experience which happens is costly in itself both money-wise and to an efficient PT system. And the industry I would argue is already reliant on that nasty little secret built into our economy, using and exploiting desperate migrants to fill jobs, in this case driving positions. That inhuman side of the NZ economy needs to change.

    2) The cost of housing in Auckland is bad, meaning badly paid drivers are even harder to attract here and in places like Queenstown and Wellington.

    3) My local bus depot is empty of buses at peak apart from those needing repair and I would think this is typical of any bus depot. So where are the extra buses going to come from? Unless you think some routes need to be culled which only adds to more people taking their car with less PT options.

    4) Rerouting empty buses to service routes is doable but some of these drivers are part-timers given they work peak periods only for cost reasons or if they are full time, because of the split shift system start early, already run their empties back to start another peak run only to knock off mid-morning to be available mid-afternoon. Again having the availability of drivers is an issue.

    It is not insurmountable but we need a number of things to change;

    Simply more money spending on PT both from local and central government. And with Auckland’s fuel tax there are NO excuses here.

    Changes to the PTOM to ensure that the arbitrary mindless Joyce 50% farebox recovery is ditched, that the tendering process means drivers are paid enough to attract and retain.

    And have a Transport Minister who knows what they are doing. That is a huge obstacle at the moment as the current one is just so far out of his depth and is not delivering.

    Maybe then we can do this!

    1. This proposal basically lifts the interpeak and early evening service levels to match the peak, resulting in a flatter timetable.

      Running a flatter timetable with more service across the middle of the day means a need for more drivers on the road during the middle of the day, ie. less split shifts.

      LIkewise, lifting off peak service levels doesn’t require many or any extra buses. A huge proportion of the fleet is only used for a few hours a day at peak (somewhere between one third and one half by my reckoing). Indeed many buses are used for literally only one run in in the morning and one run out in the evening.

    2. The PTOM already has provisions to penalise operators for failing to run buses, the problem appears to be a number of operators that were unable to accurately cost a job. They will likely be weeded out when these contracts come up for renewal.

      I agree that the driver shortage is a major issue, although it think it would still be there even if wages were increased, there are simply too many jobs that are more appealing than driving a bus through city traffic day after day.

      1. Penalizing bus companies for failing to provide contracted services considering there is a national shortage of bus drivers, is stupid, inefficient and costly for the bus company and AT. Without a driver a bus company can not operate a contracted service, so the current POTM needs to torn up and the whole Auckland bus/train/ferry networks needs to come under one public entity – Auckland Metro which would be a more cost and operationally efficient.

        1. Easy. After 30 odd years of neo-liberal economic policies, voluntary unionism leading to a low wage economy and the bus and coach industry sitting on their hands and did nothing about making a bus and tour coach driving a career, has resulted in aging workforce, with very small amount of new blood entering the industry and low wages. Add in the current POTM into the mix we have a national shortage of bus/coach drivers.

          At least the trucking industry is starting to do something about their aging work force after years of sitting on their hands.

        2. Surely the bus company who tendered for the routes would have been aware of the shortage and would have accounted for this in their tender.

          Some bus companies are operating very effectively under the PTOM, for those that are not it is more a reflection of poor understanding of their core business.

        3. In simple terms to win a tender the lowest tender wins. That is the law. And to win the tender and yet satisfy one’s shareholders by maximising profit what cost is going to be trimmed to the bone? Drivers wages and conditions but in a city with living costs as high as Auckland. It is why there is a shortage. And I would truly hate to think about what is happening maintenance wise.

          That is the way the PTOM works, incredibly short-sighted but being instituted by a terminally short term thinking political party like National, that is what we got!

          Honestly, it can not end any other way than operating the buses using private operators on the bare margins of profit and loss.

        4. I could add, Jezza, that I think Ritchies are doing it another way, namely buying up the competition just like Birkenhead Transport. They are now the biggest PT provider in Auckland surely so the long game may be to close the competition out to eventually maximise return on investment. And that is a realistic scenario when AT are the organisation behind the 8 ball and not the providers.

        5. In simple terms you are right, but PTOM like all contracts is not simple.

          I could have put in a bit lower than any other operators but I wouldn’t have been awarded the routes as I don’t own any buses and have never operated them before. There is plenty of scope for AT to say a tender is not viable even if it is the lowest.

        6. Out of the major bus companies, name at least one major bus company that have tendered for public transport contracts in our main centres are operating effectively with a full compliment of happy well paid drivers?

          All bus companies were fully aware there is national shortage of bus drivers.

          When Wellington introduced its shambolic multi hub rapid bus network last years, despite the propagandea by GWRC, both NZ and Tranzit/Tranzurban had driver shortages hence the current state of the bus network.

        7. I can’t comment on whether they are all happy and well paid as that is subjective. However, my understanding is NZ Bus, Howick and Eastern and Go Bus have all been able to largely meet their requirements of running services under PTOM which suggests they are not struggling with staff retention.

          A number of other operators have struggled with staff retention and thus meeting their requirements to run services. As I said it looks like it is an issue with the management of those companies not PTOM as a whole.

        8. jezza – Ritchies is now the largest privately owned bus company in NZ with 20 depots through out the country, followed by Tranzit and Go Bus being the major players in urban, school, regional and inter-regional bus operations through NZ.

        9. Here on Waiheke AT are rolling out the new network on 13th October which will double the normal summer timetabled routes compared to last summer and the biggest problem theyare having is trying to find more drivers to cover these new runs . What they did last summer was bring drivers over from H&E to cover our shortfall but those poor people were up and about for 12-13hrs including an 8 hr working day and it sounds they may have to do it againthis year as there is a shortage of rentals over christmas , and then mid 2020 we are going to get a new fleet of electric bus which may need a new skill set to operate . as per this link ;-

          https://ourauckland.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/articles/news/2019/07/waiheke-bus-network-gets-electrified/

          And what I have heard the drivers here have settled on reasonable pay rise over a 2yr period but is large enough to get the drivers ?

        10. So we shouldn’t penalise companies that fail to deliver what they are contracted to do? If there’s no penalty, you could expect to see a far worse situation than we have at the present.

          As for PTOM, the only serious critiques that I’ve ever seen are (a) that drivers need to be paid a fair wage – not strictly a PTOM issue, but it could and should be specified in the contracts that a fair wage should be payable, and (b) that the Waiheke and Devonport ferries should be under the PTOM umbrella.

          (a) requires Council to adopt a fair wage policy for contracted bus services and require AT to comply. (b) requires a change in legislation.

          Neither change requires PTOM to be “torn up”, and I’ve not heard ANY other criticisms from those who jump on the “dump PTOM” bandwagon. I believe it’s basically a good process that delivers good value for money for ratepayers.

          Or are you suggesting that AT Metro should purchase 1500 buses and a dozen or so ferries using ratepayers’ money to take over the whole operation? Probably about $1 bn altogether that you and I and the other ratepayers would have to find or finance. Personally, I’d rather that $1 bn was spent on constructive things like expanding the RTN. But what would I know?

        11. Have a look at the what happen to Wellington, when the GWRC didn’t insist in the service contracts that drivers where to be paid a fair wages.

          Did the region’s rate payers get value for money services contracted – no. The cost to date is $26 million and raising, increased regional transport surcharges on their local city rates for cancelled bus and train services due to bus/train driver shortages, minimal maintenance on the Matangi EMUs and SW carriages, increase pollution in Wellington central city area due to the decommissioning of the trolleybus network and so on. The GWRC went for the cheapest option in accordance with the POTM and it has backed fired on them. The region’s ratepayers are not happy campers.

          For a multi hub public transport network that Wellington and Auckland have, should be operated by one public non profit making entity, in the case of Auckland – AT Metro. This entity would have total control over the region’s public transport network, like the Auckland region and be responsible for all fleet operations, bus, train and ferry infrastructure like stations, terminals, bus and bus/train transfers hubs, standardised train/bus driver recruiting, wages, working conditions and employment contracts and so on. It would be easier for the entity to buy out existing service contracts including drivers, take over existing bus leases and/or bus purchase from the bus company/companies. etc. It would be much cheaper and more efficient to operate compared to the current setup as the entity is operating on cost recovery basis not for profit plus it can offer cheaper fares depending on how much central and regional funding will be.

        12. With regards to ferry services, they can be owned and operate as unit of AT Metro and/or contracted to a private ferry operator like what happens with Sydney Ferries.

        13. DavidByrne; Firstly no one is suggesting getting rid of the entire PTOM, rather it’s more destructive elements that hinder PT.

          But why pay private companies to provide a public service? Because that’s the legislation that we’ve been tied to since the 90’s. The official but totally bullshit reasons were that public control was not as efficient as a private operator. I think the far more simple explanation was the government of the day hated to see the workers having the collective abilty to stick together like they did under the old Auckland Regional Authority Yellow Bus Company could and in an era of finishing unions off to maximize shareholder rewards we ended up with this PPP system we have, driver wages and conditions went south, fares remain high and we have the shortages of drivers we experience nowadays. And I don’t think there is a bus co in Auckland at least who aren’t advertising for drivers currently.

          And since then we ratepayers lost our bus company but all pay shareholder dividends to these companies for a service that is non profit and where profits, if ever made, should be poured back into the services.

        14. There’s an unsubstantiated assumption here that a public body would be able to operate PT services more efficiently than a private operator – I don’t know that that’s true. Just by asserting it doesn’t make it so, alas.

          But once again, none of the issues that you raise are a direct consequence of PTOM. There’s nothing to suggest that driver shortages would evaporate if a public body were running the buses and trains, and there’s no link whatsoever between PTOM and a decision to require (or not) a living wage to be paid to drivers – that’s completely independent of PTOM. If “all bus companies were fully aware there is a national shortage of bus drivers” as you state and they tendered on the basis of rock-bottom wages then they have no one to blame but themselves if they get fined for cancelled services etc. Would AT have been able to magic up additional drivers where the private companies have failed? It may be that some of the operators have to bite the bullet and pay their drivers more or renege on their contracts if they can’t get staff. That’ll teach ’em for bidding too low. I don’t buy the argument that because an operator bid too low and has difficulties that the ratepayer should come in and provide more support – you can imagine legal challenges against AT on this from unsuccessful tenderers, who would have a very strong case.

          PTOM was used as an excuse for the decommissioning of the trolleybus network in Wellington I accept – but the future appears to be battery electric bus technology which could easily be specified within future PTOM contracts. As it will be in Auckland.

          Finally, you promote a single body running trains, ferries and buses – but then in the next breath you suggest that the ferry services could be contracted out after all. Why? And why not contract out the buses as well if it’s OK for the ferries?

          I’m quite neutral as to whether the PTOM model is the best, whether another model could work, or whether a public body should run everything. But if there’s to be a change from the status quo, it has to be because of clearly demonstrable benefits in such a change, and there’s been nothing whatsoever suggested so far that demonstrates that things would improve – aside from your unsupported assertions that it would be better. Long way to go before I’m persuaded.

        15. DavidByrne – The concept of the current PTOM is – “to provide an opportunity for regions to work in partnership with operators to achieve improved competition and value for money outcomes that may not previously have been possible, while improving the effectiveness of services delivered to communities. ”

          It is the “improved competition and value for money out comes” part of the PTOM is causing the issues. Would you accept a contract bid say from NZ Bus who is bidding for a service where a driver is paid on average $23-25 per hour or a bid from Go Bus who is paying on the average of $18-20 per hour for a driver?

          So why is there a need to have ‘competition’ of contract bus companies to operate a public transport system?

          The term ‘value for money out comes’ is an indication to regional councils is to accept the cheapest tender that provides the best $ value for the regions rate payers.

          Since Auckland, Wellington and lessor extent Christchurch have multi transfer hubs in their bus networks, having separate bus companies to provide interconnecting bus services at transfer hubs is a recipe for problems as seen in Wellington. Example if NZ Bus has rapid bus contract and Go Bus has a frequent connecting service at the hub and Go Bus has to cancel that connecting service due to driver shortages, then there is delay issue, as passengers have to wait for the next connecting service which is not giving them the quick bus travel they have told to expect plus it has a rolling effect through the network. If this is an on going issue like in Wellington, then the bus traveler gets frustrated then revert backs to using a car or a riding share service and one lost traveler to the network.

          There are alot of positive reasons to have one public entity to operate a city/region core public transport network especially if it is a multi hub transfer system.

          What I meant with ferry services, that all core high frequency ferry services is operated by the public entity is there is a ferry service that is not a core service, then it could be contract if there is an economical reason to do so, like in Wellington which only has 1 ferry route service, across Wellington Harbour

        16. Kris – can you explain how GWRC went for the cheapest option but are paying an extra $26 million?

        17. jezza – the cost is made of –

          – $11million to dismantle 82km of trolley bus overhead

          – $14.4 million to build new bus transfer hubs and upgrade key bus shelters

          This does not include the legal, consultants and administrative costs

          The above costs is borne by the greater Wellington ratepayers.

  5. Not sure I agree with the increased hibiscus coast services at the expense of albany especially at peak hour – the hibiscus coast services at peak in the morning do not stop to pick people up at albany as it stands and only drop off at albany. Therefore this would decrease the spaces at Albany which is not necessarily best practice The Albany bus’ at morning peak are usually nearly full and there are ques most mornings to wait for and get on these buses. The Hibiscus coast buses often still have quite a bit of space on when I drive past. I agree that there could be more buses from Hibiscus coast but they would need to be fresh buses – not taken from the Albany time table unless they stopped at albany and picked up but even then I think its best to add more to the timetable without sacrificing Albany services

  6. Maybe I missed something, but wondered if you could you pop in the list of the 28 routes that could be improved?

    Great article about the simple opportunity to vastly improve patronage for a reasonably small investment. Getting to 10 minute frequency has been shown as the game changes where timetables become less relevant.

    It would be really interesting to see what has happened to patronage on other routes that have been ‘upgraded’ to 10 minute frequencies. I suspect the offpeak patronage jumps by 10%-20% as the result of low cost improvements i.e. no extra peak buses required

  7. Better frequency is always going to be a good thing. The other major issue most PT in Auckland has is speed. It simply takes too long for most journeys compared to a car. Even the NEX which is a great service, is hampered by a top speed of 80km/h. The busway is a dedicated route it should be at least 90 if not 100.
    Buses need to have priority when pulling out from a bus stop (as in Australia). Various road choke points (often approaching intersections) can in many cases be fixed by widening and creating a T2/T3/Buslane and shouldn’t cost too much as we’re talking about 50-100m.

  8. We can achieve higher frequency if we get rid of the conservative timetable padding.

    For frequent turn up and go service, we can remove timetable padding by replacing the arrival time with “one bus every x minutes”. The punctuality is measured by the gap between bus, instead of the exact arrival time.

    This gives bus operator incentive to speed up their bus and get rid of the need of bus drivers slowing down to match the timetable.

    To solve bus bunching up, operators should have a real-time fleet monitoring and control the timing to dispatch the bus.

    1. The timetable padding is there because of highly variable traffic conditions in Auckland. One bus every x minutes quickly turns into 3 buses every 40 mins. Unless buses have extensive priority or better still, an exclusive ROW, they will always be the least desirable/reliable form of PT.

  9. The real “game changer” will be light rail, obviously tracks are a lot more controllable and with increased capacity and frequency, in combination with the improvements via the CRL will finally challenge the private motor vehicle for velocity. The fact that those in power are sitting on their hands regarding trams is frustrating, there should be a lot more urgency here, particularly for the Dominion Road and Northwestern routes. Tamaki Drive is ripe for light rail. Naturally, wherever there once was a tram, there should be now envisaged light rail, with extended routes of course. Guaranteed frequency requires greater control of the variables, buses that are forced to contend with other traffic will never achieve that reliability.

    1. Sadly Matthew, light rail is stuck in a bureaucratic wasteland of the PPP/NZTA. And even worse our Minister of Transport who should be all over it and cracking heads together to progress it has not been sighted for quite some time. And as I have observed, when Phil goes missing, as he did with Kiwibuild when he iceberged that Titanic, you know it’s not looking good!

  10. Instead of blowing money on more empty buses trundling around, taking twice as long as the equivalent car journey, spend the limited funds on projects that provide speed/time competitive PT like 3/4 tracks all the way from Pukekohe to Otahuhu etc etc.

    1. Increasing desirability of buses takes multiple approaches, encompassing priority and road reallocation, network design and timetabling, supporting infrastructure and urban design, vehicle type, pricing, customer service.

      We’re never going to get rail everywhere, so buses have a valid place in the network. Assuming these will be empty buses trundling around requires a determination to ignore the evidence. And this does provide speed/time competitive PT.

      Network improvements around frequency and transfers transform the customer experience. I think a mode bias is preventing you from seeing this is as valid a project as every project related to improving the rail experience.

    2. The third (and forth) main (s) should be high priority indeed. Also, the magical link between Southdown / Onehunga and Avondale / New Lynn, incidentally serving a bit of Mt Roskill too. These need to be fast tracked (excuse the pun) as they will allow the CRL to prove its full potential. Train frequency needs to be down to 3 minutes within the decade. Buses will always have a part to play, but they will never be sufficiently efficient to lift our network to international standard.

    3. $14 million per year isn’t going to build much – maybe one smallish project over 10 years. I can’t see how that could be better than an instant significant improvement to 24 bus routes.

        1. We know that last year $14 million would have saved a PT fare increase and the loss of 1 million PT trips.

          Less focus on road spending and we should do both.

  11. It is concerning that there has been a lack of news regarding increasing the frequency of buses in the southeast to take advantage of the AMETI Eastern Busway. The Panmure – Pakuranga section of the busway should be operational in 2021.

    Both the 711 and the 712 should be upgraded to frequent status, becoming the 71 and 73 respectively. These two routes in addition to the existing frequent 70 and 72, will ensure the busway is accessible to more of Southeast Auckland.

    The 711 route would also greatly benefit from a bus-only bridge connecting La Trobe St to Hope Farm Ave. This would reduce the length of the route by 1.4 km, and avoid 2 major intersections.

  12. Good post. I wonder how much It would cost to increase the frequency of currently hourly off peak buses to 1/2 hrly & ones that are 20 minutes at peak to be kept as such? Eg. The 321 Hospital bus would be much more useful as 20 minutes consistently and run on the weekend. Buses are very weak through great South Road from Otahuhu until you get to Ellerslie. With the old network it was completely ridiculously the opposite. The train stations are not that accessible there either.

    1. Grant I also hope they can run the 321 on say a Saturday as the Greenlane Clinical Centre has services running on the weekends . Last weekend I had an appointment at 10am and it took me 4buses , 2trains and 2 ferries to get there and back home again

        1. Yes, you would think that the combination of a popular park, a school, a cricket club, a well used convention centre, a race course (now acquiring medium density housing and retail spaces) and a large hospital, all somewhat out of walking range from the nearest train station, might be a good argument for a frequent bus service.
          We got the continuation of the Outer Link service instead…

        2. Ehlana there is the 650 bus that passes along Greenlane west every 1/2hr during the day but to get that from the railway station is around a 10min walk but both ways there is no running between connections and I was able to get maccas on the return trip from greenlane .

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