With ongoing industrial action resulting in NZ Bus services being cancelled, it will make it much harder for some people to get around the city.
This post is just a few thoughts and questions in my head about it.
1. Why can’t AT get comms right?
One of the enduring frustrations with Auckland Transport over any time there’s a disruption is that there are incredibly poor communications with the travelling public. It’s one thing during the immediate aftermath of something going wrong, such as disruption on the rail network, but another thing entirely when there’s advanced notice of it, like a strike.
To highlight this point, here is ATs information page about the disrupted services.
Is there a less customer friendly way of doing this? I suspect there’s a large number of people who don’t even know what their bus route is even called and on routes like Dominion Rd they just get on the next bus that comes along. Just listing all the route numbers is even worse for irregular users.
So, I can’t understand why, with just a little effort, AT couldn’t put out something like Peter N has here where the routes not being run are shown on a network map.
Here are those maps in more detail, starting with the North Shore and Hibiscus Coast and as you can see, there’s a relatively small presence for NZ Bus on the Shore these days but includes an important frequent route in the 82 between Milford/Takapuna and the city.
The central Isthmus is where the bulk of the NZ Bus routes are. The blue lines represent where some partial service will run
The West is like the North Shore in that NZ Bus don’t run anywhere near as many services as they used to.
NZ Bus run no services in the South and East.
Staying with tweets, Timmy took that information and turned it into a gif
Auckland Bus routes, with and without NZBus pic.twitter.com/378Cro05jL
— Timmy (@gallicist) December 8, 2019
Both of these show just how much of a hole will be created by not having them running.
2. Just how big is that hole
It’s hard to give an exact number of how many people will be impacted by this but even in December more than 200,000 people catch a bus daily. It will help that university and some secondary school year students are already on holiday.
Based on some other information Auckland Transport have provided me in the past, because NZ Bus run most of the busy isthmus services, around 44% of all bus boardings take place on an NZ Bus bus. Because of the factors mentioned above and because there are some limited services on a few routes the actual impact won’t be as high as that but it still represents a large number of people.
From memory, prior to the new network this NZ Bus services accounted for over two-thirds of boardings.
3. It’s not PTOM
One of the things that has already been blamed for this situation is PTOM (the Public Transport Operating Model). PTOM was introduced by the previous government in 2013 to reorganise how PT is planned and procured by agencies like Auckland Transport. But despite the ideological intentions often ascribed to it, especially as the minister/s who introduced it were known sceptics of the value of PT, it was a positive step forward from what existed before it.
In essence it requires agencies to plan PT routes as part of a coherent network and tender out routes as a package, effectively operating entire routes as a ‘gross contract’ where the agency collects all the fare revenue and the bus company provides services at an agreed rate. This was to stop the ability of bus companies to pick and choose the profitable routes to run commercially while getting subsidies for the rest. There is obviously a lot more to it than that but there is nothing inherently in PTOM that is bad.
As such, I see the focus on PTOM by the bus unions as a case of going after the symptom and not the cause. The real issues at play are:
- Demand for public transport is increasing rapidly, as evidenced by usage having grown by about 75% in a decade. More people using PT means we need to run more services to carry that demand and therefore cost of services increases.
- Even when including the increased fare revenue from usage growth, there’s still only a limited pool of money available to pay for services. As it is, with operational cost increases AT don’t have enough money to keep running the services we already have and so have already been cutting them back.
Solving the wider shouldn’t be about scrapping or even significantly changing PTOM but addressing the wider funding debate.
Perhaps the one thing that PTOM did do though is put most of the PT network through a tender process and many of the routes had never had that, or were seeing previous contracts being rolled over on short term extensions.
4. Pop-up bike lanes?
With many buses not running on the isthmus it will mean many of the bus lanes will be empty. So why not make use of the space for some pop-up protected bike lanes to help give some of those impacted an alternative way of getting around? It doesn’t have to be anything super fancy, even just some orange cones would help.