Last Friday, Auckland Transport announced a raft of upcoming changes to public transport services, primarily in a bid to save $10 million as a result of the Council’s emergency budget. But sometimes budgetary pressures can be a positive thing if it makes you address long standing issues and that seems to be at least some of what’s happening here.
Auckland Transport (AT) is regrettably changing some public transport services across Auckland in response to Auckland Council’s emergency budget and customer demand.
The reworked budget requires a $10m cost reduction in public transport operating expenditure compared to the pre-COVID budget.
Mark Lambert, AT’s Executive General Manager of Integrated Networks, says by making changes to existing services and unfortunately deferring some improvements, AT will achieve the necessary savings and support Council’s budget reductions.
This will mean being able to make much-needed improvements to areas where there is increased customer demand for services, without the need for additional public funding.
Mr Lambert says AT looked at services which have been in place for some time but where patronage was low – in some cases as few as 3 customers per day.
In other areas, such as the rural north and south, patronage is low on some bus routes – but communities have limited other public transport options so these have been kept.
Across the network, less than 0.5% of passengers will be affected by the changes, with the vast majority having good alternatives. This is not taking into account the people who will benefit from service improvements.
Cutting services is never great but as hinted at, there are also some positive changes coming too and so overall things balance out somewhat. AT say they’re focused the changes on services where they duplicate existing all-day services and therefore there are already good alternative options.
This is highlighted in what is likely the biggest headline change, the removal of ferries to Stanley Bay ferry service in return for more services to Hobsonville Point.
Ferry service resources will be reallocated from the Stanley Bay service, which will cease on Christmas Eve, to the Hobsonville Point service from late January 2021. This will allow much-needed investment in the ferry service network, while recognising that Stanley Bay has low patronage and Hobsonville demand is growing significantly, often leaving customers behind.
AT understands this will be disappointing for Stanley Bay ferry users, but recognises that alternative options exist. With limited availability of vessels and budget constraints, it allows AT to meet growing demand at Hobsonville Point. This will increase overall use of the ferry network, without increasing Council and central government public subsidy expenditure.
Two new additional services each morning and afternoon will be added to the Hobsonville ferry.
The Stanley Bay ferry terminal is less than 2km from the Devonport terminal. That’s a fairly easy bike or bus ride to a service that runs with more frequency and all day. What’s more, with ferry fares now integrated, it makes the bus free.
There is of course still AT’s subsidised taxi service though AT are said to have some upcoming consultation around this and these local routes.
According to the Flagstaff there will be a consultation on cutting or curtailing it from 2 October. pic.twitter.com/TDY3jYJYlk
— Chris Werry (@chriswerry) September 18, 2020
The addition of more services to Hobsonville Point are very much welcomed by residents in that fast growing suburb. As AT mention, those services were already often leaving people behind.
Most of the changes are to bus routes though. These changes primarily means the removal of some peak only services that were largely hangovers from before the new network where AT were too afraid to remove them, probably in response to some feedback at the time. Like with the ferries, things aren’t all clear cut here either.
For example, in the west there are three routes, the 151X, the 171X and the 172X that weave through the back of Glen Eden, Langholm and Titirangi before getting to New Lynn and then running express to town. The latter two of these are just an express version to the city of an all-day route that normally terminates at New Lynn for people to transfer to a train or the 18 frequent service. By no longer sending those buses all the way to the city, AT say they’ll be able to run some more trips on the regular route. For the 151X it will become the 151 and just do the Glen Eden to New Lynn leg of the route.
Likewise the New North and Sandringham Rd express services, the 221X, 223X, 243X and 248X, are all being cut but there will be more regular all-day, all-stop services. This means that for some parts of these routes there will now actually be more services available for people to catch.
Other services being impacted by changes of some description include: NX2, 50A, 95G, 97V, 114, 313, 355, 378, 728, 729, 774, 842, 890, 987
One positive change will be the splitting up of the existing 380 in preparation for the opening of the upgraded Puhinui station. The existing Onehunga to Airport section will have a small change to it and be renamed the 38. The Airport to Manukau section will be called the Airport Link with AT saying:
- A new bus service, the Airport Link, will begin operating between Manukau Bus Station and Auckland International Airport with a full fleet of electric buses.
- Will run via Papatoetoe, until Puhinui station is open in May 2021 every 15 minutes from 4:35am to 12:15am, 7 days a week.
- From May 2021, the Airport Link will run between the Airport and Manukau via Puhinui every 10 minutes from 4:30am to 12:40am, 7 days a week.
I like that they’re making it clear now about how the service will change and increase in frequency once Puhinui is complete
Most of these changes come into effect in late January.
There are no changes to train services, after all they’ve already been cut while the rail network is repaired, but AT have delayed the introduction of the 15 new trains that we’re getting.
Overall the changes appear fairly neutral which is surprising given they’re had to cut $10 million from the budget.