Last year Auckland Transport consulted on the future of public transport in Devonport, bringing to a head a decision about what to do about their one year, million dollar plus subsidised taxi trial (AT Local) they had kept running for two years despite not meeting targets.

They presented two options,

  • A) Operate the local buses with improved frequency, plus with ferry fares now being integrated effectively makes them free.
  • B) A hybrid system where the buses would run at peak times and then AT’s taxi service running off-peak, but with HOP integration and a smaller operating area compared to the trial.

We believed Option A was the best outcome.

Last week AT announced the outcome of the consultation and not only have they chosen Option A, they’ve enhanced it even further.

A vastly improved local bus network is coming soon, to better connect locals to village shopping and the Devonport ferry.

In October 2020, Auckland Transport (AT) asked locals for their feedback on two options for the future of local bus services – enhanced bus services; or whether to convert the AT Local on-demand trial into a permanent solution with reduced bus services – on the Devonport Peninsula.

After considering local feedback and ideas, and under the financial constraints of the COVID-19 emergency budget, AT will be proceeding with Option A: Enhancing the local bus network and removing AT Local from the Devonport Peninsula.

The enhanced local bus network will see the 806 and 807 running more often at peak commuting times.

From 1 March 2021, the 806 and 807 will run every 20 minutes and connect with every Devonport ferry at peak times on weekdays. Buses will run every 30 minutes at all other times on weekdays until at least 8.45pm.

On weekends, the 806 and 807 will continue to run every 30 minutes until after 7pm, extending until almost 9pm, from Sunday 25 April 2021.

A new bus service will cover some areas that aren’t currently served by buses.

A new 805 will connect the Belmont shops, Ngataringa Road, Lake Road and the Devonport village and Ferry Terminal and run hourly, Monday to Friday, from approximately 9.15am until 3.55pm.

In addition to this, this week Fullers also introduced a new ferry timetable for Devonport.

From Monday, 25 January 2021, North Shore commuters who travel on the Devonport to Auckland CBD ferry commuters will experience the new and improved 20-minute extended peak commuter schedule, enjoying additional services provided to support commuters in 2021.

The new timetable will have sailings running every 20 minutes from 7am – 10am and 4pm – 8pm on weekdays. This will give our customers greater certainty and efficiency for both the ferry and connecting transport services. The new 20-minute frequency replaces the temporary mixed 15-minute and 30-minute service launched in July last year.

Every 20 minutes is slightly worse in the morning peak, having previously was every 15 minutes, but with the morning peak window extended and now with the same peak frequencies in the afternoon, the trade-off seems worth it. Given the 806 and 807 buses will also run to a 20 minute timetable at peak, timed to meet the ferries, this makes the bus/ferry combo much more seamless and practical.

As for why they’ve gone for this option, they say.

Why we’re implementing Option A

  • Public consultation did not show the Devonport Peninsula community had a clear preference.
  • Option A can better address issues with the public transport network identified by consultation respondents – specific areas of the Peninsula are not currently served by buses and bus-ferry connections at Devonport need improvement.
  • Option A gives former Stanley Bay ferry users the best possible connection with the Devonport ferry.
  • Option A is easier for everyone to understand, with bus services running all day, seven days a week.
  • Option A has more capacity for growth in the number of people wanting to travel by public transport.
  • Option A is expected to require a lower per passenger subsidy.
  • AT cannot implement the Option B that some consultation respondents asked for. (For example, it isn’t possible to significantly enlarge the AT Local operating area or run the service at peak times, as this would be a duplication of local bus services and therefore an inefficient use of ratepayers’ money).

As for AT Local, they say it isn’t completely dead and they may look to use it in other places in the future.

The AT Local on-demand passenger service trial has shown that this form of public transport can be successful in Auckland. It will now be considered as a option where public transport is being introduced for the first time; where there is limited demand due to low population density; or where this type of service offers greater customer flexibility or cost efficiency than traditional timetabled bus services.

Personally I’d be surprised if we see AT Local appear again.

Finally, I have to say, I do find it funny how much better Devonport locals get treated better by AT than almost every other part of Auckland. At the same time they were consulting on this, they were making unilateral changes to PT everywhere else across the region, including just cutting services from some area. Now that the decision has been made, they’re also holding dedicated drop in sessions.

If you have any questions, or need help with the new and improved bus services, come to a drop-in session at the Devonport Library:

  • Saturday 20 February 2021 from 10am to 2pm
  • Tuesday 23 February 2021 from 1pm to 4pm.

Meanwhile rail users wake up and find that plans have changed and from the next day, services have been completely cancelled for the following few weeks.

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50 comments

    1. Now charge for parking everywhere. Almost at the same time that this consultation was occurring AT was consulting on paid residential parking zones in Takapuna. What possibly could be AT’s rationale that you pay for parking in Takapuna, but not in Devonport?

      Why in a climate crisis would AT not be using all the levers to encourage people to use PT?

      Why wouldn’t you give the new enhanced bus services the chance to compete on a more balanced price footing with driving?

      And your comment Matt –
      “Finally, I have to say, I do find it funny how much better Devonport locals get treated better by AT than almost every other part of Auckland.” Exactly. Why does Takapuna loose its bus lane so that people can drive from the peninsula more quickly and in greater numbers?

      Let’s hope that February 1st is a real wake up for an organisation that operates as if every day is April 1.

      1. Timmy, yes what a gem of a consultation. AT explained how there is a problem with parking in the village and then they propose doing absolutely nothing. We will have P120 because that’s the length of time most people park.

        Consultations like this are the reason that some of us are saying there needs to be a SUMP approach where the city as looked at as a whole and then plans within each Board must accord with the overall goal. It’s not hard to work out in a climate crisis that this goal is sustainable urban mobility.

      2. Possibly something to do with a certain councillor living that way. The same one who didn’t want the Spencer property subdivided which I understand he lives nearby to.

        1. “I do find it funny how much better Devonport locals get treated better by AT than almost every other part of Auckland.”

          This is because the Local Board is very “noisy”. ie. they keep calling AT and asking for special treatment, because they consider themselves “special people” ie. “I choose to live in a character house in Devonport, with nice views of the harbour, and I DEMAND special treatment”

  1. Seems to me that they will have a pretty intensive bus service compared to some other Auckland suburbs. I wonder if there could be some kind of scoring system that takes into account pop density, average walk to bus stop, bus frequency and what ever else you can think off so we can compare suburbs.
    Also letter in the herald this morning complaining it takes twice as long to get to the CDB after express buses from Glen Eden and Titirangi were axed. It is not clear whether they need to take the Western line now which of course has being replaced with a rail bus. People really can’t be trusted to give an accurate account of anything and of course the Interwebby thing just makes things worse.

    1. ” I wonder if there could be some kind of scoring system that takes into account pop density, average walk to bus stop, bus frequency and what ever else you can think of”

      Transport planners already have a number of tools that show them pop density, walking distance to bus routes and population growth predictions.

  2. For once a sensible decision from AT.Good news for Devonport bus services but seemingly at the expense of other parts of the city where there have been cuts to services as well as fare increases. Also AT do not seem to react to sensible suggestions for improvements. For example over six months ago I submitted to AT and also through the Takapuna/Devonport Local Board for slight changes to the routes of the 843 and 906 bus routes so that they would directly service the Sunnynook bus station stops on Sunnynook Road (the 907 is the only one that does) giving direct access by bus to the bus station from throughout Sunnynook and Totaravale. No reply from AT and no action despite the local board lending its support.

    1. “For example over six months ago I submitted to AT and also through the Takapuna/Devonport Local Board for slight changes to the routes of the 843 and 906 bus routes”

      For every suggestion to change a bus route, AT receives dozens of complaints from concerned citizens, who want things left the way they are.

      QUESTION: Who should they listen to?

      1. Hi Bus Driver, – on the face of it, I’d say that there is definitely for AT to make continuous improvements in service without any great palaver. This could either be in the way of them (A) wanting to pick up more people (ie it could be a longer, more circuitous route), or (B) speed up the service to provide the fastest result (ie could be straighter, more direct). They need to decide what that particular route is trying to do – either A or B, but probably not both.

        On the other hand, I went to England with my Mum a couple of years ago – and she hopped straight on the number 38 bus as she knew exactly which route it would take. Last time she was in England was in the 1950s. And the bus still goes the same route. There’s a lot to be said for continuity and institutional memory! This way, everyone can plan for it to be exactly the same as it has always been – people buy their ouse knowing it is near a particular bus route, or will take their children to school, or shop-owners will open a store knowing that they will always be X metres away from a bus stop.

        But here, in Auckland, we have the opposite. I used to catch the 364 (I think) to school, when I was a young kid. But now, there is no route that way, or if there is a 364, it now goes somewhere quite different. So what is the better approach?

        1. Yes, I was surprised when I last visited my old home town in England to find that the bus route I took to school in the 1960s still runs with the same number. This is in spite of nationalisation in the 1970s, privatisation in the 1980s, the “bus wars” of the 1990s and subsequent take-overs by a few large operators (a fair proportion foreign-owned) in the 2000s. Somehow the jolly old number 321 survived all this and still runs most of the same route.

        2. “on the face of it, I’d say that there is definitely for AT to make continuous improvements in service without any great palaver. This could either be in the way of them (A) wanting to pick up more people (ie it could be a longer, more circuitous route), or (B) speed up the service to provide the fastest result (ie could be straighter, more direct). They need to decide what that particular route is trying to do – either A or B, but probably not both.”

          The AT bus network already has both kinds of routes.

          Example: Route 18 ( every 15mins 7 days a week ) . Goes from New Lynn Station via Gt North Road to Victoria Street. The Northern Busway connects Albany to the City, along an almost straight route. ( this busway is planned to become a Light Rail corridor )

          Route 321 is a route that connects all of Auckland’s Hospitals.

          “more direct routes” tend to be Express buses, however not all of Auckland roads are straight.

  3. Personally I thought it was a good experiment to replace infrequent local buses. Having mostly empty buses running on a fixed route and fixed infrequent timetable sounds like a very expensive way to provide an almost useless service.

    1. Or Jimbo, AT could have addressed the reasons that the bus service was failing. Certainly poor frequency was one of those. Parking charges was another. Might the bus be better patronised if parking in Devonport wasn’t free? (yes parking fees may be imposed for ferry parking)

      Is there an optimal configuration for the network, or is it just as few changes from the previous configuration as AT thought they could get away with. (see Patrick’s comments above)
      Lastly, does AT have any sort of engagement with AC’s desire to have 350 million PT trips per year BY 2030. If they do then I suggest that this will only be achieved by embracing a European pricing model of monthly and yearly passes where the costs is in the region of $2 per day (compare Auckland at $20 – haha). That pricing model is designed so that people use PT for the commute, but also to the dairy, and to a restaurant – in essence all day/ every day.

      1. A big reason is a lack of population density, AT can’t really fix that.
        I guess the biggest reason is that it is too cheap and easy to drive (including parking etc). Not sure that is easy to change either without a civil war. At the very least AT could stop making it any easier to drive.

        1. Civil War? With a few people Devonport? What are they gonna do, write to the Herald, scary stuff!

        2. Lack of population density? So where do all the cars come from on Lake Road all day/ every day. There are more than enough people to run a bus service at 10 minute intervals for much of the day. What AT have not explored is how to achieve that.
          What AT have successfully demonstrated is that if you do the same thing, year in year out, you are likely to achieve more or less the same results. Yes PT ridership has grown, but at a lesser rate than vehicle trips have grown and hence congestion has increased.

        3. Yes, Jimbo, John’s right. The argument that population density is too low cannot coexist with the problem of congestion Auckland faces.

          A too low population density is an argument for stopping sprawl immediately, not for running an infrequent bus service.

        4. Why not? It is possible that there is a gap between the highest density where driving still works, and the lowest density where public transport still works.

        5. If there is then it’s irrelevant to Auckland proper. As far as suburbs go Auckland is actually quite dense and there is nowhere that’s so low density that public transport can’t work (although it does have some shitty street networks than lean on the scales). Auckland just doesn’t have the North American exurbia that is the basis for these on-demand concepts, and translating it to Auckland’s proper suburbia is a fools errand.

        6. Yes thanks, John. In the US’s ex-urbia, the on-demand services undermine whatever bus services there are, too, in a regressive spiral.

          Auckland Transport need to accept this and stop wasting our money on it. There are so many wayfinding, bus priority, passenger amenity and bus service improvements that money should be being put to instead.

          The trouble is, on-demand appeals to people stuck in car dependent thinking.

    2. And yet those buses still carried considerably more people and were far more cost effective that the AT Local could possibly be at theoretical maximum.

      A bus driver and a van driver cost about the same, the fueling on a bus isn’t that much higher than a van, and the vehicle costs aren’t much different either as buses last a lot longer. The main difference is a bus can carry about 60 people and the van can carry 6.

      So a mostly full van costs almost the same as a mostly empty bus, carrying the same number of people. But at peak times that bus can do the same as ten of those vans, for about 1/10th the cost.

      Anyone with a calculator and a notepad could have told you in five minutes this would fail.

        1. “And yet those buses still carried considerably more people and were far more cost effective that the AT Local could possibly be at theoretical maximum.”

        2. As repeatedly mentioned above, the buses run *above* the theoretical maximum of AT local, because AT local is a subsidised taxi that will never achieve high patronage.

          I.e, the existing buses are *already* better than AT local could have ever been.

    1. I think there are likely places it could be useful, especially edge areas with difficult topography and/or terrible disconnected road networks that make fixed route services very hard to make work. Titirangi maybe?

      1. Thing is, though, there are other changes needed that will support a fixed route, fixed timetable service with reasonable frequency anyway, such as Vision Zero improvements, climate – ready RUC’s and parking management changes. So why would you attempt on demand even in Pukekohe and Titirangi before you’d made those improvements, given on demand’s failure rate internationally, and the fact that it cements car dependent thinking?

    2. I’ve heard our franklin local board folks talking of the success of the Devonport trial (6 months ago) – and its a way forward for our small townlet (2k people). We haven’t seen a bus out our way for 10 yrs + .Sister community- Patumahoe folks we know just bought a nissan leaf – two kids at Manukau tech; weekly bus tickets costed them more than driving and financing their $18K EV. sigh.

  4. I would like to see the bus services into Devonport improved. The only bus that goes into Devonport from Akoranga takes an indirect route & is too infrequent. Also there are no services which look after people who work on the Naval Base.

    1. “The only bus that goes into Devonport from Akoranga takes an indirect route & is too infrequent. ”

      Please scroll up to read the comments of “AverageHuman” That reader is proposing MORE indirect bus routes.

      The current route 814 from Akoranga to Devonport runs every 30 mins. and makes a small detour to pick up passengers living close to Vauxhall Road and Albert Road. There are not enough passengers to justify that bus running every 15mins, unless you are willing to pay more subsidies via your rates.

      1. The 814 & the 806 don’t go to either the North or South Gates to the base. Both are highly indirect.

        The 814 was probably set up to cater for Devonport & Narrowneck residents. There is consideration for people like myself who actually work in Devonport. It might get more patronage with a more direct route & frequent departures.

  5. AT Local is ahead of the time. The cost of driver is too expensive to make it economically sustainable.

    To make it successful we need self driving shuttle.

        1. Deduct the cost of the driver from the overall cost of AT local and you have what a driverless shuttle would cost. You’ll find it’s still a big waste of money.

  6. Regarding the new Devonport Ferry timetable: the press release is a little misleading:

    “The new timetable will have sailings running every 20 minutes from 7am – 10am and 4pm – 8pm on weekdays.”

    You might infer from this that there is a 4PM sailing. I did. Turns out that’s not so.

    Actually, there is a 3:45 PM sailing, the next one is at 4:20, and from 4:20 the sailings are every 20 minutes.

    1. Kelvin – are you the “Climate Change Commission” – you’re saying the same things (ok not on the subsidise bit – is it a subsidy if it saves carbon? – maybe its paying forward the carbon not released! – Ok early retirement of a future carbon credit).
      All we need is a progressive government that stops consulting and takes decisive action.

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