With the death of light rail, this post from Puketāpapa Local Board member Jon Turner late last year feels particularly relevant.

A while ago I asked AT about the potential to run the 252 route down Dominion Road as the ‘standard’ route, with the View Road detour only being run by either the 25L or 25B. The 252 is much more efficient – particularly while the CRL construction has been ongoing.

Below is their response:

“After thoroughly investigating your case, we understand the importance of balancing various factors and considering the needs of different public transport users when making significant decisions about bus route design. While we acknowledge that replacing the 25B with an all-day 253 or the 25L with an all-day 252 could result in faster onboard journey times for passengers traveling from Dominion Road (or Lynfield or Blockhouse Bay) to Aotea Square, our assessment indicates that the current route pattern strikes the best balance between journey times to and from Queen Street and all other customer-service goals for all four routes.

To summarise, we kindly request customers traveling to Queen Street during off-peak hours to accept a slightly longer onboard journey time in exchange for the following benefits:

  • A frequent and regular turn-up-and-go service available to as many customers as possible.
  • Convenient transfer opportunities between services, enabling easy access to a wide range of destinations.
  • An overall public transport network that’s as simple as possible with as few variations as possible.

However, we are committed to enhancing onboard journey times for our passengers and will remain vigilant in identifying opportunities to introduce more bus priority along the Dominion Road bus routes.

If we were to implement the changes you suggested, replacing the 25B with an all-day 253 or the 25L with an all-day 252, four main disadvantages would arise:

1. Significant numbers of current customers would experience longer waiting times for a bus or require additional transfers during their journey.

Recent HOP card data analysis for the four Dominion Road bus routes shows an average of 3,980 customer trips per day between the View Road ↔ Wellesley St / Wakefield St section (see data analysis below). Additionally, an average of 2,810 customer trips per day occurred either from south of View Road to Queen St or from Queen St to south of View Road.

For example, if we replaced the 25B with an all-day 253, customers traveling from Dominion Road to Symonds Street would face a 50% reduction in service frequency. Their service would no longer offer a turn-up-and-go option during the evening, necessitating more frequent timetable checks or longer waiting times. Moreover, during peak periods, there would be a higher risk of buses being at full capacity, potentially leaving passengers behind. Furthermore, customers traveling from White Swan Rd to Mt Eden Station would no longer be able to take a single bus for the entire journey, requiring either transfers or significantly longer walks if physically feasible.

2. Gaps between buses on different routes would become irregular, and buses on different routes would tend to bunch together.

Consequently, customers who are content with taking any Dominion Road bus, such as those traveling from Valley Road Shops to Mt Roskill Shops, Valley Road Shops to Queen Street, or Queen Street to Potters Park in the late evening, would receive a substandard service experience.

For instance, if we imagine the all-day all-week Dominion Road bus routes as the 25L and the 253, coordinating the timetables at Queen Street to ensure a Dominion Road bus from Aotea Square every 5 minutes would lead to irregular service from Valley Road south. This would result in service gaps at Valley Road Shops, such as 1 minute, 9 minutes, 1 minute, 9 minutes, and so on. Alternatively, coordinating the timetables at Valley Road Shops would create irregular departures from Queen St. Irregular gaps between the two different routes would particularly impact the evening service when turn-up-and-go frequencies are particularly beneficial. Customer feedback prompted us to carefully adjust the Dominion Road timetables earlier this year, ensuring better coordination of the inbound services during the morning peak.

3. The connected network would suffer.

Reducing the frequency of Dominion Road buses passing Mt Eden Station and along Symonds Street would result in poorer connections to destinations like Auckland City Hospital, Newmarket, and other services such as the Western Line (when Mt Eden Station reopens). A well-connected network is crucial to make public transport an attractive option. Transferring between different services becomes more appealing if the wait for the second service is not excessively long. Compared to a combination of 25L & 253 or 25B & 252, the current 25B & 25L offer superior connections to trains (when Maungawhau/Mt Eden Station is open), better connections to buses heading to Auckland City Hospital or Newmarket, and improved connections to destinations further away, such as Panmure or Botany via the frequent 70 service.

Data from the five schooldays starting Monday, February 24, 2020 (before the closure of Mt Eden Station and before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic), reveals an average of 230 customers per day alighting from the Western Line at Maungawhau/Mt Eden Station and then taking a 25B or 25L bus. Additionally, an average of 145 passengers per day took a Western Line train from Maungawhau/Mt Eden after disembarking from a 25B or 25L bus. We anticipate even better transfer numbers once Maungawhau/Mt Eden Station reopens, and patronage returns to pre-COVID levels.

4. The overall public transport network would become more complex.

Our current network can be easily communicated: outside of peak hours, all Dominion Road buses travel via Symonds St, Maungawhau/Mt Eden Station, and View Rd. Simplicity was a key objective when introducing Auckland’s new bus networks between 2014 and 2019. A straightforward network facilitates both existing customers’ exploration of new and unfamiliar journeys and the engagement of new customers.

Data Analysis:

To analyse the bus stops along Dominion Road, we divided them into three sections (as shown in the attached map): Queen St (highlighted in red), View Road ↔ Wellesley St / Wakefield St (blue), and Dominion Rd and areas south of it (orange). Utilising HOP card data, we counted the number of customers traveling within and between these sections. Table 1 (attached) presents the results for inbound services, while Table 2 (attached) displays the results for outbound services. The figures in the tables represent averages from a recent five-day school week.”

It’s great that AT gave Jon such a detailed response, though I’m not convinced they’ve approached their analysis in the right way as, for example, they only look at the potential impacts on existing users and not that by having faster journey times might attract more users. It’s also odd that they claim the importance of a connected network while talking effectively trying to preserve one-seat rides.

To me it seems like the 252 and 253 should become the base all-day route (25B/25L) with the detour via View Rd served by the additional services at peak like the 252 and 253 do today.

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    1. This is the biggest issue AT have. Buses must have zig zag routes, single door tag on, bus stops every 200m, etc. But the bus is really slow for some reason so we need to spend $15 billion on LR with a more direct route, all door boarding, and much less stops.
      And we need LR on Queen Street because there are too many buses on Symonds Street.

      1. “But the bus is really slow for some reason”

        The main reason that some bus routes in Auckland are slow is because the buses have to share the road with single occupancy car users. Local small retailers also complain about any proposed new bus lanes, that are designed to reduce bus travel times.

  1. I find a few things odd with this analysis:
    1. There are the 27 buses that go along Mt Eden Road, so the only stretch with reduced service would be View Rd and Esplanade Rd. Sure they depart from Symonds St or downtown, but I suspect that many people catch the 25 from in front of the Civic because it stops there and not because they want to
    2. Symonds St is full of buses already, having some of them go over a different corridor feels like good idea.
    3. Having a direct (and faster) service matters – it carries a simple message to all PT users – your time is important and this has ability to attract more new customers.

  2. In worse news, AT have recently reduced the 252 and 253 even further to 5 services in the morning and evening. Amazing that these super popular routes (only more utilised services are the NX1 and 2) are slowly being cut off.

  3. Is anyone else surprised by how low the daily numbers are? They seem to show the bus lanes on Dominion Rd are carrying fewer than 4000 people per day each, just a fraction of the number of people using the general lanes.

    1. Dom road has about 25,000 vehicles using it every day so that’s probably around 15% of people being moved. Vast majority of those are during peak hour too.

    2. Piqued my interest. The best google result I could find was an AT page called Traffic Counts which has a link to an excel spreadsheet. Not sure how I best compare them, if I take the highest Dom Rd vehicle count of 15996 in both directions, multiply by car factor of 0.92, gives 14716, divide by 2 gives 7358 cars each way per day. Assume most car trips are single occupant means 7358 people by car and circa 4300 people by bus using the numbers in this article. Feels very crude, how did you do your comparison?

  4. As a non user the current routes seam quite complex. AT are just trying to justify the status quo. The HOP card statistics just tell you where people are getting on and off the bus. Not necessarily where they going’.People use the bus in it’s current form because they have to!

    1. Exactly. And the people that AT stats show as getting off at the View Rd/Symonds St area include those who then change to a 27* bus to get down to Britomart or 22* to get to Victoria Park etc. to complete their journey to their destination.

  5. I absolutely agree. My opinion is the straighter and faster the route the more new customers it will attract. As of today most of bus zigzags are barely faster or even slower than cycling.

  6. Agreed Andrew K. The zigzagging pattern of many AT bus routes is the antithesis of direct bus routes & bus lanes that increase bus patronage. For example, the 38-bus service from Onehunga to Auckland Airport is classic example of zigzagging.

  7. Through routing with the City Link with the 25 would be the ideal solution here, eliminating the need to terminate buses around the Civic

  8. Why not swap them, run the 25B and 25L down Queen street to Wynard as the standard all day normal pattern (roll in the city link).

    Then put the 252/253 on the dog leg diversion to the university at peak times only.

  9. It’s so frustrating. You get to View road, the sky tower feels like it’s a few metres away. Then the bus turns into a side street with speed bumps, and detours through countless intersections and traffic lights.
    But if they fix it the LR business case is halved overnight.

  10. I think in their enthusiasm to straighten out the route, people have forgotten that there are a very significant number of passengers picked up and dropped off on the 25’s dogleg. Just relegating it to “peak hours only” would be a travesty.

    My casual observation also is that if you cut these pax from the route, then the current 5-min frequency might come under threat. My sense is that at the current frequency the off peak services often have dire loads, especially given they’re usually double deck buses. Important not to cut off the route’s nose to spite its face, so to say.

    Having said that, the idea of extending another route to include the View Road leg does have merit. How might that work, and at what frequency?

    1. Half the people getting on or off on view road do it at the stops just off to dominion road.

      Those people would happily walk 50m to the main road for a straight shot into town.

  11. Anther option would routing it down New North Rd and Symonds St. This would offer many of the same time saving benefits while preserving much of the lost connectivity. Eg Mt Eden Station can still be accessed from the New North Rd / Ngahura St stops, which should moved 20-50 metres along the road to better facilitate transfers regardless.

  12. For starters I think the data analysis needs to be shown in a more detailed way for us to understand more what AT may be seeing that we can’t.
    I agree with that the straighter route should be the primary route and all day. I guess you would need to have the dog leg down View Rd at peak times to keep the existing customer base somewhat happy etc. Agree with many that it’s *because* of the dog leg that many are put of using it (“Build, in this case “run”, it and they will come”).

    If they keep the 64 going after Maungawhau (Mount Eden) Station opens again but I would extend it to cover the void I’ve often thought about, around Newton. Just think there *was* going to be a Newton CRL station originally. It should continue up Khyber Pass, across Symonds to Newton Rd then down Ian McKinnon/Dominion, Onslow, Kingsland Station/Sandringham Rd, Walters, Valley, Sherbourne. Mount Eden Rd, Boston, back to Khyber and onto Newmarket.

  13. Thank you for sharing this information. It’s helpful to gain insights into the decision-making process and understand the considerations involved in bus route design. I hope AT continues to explore ways to enhance the efficiency and journey times while prioritizing the needs of all public transport users.

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