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.
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.