One Success Story We Should Celebrate


It was a bad week for me with train delays which forced me to swap to buses for most of the week in order to reach my destination in time.

But I’ve also been using the Northern Busway quite a bit this week to avoid the traffic congestion around Onewa Rd and the Auckland Harbour Bridge because of road works.

The busway gladdened my heart, because the bus service was exactly on time, fast, comfortable, the staff efficient and courteous and, on arrival at the bus stations, you felt as if you were in a city which had a modern public transport system. I closed my eyes for a second and imagined we will feel the same when electric trains arrive but we have some pain to go through with rail first.

The $300m Northern Busway continues to be the shining star. In the latest ARTA half-year report on public transport figures, the busway had patronage growth of 19.5 per cent against an annual target of 15 per cent. You may recall other bus patronage dropped, thanks to at least some degree because the bus dispute caused commuters to question the reliability of using public transport.

Ritchies, which runs the Albany to Britomart service and does it well, was not involved in the bus dispute.

Smales Farm bus station - like being in a modern city

The 6.2km, two-way road for buses running alongside the SH1 Northern Motorway from Constellation Drive to Esmonde Rd was already celebrating on its first birthday with figures of 7000 passengers being carried by bus over the harbour bridge to Auckland from the North Shore each week-day between 7am and 9am.

Officials then claimed that If all the people using the busway to travel to the CBD were to use cars, assuming the average car occupancy is 1.2 persons per car, then the number of cars the Busway is taking off the roads is  the equivalent of 2 motorway lanes inbound and 2 motorway lanes outbound in morning peak.

Cars pass the Busway station -Good luck with the traffic!

The busway is designed to accommodate up to 250 buses an hour by 2016.

It promised:

  • Faster travel times
  • Reliable trip time
  • More frequent services
  • New bus services and routes
  • A new transferable ticket that makes changing buses easy and convenient
  • Easier connections to other destinations across the North Shore and access to wider Auckland
  • Better customer information and safety at busway stations

And it has delivered.

Now how can we get this adopted on the city side of the bridge?!




  1. rtc says:

    One clear route would be to implement this on the North-Western - instead ARTA are widening the motorway to 5 lines out and 4 lanes in, to the tune of 800 million, and providing no bus priority measures. Talk about short-sighted.

  2. Richard says:

    The busway service itself is great but getting to it is another matter.

    I have used it several times using my free Gold card but it can take a long time from where I live in Glenfield. The feeder buses are infrequent and if you just miss a connection at Smales coming home the trip could take you four times as long as driving at non peak.

    If I drive I have to go backwards to Constellation and last time i did this there was no parking left even at 11 a.m. when usually some people have come back and taken their cars. I abandoned the idea and drove into town.

    The existing car parks should be at least twice as big and there should be a large car park at Akaranga Drive ststion, then I will use it again.

  3. max says:

    “One clear route would be to implement this on the North-Western – instead ARTA are widening the motorway to 5 lines out and 4 lanes in”

    RTC - I REALLY hope you wanted to say NZTA, because ARTA have neither the money not the inclination to widen motorways.

  4. kel says:

    Isn’t ‘Smales Farm’ a horrible name for a bus station in a city?

  5. Matt L says:

    I think it is such a wasted opportunity to widen SH16 and not put a dedicated busway in. It would be so popular and there are already clear locations for stations, some with plenty of space for park and rides and bus interchanges. Also the cost of doing it as part of the upgrade would surely be minimal compared what it would normally cost as the bridges and interchanges are being changed anyway.

    My understanding is that NZTA are/were willing to put one in but the problem is the ARC won’t designate the route a RTN. I think a lot of this stems from the fact that there is the western rail line and they think a busway would compromise it. This is of course stupid thinking as it is goes no where near the communities of Pt Chev, Te Atatu, Massey and Westgate so people from those areas aren’t going to use it. All of those areas are also mostly residential so there is a large catchment for services.

    I really feel that in 10/20 years time we will really regret not building it when we had a chance and the cost of doing it then will make it much harder to justify. The ARC need to stand up and have some vision and use some common sense.

  6. Kurt says:

    A great success alright but virtually deserted most of the time. The sooner we have a forward thinking council/government that converts the bus way to a railway accompanied by a second crossing such as a tunnel the better. Of course that will require a monumental “Step change”.

  7. jarbury says:

    The busway is probably fine for another 20 years. Then eventually it will hit capacity and need to be turned into rail.

    I couldn’t agree more regarding a Northwest Busway. It would serve a completely different part of Waitakere City to the Western Line, and be pretty damn popular I think.

    Come on ARC, turn SH16 into an RTN it’s too late!

  8. max says:

    “Also the cost of doing it as part of the upgrade would surely be minimal compared what it would normally cost as the bridges and interchanges are being changed anyway.”

    Actually, quite a few structures (like pretty much the whole Rosebank Road interchange) are staying as they are.

    And a real (grade-separated) busway would require multiple structures on top (literally) at every interchange on the way. I am not saying that they aren’t worth it (we should spend the money on this, rather than on widening!) - but the costs aren’t trivial.

    “Come on ARC, turn SH16 into an RTN it’s too late!”

    Anything ARC does not will be on the suffering of the future Auckland Council / Auckland Transport. Sorry Jarbury - I think there’s no chance for that even if they DID do it now.

    The best case (for this narrowly-defined scenario of getting a busway) is that the SH16 widening takes longer to get done / start to get going than expected, and in the meantime we have a change of government / peak fuel situation or both.

    The next best (and in my opinion much more realistic) scenario is that the motorway will be widened as planned now, and a few years later we will take some of that width away again to put the busway in as a retrofit. At least we will have a nice wide corridor to play in.

  9. Jeremy Harris says:

    That is true Max, in 10 to 20 years if gas starts to settle at $3 - $4 dollars a litre we may see a SH20 busway and HOV lanes everywhere…

  10. James Pole says:

    I’m not sure I see the benefit (in big picture terms) of a RTN along the NW motorway. Personally I favor setting up major bus hubs at places like New Lynn and Henderson with links to local services to the places that would be served by the theoretical NW motorway RTN.

    When the city loop is set up, a Britomart-Westgate journey could be undertaken by taking a Western train to Henderson and changing to a frequent shuttle bus between Henderson and Westgate. The journey time shouldn’t be too much longer than a similar journey on a direct busway — especially if one assumes the bus joins the busway at Pt Chev or Western Springs after battling for 30mins through traffic via the CBD.

    We should be looking to consolidate services on to one very-high frequency and a high reliability route along with feeder services. Auckland has had too many years of splitting frequencies across too many routes, with the obvious negative consequences on reliability and thus patronage.

  11. Kelvin says:

    Is this a bus station or a park and ride facility and where is Smales Farm in relation to say Britomart?


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