Almost Over PT!


As often stated here, public transport only wins hearts when it is reliable.

We can’t expect a perfect 100% run - road works  and accidents hold up buses, rail is prone to breakdown and operational issues.

But I have struck it bad this week and it’s highlighted to me how important it is to bring forward as a priority the plans for realtime information for train stations.

Here’s an example from yesterday.

I had to be somewhere in the city at a particular time. Absolutely, no leeway.

I planned the trip well ahead but the train arrived five minutes early and was heading away as I approached.

Or was it actually late?

How would you know.

There is no information at the station and no easy way to find out.

I headed down the road for a bus and according to the bus real time sign, one was 13 minutes away.

As it turned out, I had one of those increasingly frustrating ridiculous countdowns on the signs - the time for the arrival counted down, then turned into a DUE and then a DLY and then vanished off the screen as if it were a ghost bus that was a figment of my imagination or a desert mirage.

The multi-million dollar system has always been flaky.

The official explanation has been sometime absurd about drivers who don’t turn on their GPS confusing the system.

It’s a heart stopping moment when you have to be somewhere to see an expected service vanish off the screen, especially if it is replaced with nothing but a scrolling message at the bottom promoting Maxx.

And then with finely tuned hearing I discovered that that original train was not 5 minutes early but must have been a horrendous 20 minutes or so late as the next service that I had hoped to catch left the station, making it 15 minutes behind schedule.

No bus to catch and another train missed on a timetable that had become so screwed up, it was unreliable.

Wellington is getting real time info and some key Auckland train stations will get it but it won’t happen until the RWC at the earliest. ARTA will say only that “once the real time data feed is available from the ONTRACK train tracking system service ETAs will be displayed.”

We actually need it now. It’s the time rail services are most unreliable.

And ARTA needs to fix the wobbly electronic bus sign information system once and for all.

And the Maxx website journey planner should be taken off line and overhauled. Has anyone at Maxx really tested it? It’s often a joke. Everytime I tried it this week, it recommended some ridiculous walk to the destination.

And while I am in a rare grump, how come two LINK buses arrive at the same time? I thought they were suppose to be spaced apart every 10 minutes.

Roll on the days you don’t need bus timetables and they arrive every 15 minutes, as is being tried on busy roads like Dominion.

On a brighter note, I drove to the airport this afternoon via SH20. I couldn’t face trying to co-ordinate an airport bus via a train journey. SH20 on a not too congested journey is great. Can’t wait for it to be completed.

This weekend, I might start hunting for an SUV. I hear they are all the rage.

* In the April performance rail stats, the proportion of services that operated  on-time or within five minutes of schedule improved significantly to 80.7%, compared to 66.2% in March, but this was still below the performance of 85.4% recorded in April last year.

Western line services recorded the greatest improvement with 72.7% of services operating on time or within five minutes of schedule, below the 86.3% result in the same month last year but an improvement on the 50.2% recorded in March.

In April the number of Southern and Eastern line services that operated on-time or within five minutes of schedule was 84.8% which represents the best monthly performance figure for this group of services this financial year, and is only slightly below the 85.0% recorded in April last year.  The improvement is linked to the reduction in signal faults and the removal of conflicting train movements at Newmarket as well as a significant reduction in the track speed restrictions imposed across the network during the month.

Patronage continued to soar. This April, more than 193,000 more people boarded public transport compared to last April, an increase of over 4%.

Bus was up by 2.1%, rail up by 13.7% and ferry up by 7.4%.
Over a million more people boarded Auckland’s buses, trains and ferries in the ten months to April 2010 compared the same period in 2008/09, a solid increase of 2.3% despite setbacks due to industrial action.
Customers using the Rapid Transport Network in April, which is the Northern Express and rail services, increased by nearly 110,000 boardings, or 14.2%, on April 2009. Northern Express patronage grew by 22,266 boardings (16.5%) alone for April 2010 compared to April 2009.




  1. joust says:

    its really a misnomer to call the bus system “real-time information” as your example proves and I amongst certainly many others could agree.

    SH20 Northbound at Mangere is fantastic and continues to flow freely in the afternoon peak.

  2. Stranded on the North Shore says:

    I still do not understand why they can’t indicate to us (the users of the real-time system) whether the number of minutes is a “real-time” based on a GPS position of the bus, or it’s actually a scheduled entry (like the one when the bus driver forgot to switch the system on)… with an asterisk, or exclamation mark or whatever… And the second thing just shows a system so prone to error relying on a person manually switching it on… My question is why isn’t the system designed to constantly monitor the position of the bus, and the people in the control centre responsible of assigning the routes to the buses, not the drivers…

  3. Kurt says:

    You can almost bet the house on there being no such thing as an early train especially on the Western line and by 5 minutes or more.

    The best you can hope for is on time otherwise they operate on degrees of lateness.

    See what happens once the line is finished though.

  4. Matt L says:

    Kurt I had a train on the western line that was 2 mins early one day in April, it was in the week between when the double tracking at Grafton was finished and when the new timetable came into effect

  5. jarbury says:

    Fair points Jon, public transport can be damn frustrating at times. My bus is fortunately one of the most reliable in Auckland I think (due to its pretty short route I imagine).

  6. Andrew says:

    Rail GPS is coming … They seemed to be testing it on some Britomart-bound services at Newmarket last week. You’ll notice “Due” has appeared on the signs there too.

    Agreed on bus GPS though. They need to stop it being driver dependant and/or be able to differentiate between real time and estimated time by a ?, !, *, or E. They also need to spell “Midtwn” correctly!

  7. Kel says:

    Having to wait 20 minutes for a train or 13 minutes even for a bus, is never going to be attractive for people to get out of their cars! Here in Asia we get frustrated waiting for 5 minutes!!

  8. James B says:

    I feel your pain, today I had to wait 25 minutes for a bus on Dominion Road when the timetable clearly stated 5-10 minute frequencies. I would be interested to see service delivery rates for buses published. My bet is that they would be woeful.

    @ Kel I know whenever I go to a big city with good rapid transit like London or New York I quickly get into the mode where 5 minutes waiting for a train seems to be an eternity.

  9. Sam F says:

    Sad to hear you had a bad time Jon… oddly enough, in the recent run of bad weather I had to abandon the pushbike for a bit and went back to the train for all of last week, and for once I didn’t get dropped in it by a major delay or breakdown.

    With the slightly improved weather though I’m back on two wheels for the time being, but it’s nice to know that from time to time they *can* make it work. Accurate GPS timing for rail and buses is very much overdue though…


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