Overcrowding Needs Fast Solution


So now comes the real first test for our new transport authorities and contracted bus operators.

Since the upward latest Auckland public transport patronage figures were covered extensively on AKT, my email inbox has been swamped with tales from frustrated commuters who can’t use public transport.

They can’t get on the buses and occasionaly on the trains.

Places where they report peak-time buses roar by the bus stop without stopping because there is no room on board include incidents on Dominion Rd (the b-line marketing proving too popular?), Mt Eden, Sandringham, New North Rds - in other words, the main arterials- and the Northern Busway.

As one Councillor was reported to have said yesterday, we’ve been waiting for decades for Aucklanders to get out of their cars and hop on public transport and now they are trying to pour on them, there is not enough room.

Why are we waiting.....

Auckland Council’s transport committee has asked Auckland Transport to look for answers such as more buses at peak times. It passed this motion”

That in regard to the recent overcrowding problems on the northern express that the Tarnsport Committee congratulates Auckland Transport and Ritchies Ltd on the success of the Northern Express and requests that AUckland Transport investigates the following measures to address overcrowding as soon as possible:
  • Redeployment or acquisition of additional buses;
  • Incentivising off-peak travel;
  • Promotion of alternative bus services to the North Shore;
  • Reconfiguring and de-cluttering the downtown bus terminal;
  • The use of the vacant adjacent bus stop for peak hour loading
  • Fencing-off fare-paid pre-boarding areas
  • Addressng localised congestion causing bus delays in Fanshawe Street/Victoria Park.
  • Urgent expansion of Albany Park and Ride.


It’s hard to understand why no-one saw this coming. It’s not just yesterday’s petrol price that has done this.

Sitting on your hands was not the right position when ARTA/ Auckland Transport’s patronage figures over the past 12 months have seen nothing but a consistent movement upwards.

It’s good NZ Bus has ordered more buses, with the January announcement that UK’s Alexander Dennis Ltd has won a $51.6m tender bid to supply 120 vehicles - and some trains have been moving to six cars (but not all: Onehunga’s service is already busy in the peak time mornings).

It needs some quick outside the square brainstorming whiteboard sessions at AT’s Henderson HQ.

maybe we need to find some spare buses around the country and some more drivers fast to try to take advantage of a fantasy public transport advocates have only dreamed about for years. Aucklanders are abandoning their much-loved car in enough numbers to create this crisis. Immigrants from places where public transport is the norm are also driving the trend.

It may well be that petrol prices are the final straw but Auckland Council’s new vision, led by the Mayor, to make Auckland a viable public transport city, is now the default position, not something pointy-headed transport and urban design academics preached along with greenies. So it’s OK to take the bus or train without getting odd stares as if you are poor or nuts.

Even more frustrating are the tales about not getting a park and ride.

Smales farm busway station is busy

The reality is that some people have to drive to a park and ride station in order to get a train or bus because they live too far away.

They should be encouraged because their compromise at least means they are at least halfway using public transport.

The shortage of Park ‘n’ Ride facilities and spaces within them has been known for a long time.

The Albany busway one has been on (the former) North Shore City Council agendas numerous times with details of shortages of space  - and back in August the council decided to introduce preferential parking for about 68 high occupancy vehicles (HOVs) with two or more people.

At that council discussion, Albany car park was stated to be is generally near or at capacity by between 8am and 830 each morning and this graph showing the 12-month increase in use was produced:

A report to an ARC transport committee meeting last June had officials noting that the demand for carparks at both the Constellation and Albany bus stations were now at their capacity by early every weekday morning.
The 6.2km, two-way road for buses running alongside the SH1 Northern Motorway from Constellation Drive to Esmonde Rd is designed to accommodate up to 250 buses an hour by 2016.
Around last June, work started on planning for an extension of the Northern Busway itself from Constellation to Orewa, including identifying park and ride sites. The need to protect the busway extension was seen as a high priority.
NZTA owns land in the proposed Constellation/Silverdale corridor although this isn’t sufficient to accommodate a full busway extension. That project too now needs to be hurried along, irrespective of any future harbour bridge or North Shore rail discussion.
As one reader said in his email: “When you get to the Park ‘n’ Ride and find there is no room you have no choice but to carry on in the car across the bridge, cursing the short-sightedness of officials, cursing the false advertising that promised you could park and ride. Guess what -  the next day you don’t risk even checking so you put up with driving in peak-time across the bridge and paying outrageous CBD car parking at the other end.”

Onehunga's park n ride is usually busy

Park ‘n’ ride and cycle racks have always appeared to be in what Bill English would call the “nice to have” category if money can be found at the end of a project.
Some stations have them, others don’t. The numbers of spaces provided sometimes feels as if they were designed for the days when few people used public transport and it was a niche requirement.
Not providing cycle racks is becoming just as frustrating for readers who say this would also help with cycle safety for those who are happy to ride as far as a train station but are too nervous about riding in peak time traffic in the heart of the inner city.

Ironically, Wellington’s trains are the ones seriously overcrowded while AKT reported yesterday that Infratil says Wellington buses are not getting the consistently higher patronage you would expect with the petrol price.

Auckland’s is a nice problem to have but one that needs urgent re-thinking.

Those who have decided to try public transport must not be discouraged so early in the piece.





  1. Scott says:

    Time to start charging for NEX park and ride? Say $2 a day for starters. Encourage those who have other options to bus/bike/walk/get dropped off/park far away and walk. This will free park and ride spaces for those who it has high value. These are likely to be the people who the above options are not available.

  2. Penfold says:

    @Scott. In Calgary as of this week we’ve had park and ride fees abolished. They were $3 and resulted in many people choosing not to use them, as CBD parking in Calgary is one of the highest in North America it would suggest even a small will put people off.

  3. Doloras says:

    I’m afraid I must say that the passive-aggressive “stop me before I give up and buy an extra large SUV and burn petrol for the fun of it” attitude of these emails is simply an extra reflection about how Aucklanders might not love their cars, but they hate public transport, and if it’s not perfect they throw tantrums. Dare I say it but we need a social change of attitude that we just put up with the teething troubles of the new system, because it’s the right thing to do for city and planet?

  4. Jon C says:

    @Doloras Don’t think that if entirely fair in regards to those who have sent in emails.
    The drivers don’t want to drive but need to to get from their home to the nearest bus or train station but want to leave their vehicle there and catch PT from there..
    The majority of emails are people who already use or want to use public transport but buses are missing stops because they are already over crowded and trains are suffering some of the same problem leaving people on platforms.
    Some of those people may not even have cars to go back to but are asking why there are not enough services to meet the growing demand.

  5. Rod Bishop says:

    Fantastic news! If you have too many users you’ve already won. Working out how to service them all is simply a victory lap.

    I feel like there really is a ground swell happening here and I’m stoked to be a part of it!

  6. Luke says:

    Chch services are only running at a fraction of their pre-quake level. There must be heaps of buses and drivers sitting around doing nothing.
    I think the issue is private operators can’t be bothered running a few extra trips a day, too much hassle for them. Easier to collect revenue from crammed buses, why would they go to the expense of adding services?

  7. greenwelly says:

    Buses are a stock item that you can simply go out and buy, but rail is another bigger level of complexity.

    Am I correct in assuming that there is no additional rolling stock scheduled for Auckland rail until the completion of electrification and the subsequent arrival of the EMUs?

  8. ARumsby says:

    Its is not just the bus park and ride facilities. Manurewa train station park and ride is at full capacity by 7:30 am many work days recently. Ther e is plenty of street parking, so I’m not sugesting there needs to be more many spent there, but there has been a significnat increase in people using the southern line trains. By Papatoetoe the 7:40 train is packed. BTW when are six carriage trains are going been introduced to the southern line? Some of the trains are overloaded so there is a need for them.

  9. Scott says:

    Thanks Penford. Ive just been reading about the situation in Calgary. It sounds very interesting. We can learn a lot from overseas experience. From my reading it seems that half the spaces are free and half are “reserved” at $70 per mouth. It will be interesting to see how this turns out.

    It would require some research to determine the elasticity of parking demand. Its not the first time it has been suggested to me that the demand may be hyper-elastic. Perhaps the market price should be $1 or 50c? NEX park and ride is way over subscribed at the moment so something it needed to be done to return the market to equilibrium rather than the massive shortage that is occurring at the moment.

  10. Carl H says:

    More frequent feeder buses to the NEX park and ride stations would be a start. For example, Mairangi Bay to Constellation Station is only served half hourly during the week, and hourly on the weekend. At that low frequency the implications of a delay, or cancellation, are severe. This is why the low risk option is still to drive (or cycle of course).

  11. AKT says:

    @ARumsby Thanks for the report from Manurewa.
    The southern line platform extensions happening this year during the rail work weekends will allow for longer trains as they did for the Western which was done first.

  12. Matt says:

    Buses blazing past stops is not new for Great South Road riders. I experienced that many times over several years, due to being unfortunate enough to be catching at Market Road, by which time the buses were fully laden. Having to wait for the third or fourth bus in a convoy to stop and let three or four of us squeeze on wasn’t terribly unusual at 8:30-ish.

  13. Kurt says:

    On the subject of the Auckland bus terminal its pretty simple, there is none!

    Since the downtown Auckland Metropolitan Bus Terminal (which wasn’t big enough anyway) went to make way for Britomart, bus departures to the suburbs have had to leave from any available street in the CBD.

    Its a shambles and it needs to be rectified as soon as with a proper centralised bus terminal for all destinations.

  14. Luke says:

    Don’t need a terminal for all the buses to sit around, but do need a couple of central places that all buses pass through. With Hop hopefully just need to pull up for a minute, passengers jump on and buses is off on its way.

    Buses would not start. finish their journeys here, but in one of the ‘dead zones’ (Nelson,Hobson)esp in the SW of the CBD where street life wont be affected by buses parked up. Even better would be no timing points in the CBD a peak time.

  15. Shaun says:

    While it’s great to hear a lot of our bus routes are very well used and indeed overfull and that we need new buses to cope with the demand, I have noticed some routes are very poorly used even at peak times and these are numerous and in all areas. I think we should start putting more of these resources into the routes that are actually doing well. I see quite a few ritchies buses from out west almost empty, when these could be used on the NEX. A lot of this comes down to being smarter with the resources we currently have too, not just shelling out money for new equipment.

  16. Luke says:

    @Shaun this may have to do with the success of the rail service from out West. These routes need to be reorientated to feed rail instead of competing against it.
    Silly having buses coming all the way into the CBD frm Swanson, Titirangi. Much better using these routes as feeders to rail and other bus routes from hubs at New Lynn, Henderson and Westgate.

  17. rtc says:

    @Shaun - it’s probably also because people may have a monthly pass from NZ Bus so can’t catch the H&E or Urban Express buses even if they wanted. But routes out West need to be reconfigured to serve train stations not running huge long routes all the way into the CBD.

  18. Matt says:

    rtc, the problem with using buses to feed trains is that it sounds like the trains are also starting to groan at the seams. And we have no rolling stock or terminus space to put extra trains, unless we start running some south-to-west services to shift some of the load, or services that terminate at Newmarket.


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