AT Buying Buses May Ease Congestion
Auckland Transport has been asked to consider buying buses themselves and leasing them out to the bus operators to help cope with the present overcrowding on buses, caused by the growing popularity of public transport.
Or to withdraw buses from less patronized routes and redirect them to the congested Northern Express service.
These are two suggestions Auckland Council transport committee chair Mike Lee has made in a letter to Auckland Transport chair Mark Ford.
Mike Lee says in his letter that the issue of public transport overcrowding is more widespread than the Northern Express buses – and Auckland Transport should also address the growing issue of train overcrowding.
But the committee views the North Shore busway services are the most seriously affected and should be given priority.
“Clearly a shortage of suitable buses is a major contributing cause to the present overcrowding. We ask that Auckland Transport give serious consideration to withdrawing buses from less patronized routes and redirect them to the Northern Express service. If that is not feasible, given that the operator is reportedly reluctant to make further capital commitments, we ask that Auckland Transport itself consider buying a minimum number (6) of buses which would be owned by Auckland Transport in a similar way to rail rolling stock.”
Incentivising off-peak travel is put forward another option to ease the problem.
“Incentivising of peak travel should be given careful study and we understand Auckland Transport is already promoting alternative services. Improving ‘shoulder-peak’ frequencies especially in the 6pm to 8pm evening timeslot would give passengers alternatives to peak time trips, while also easing overcrowding on those evening services.
” I understand a number of cities around the world create price differentials between peak and off-peak travel. This should be investigated by Auckland Transport though ideally through lowering off-peak fares rather than raising peak fares.
“Less peaked patronage should improve the efficiency of the public transport network, enabling better use of our assets.”
Re-configuring and de-cluttering the Downtown Bus terminal was needed, according to Mr Lee in his letter. He is referring to the number of small bus shelters and toilet building located under the large all-weather canopy by D2.
“Given the queues of commuters, the smaller suburban-service style bus shelters serve no purpose given that there is an all-weather canopy over the top of them. They do impede queuing and boarding.
“The area needs to be de-cluttered and visually promoted as the rapid transit terminal for the North Shore busway, instead as it appears at present one of the many suburban bus stops.”
He says a major inefficiency is how long the buses take to load and this could be improved by creating a “fare paid” zone kerbside at stop D2 where tickets are validated at entry points to the zone.
Once buses arrive, they could very quickly load at both doors – in a matter of seconds, like a train and be on their way quickly.
Mr Lee also asked AT to address localised congestion and delays in Fanshawe St –Victoria Park. The peak hour congestion in Fanshawe St area can disrupt the flow of the whole busway system and totally compromise the rapid transport aspects of it.
“Prioritisation including a buslane is required to address this problem.”
The committee was also anxious for an emergency expansion of the Albany Park and Ride. It has exceeded capacity almost from its opening. “Councillors familiar with the site believe there is vacant lane which could be brought into service on an emergency/ temporary basis without major construction work.
The Council’s transport committee acknowledges that bus overcrowding is a problem of success rather than failure. “However, in terms of customer experience and comfort, the over-crowding problem needs to be tackled urgently. We acknowledge that Auckland Transport is aware of the problem and is trying to address it. However we feel the wider range of options we are recommending need to be seriously considered.”
The overcrowding is an issue that can not be ignored for long and is clearly adding to the frustration of commuters who are turning to public transport – but will turn away if the issues are not eased.
Good on Mike Lee and his Council committee for pushing forward some constructive answers.