Turning Your Nose Up At Buses


Politicians often seem to talk as if they they assume that people who use public transport aren’t fussy, are probably poor, just Greenie or mad (after all, why wouldn’t you want to drive a car?)
They talk about building more roads and motorways with the odd token bus lane or busway option, as if that’s all the PT masses will need.
Forget rail, they say.
Already that’s quite definitely their argument against a harbour tunnel and North Shore rail - as there is a busway option.
In the over three years of doing this blog with its strong-rail focus, I have been fascinated by the number of people who have decided to leave their cars at home and use rail but would never consider a bus. They often hate them.
So politicians please get in your heads: if a city is looking at moving more people off the motorway, it’s a false assumption to assume you don’t need to develop the city’s rail services and provide only bus.
I must admit I do use the odd bus - but don’t enjoy it either. Rail travel is far more enjoyable.
I have been asking -and gathering reasons people I have come across say they will use only trains, not buses. This is what they say in their words.

"Let me out, I'll catch a train instead!"

You may be able to add to the list:

1. Buses are smelly outside and in
2. The seats are narrow and too close to people
3. I hate the way buses jerk about all the time when they stop in traffic
4. Standing is unpleasant when the bus is crowded
5. When the bus gets caught in road traffic it’s very slow and you’re often subjected to the same problems as motorists
6. Bus lanes are erratic like at Kingsland where you can be slowly crawling to the Bond St corner lights for up to 30 minutes along New North Rd because there is no bus lane in the village area
7. Buses have too many stops
8. I hate waiting at places like Symonds St where you have to have good eyesight and smart reflexes to wave down a bus when a lot of buses appear at once and it might be yours
9. The electronic sign boards are next to useless. I hate the way they say one is coming then it gets delayed or the scheduled bus vanishes
10. I hate having to press the buzzer when I am standing or not seated near one and have to reach over people.
11. I hate those seats where you face people eyeball to eyeball
12. The bus journey is so bumpy
13. Those fat woman. I had to squeeze next to one the other day and was almost pushed into the aisle
14. No space for kids - not family friendly
15. Can’t take shopping or big things
16. My bike doesn’t go on it. What happened to the plan for bus racks?
17. 5 buses come at once so the timetable is not ideal.
18. I hate the way a bus finally arrives and it’s an express that goes past and you don’t realise til it passes you and you get pissed off
19. The timetables are stupid. You wait 20 minutes and then 3 buses turn up.
20. I gave up after a bus driver went the wrong way
21. I can’t read in a bus especially at night

22. Some buses are difficult to see out the windows to see if your stop is coming up such as in a crowded bus when you are sitting and people are standing or at night or raining or if the window you have has an advertisement painted on it

23. Some bus drivers are rude

23. I don’t mind chatting to a person in the train but would never want to do so in a bus

Group travel seems more social than on crowded buses

There was also this study on the social interaction issues on a bus:




  1. Owen Thompson says:

    I am 6′ 2″ & find that some bus seats are so close together that I have to put my knee out into the aisle. There is just not enough room, it is crazy. This of course is uncomfortable & also partially blocks the aisle.

  2. Scott says:

    Seat pitch is also a major concern for me. However this is not an intrinsic difference, auckland trains have just been designed with more seat pitch.

    Jarrett has a post here: http://www.humantransit.org/2011/02/sorting-out-rail-bus-differences.html

  3. Patrick R says:

    Key advantages of rail are [or should be] :

    1.speed, not being subject to congestion,
    2.capacity, so many more people on a narrow corridor
    3.predictability, trains can’t take unexpected turns.

    It’s an instantly legible system… certainly in AK where we have so few routes and such a confusion of bus services….

    To really offer these advantages in AK we need those new electric trains, for speed, reliability and comfort. And higher frequency services which will really only be possible with the CBDRL.

  4. Kurt says:

    You have highlighted why public transport based on buses has held Auckland back in the dark ages.

    You could have mentioned it takes up road space for bus lanes that causes worse traffic problems, is expensive and costs the ratepayers a fortune in subsidies we dont get to vet.

    It a good system to kick off an area for PT, its good to supplement rail on short trips, not unlike Wellington and I guess its better than nothing. But thats it.

    It is not a decent alternative to cars and never ever will be.

    But while this government is on 57% in the polls and God only knows why its full ahead for roads, roads and more roads. A cohesvie plan for rail between Auckland and the government will have to wait at least another 3 years!

  5. Andrew says:

    It is so much easier to see where to see where rail (be it light or heavy) goes, how far away it is from where you’re coming from or want to go, and where to get on/off. Their route is instantly visible. Just follow the tracks.

    Buses can be a lot harder to figure out and so many people just don’t bother.

  6. Matt says:

    I’d never buy a house where I would end up needing a bus to commute, but when I do ride a bus they aren’t as horrid as I think they’re going to be. However my big bug bear is the dreaded rail replacement bus. They should be renamed the incompetent management bus.

    And if you don’t like buses, how about wheelbarrows?


  7. * A relatively straightforward bus trip becomes bogged down by having to take in certain suburbs and by following suburban back roads.
    * The driver has to stop at a bus-stop and process everyones tickets before starting off again.
    * Two bus stops reasonably close to each other may serve different bus routes.

  8. Matt says:

    Buses are just sucky, that’s all there is to it.
    In the time it takes a train to get to Remuera from Britomart, my bus home at 19:40 on Wednesday managed to make it from QE2 Square to nearly at Grafton Bridge. Nearly. Most of that time was just getting to Anzac Ave. I’ve missed meetings because buses here get so little real priority (living south of the Harp of Erin doesn’t help my case) - I would’ve had time to spare on a train, but the bus made me late.

    If Joyce et al want to insist on a bus-only future, they need to stump up in a big way on real bus priority measures across the city.

  9. Owen Thompson says:

    I agree Matt re rail bus. i have caught it once, Manurewa to Papatoetoe return, and it was crazy. Far better to catch a “normal” bus or take the car.

  10. Rich says:

    I think some time ago on this blog (or somewhere else…) mention was made of restructuring routes to a trunk/suburban etc hierarchy. Changes like that may help the routing problems.

    However, more fundamentally, the last thing NZ needs is a US-style “second class”-ization of buses. It is true that they will be bumpy and small and that perception will never go away even with the best improvements. IMO they should be used for “not so long” trips to places like the nearest rail/bus-laned-bus station (etc.) (More generally planners should consider a maximum distance able to be travelled on a bus.) Obviously this is not a new idea.

  11. Jarrod says:

    I have to agree with just about all the reasons listed. I am the same. I catch the train as much as I possibly can and I love it. I hate catching the bus. Hate it.

  12. richard says:

    Buses make me bus sick with all the stop starts and erratic movement. Trains, and trams, give a pleasant enjoyable ride without the stress of driving.

    Buses are also slow as a wet week

  13. Swan says:

    A lot of the issues are about the corridor and stops not the vehicle. As for the rest, it is hard to make the case for massive rail funding because some people are a bit fussy. Also aren’t peak time trains pretty crowded if they are successful?

    I catch a bus from the north shore every day and find it pleasant enough. The main issues have to be speed and frequency before we worry about the plushness of seats.

  14. DanC says:

    I don’t mind buses for short journey’s. In London I used very frequent buses to get to the train station and wasn’t penalised for jumping transport method as London is zone based. In I use a bus from Botany to the CBD and I have problems with in order of worst… 1, frequency, 2 traffic congestion, 3 legroom and 4 jerkyness.

  15. George D says:

    it is hard to make the case for massive rail funding because some people are a bit fussy

    If a mode of transport is unpleasant to the person experiencing it, they’ll be less likely to use it next time. They’ll probably get back in their car, or try and drive past a number of bus stops to a rail station.

    (not to mention that you’ve just made someone’s life worse, but it’s only dollars and congestion that counts in this neoliberal society)

    On a positive note, jerkyness is slightly resolved by simply having drivers drive a little more gently. Electric buses are generally much smoother in my opinion - the reason the gas-electric trial bus was such a nice ride. Given the short-sightedness of the companies in assuming fuel was going to stay cheap forever, I’m disappointed but not surprised we don’t have more. Designline is after all one of the biggest hybrid bus manufacturers in the world.


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