Taking a poke at Auckland via public transport.

October 16, 2008

I’ve been having a small holiday in Auckland, visiting relatives. I haven’t been up there for a while, despite having regular pokes at Aucklanders I know about their ailing transport system over recent months.

I arrived via the Overlander, a trip I’ve always wanted to make, which was mildly disappointing, as we were transhipped from the train onto buses to be taken around a derailment on the line in between National Park and Hamilton – thus missing the Raurimu Spiral, one of the great pieces of railway track engineering in the world. Sigh. Best laid plans, etc … The train got to Britomart terminal a little late, but my family were there to collect me, so it wasn’t a huge holdup.

I travelled around during the weekend in private vehicles, visiting and celebrating with friends and relatives of my family, not looking too shabby for traffic problems. The working week began, and I took some time to recover; by Tuesday, I was ready to explore, having stated my intention to use public transport as much as possible to my daughter. From her home to the local Westfield Mall, easy-peasy – one stage on the Ritchies bus line, almost door-to-door, and a simple journey to organise.

But what a surprise when I got to the Mall! I had heard that this was a brand-new Westfield, but as I’ve seen this brand of shopping mall before, I was expecting a bit more of the same-old, same-old. First, it was the biggest car-park I’ve seen in a long time. The bus station, for Park & Ride, also had a big carpark, but not as big as the one at the Mall!

Mall, from ring road, with ominous large field undeveloped...

Mall, from ring road, with ominous large field undeveloped...

And the surrounding area has many more collections of shops, most of the usual suspects for mega-malls, so this huge car-park was accompanied by several large, but not quite as huge, carparks.
All I could think of was, how on earth did the planners of this development so badly underestimate the effects of peak oil on their development, and how could the public transport access be improved to recover this situation?
There was also a large half-built development (more shopping?), and a large field between the Mall and the bus station, which I walked across to the amusement of locals driving to the carpark.

The rest of the week gave me opportunities to travel to the CBD and Uni on a variety of bus services, at a variety of prices, and with varying amounts of commuting time.

The bus arriving at a Northern Busway station

The bus arriving at a Northern Busway station


Quickest run was the Express bus from Albany Park’n’Ride station to Britomart, along the Northern Busway – bus stations that look like a swept-up version of the Hutt Valley suburban rail stations! – and my slowest trip was after attending a Women’s Debate from AU Debsoc, then getting lost; 90 mins to find the bus (the stop turned out to be several blocks uphill, on Albert St), then an hour to get to the North Shore suburb I was staying in.
Express bus at Britomart, end of inbound route

Express bus at Britomart, end of inbound route


I found the MAXX map at Britomart unclear and confusing; checking the Welli version in the Lambton bus terminal this week, I’m sure that our bus mapping is easier to read. But I’m prolly not the best to evaluate that, since I’m so familiar with our local public transport services!
Auckland also has around five separate bus companies servicing the different regional authorities, which means that CBD bus stops are heavily congested, adding to my confusion. Yeah, country bumpkin territory! I stuck to just the services to the North Shore, not adventuring further.

My journey home to Welli was again on the Overlander – this time I did get to film the Raurimu spiral, which I may post up somewhere, once my flatmate teaches me how to use the editing software. I’m very glad that the train is still on that route, it was an exceptional journey and quite rightly ranks as one of the great train rides of the world. I remember friends from Auckland taking the overnight train back in the day, and I marvelled at them wanting to sleep when some of the greatest scenery in NZ was passing by their windows, even then.

As an exercise in experiencing as much public transport as possible, it was interesting, if not very practical. Cost wasn’t a motivator, and I didn’t save much time. I noticed the express buses in the morning rush seemed to get into the CBD at a quicker rate than the off-peak services; and there were fare reductions for certain types of travel options, just as bus/train does in Welli via TransMetro.

Overall, Auckland public transport needs a big overhaul, and Jeanette’s transport policy statements this week give some direction for that. I’ll be less scathing to my Auckland friends who drive to work everyday, at least for the mean time. But I’ll still call out for better public transport for them to access, since ‘more roads’ is not the answer to this particular question.

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