Auckland’s New Network West is being implemented on Sunday, 11th of June. This constitutes the most significant single improvement to West Auckland’s bus network in living memory, putting aside the fact that the planned Northwestern Busway will undoubtedly be the next big step change.
With this in mind, it would be good to rewind 25 years to 1992 and reflect on how far we have come since then. Back then I wrote a piece in Passenger Transport Magazine (a desktop-published print magazine in the age before social media, the internet, smart phone et al) called “Interpret the Ranui Bus Timetable and Win Absolutely Nothing.” This piece was not particularly kind to the bus service Ranui had at the time as outlined below.
Focussing in on Ranui, you can easily see how the public transport customer and service experience has significantly evolved since then.
One thing to note is that while there were a fairly skimpy 15 buses per day, there were eight route variants within these 15 trips (077, 085, 086, 097, 98F, 099, 135 and 137). Put simply buses started in 0- travelled via the North Western Motorway with 07s going via View Road, 08s via Te Atatu Road and 09s via Edmonton Road. But there were exceptions – the 98F flyer ran via Lincoln Road to the Motorway and the 099 ran via Te Pai Ave. The 13s ran via Great North Road all of the way to the city but even here there were exceptions. For example, the 10.45pm final bus to Ranui would throw in the Sunnyvale tiki tour at no extra charge (but a solid extra 10 minutes travel time on what was already a very long trip). Simple, eh!
And this is just a subset of the complexity of bus services serving the Te Atatu South, Henderson, Lincoln Road, Larnoch, Ranui and Swanson areas.
If I counted correctly, there were 27 different route variants in services to these areas. As if that weren’t complex enough, there was the added complexity of other services. For example, back in the day Ritchies Greenhalgh ran a couple of peak buses from Waitakere to the city centre via Swanson Road serving parts of Ranui but of course this was a different operator and hence a different timetable.
Fortunately the weekends thinned out the service complexity as it commensurately thinned out the service.
Ranui was serviced by just one route, the 135, except for the aforementioned 145 Saturday late evening Sunnyvale tiki tour. There were 11 trips on Saturday and five on Sunday, all via the entire length of Great North Road with the last Sunday bus leaving the city centre at 4.40pm.
And it gets even more complicated in Te Atatu South. To understand all of the service you had in Te Atatu South, you needed the following bus timetables:
- The aforementioned Larnoch/ Ranui/ Swanson timetable.
- The Sunnyvale timetable as there are 079 trips not in this timetable at peak times that ran the length of Te Atatu Road.
- The Whenuapai timetable for buses that ran the length of Edmonton Road.
- The Glendene timetable as late evening and weekend service to Te Atatu South (apart from Whenuapai buses) started in Henderson, ran via Lincoln Road and Te Pai Ave to Te Atatu South before getting to nearly the start of the Glendene bus route at the corner of Te Atatu Road and Tirimoana Ave from whence they would spend another 35 minutes touring Glendene, Kelston and Brains Park (looping back on themselves several times in the process) to get to New Lynn, then another 30 minutes or so to get to the city centre.
Of course, Ranui is on the Western Rail Line but back in 1992 was the absolute low point of urban rail services in Auckland.
In that entire year, rail carried just slightly over 1 million passengers – while in March 2017, rail carried over 2 million passengers in just that month. Quite the change!
The rail timetable from 1983 was in force in 1994 and would not be significantly improved until 2004 when the ex-Perth Diesel Multiple Units had been in place for a few months.
Ranui was served by eight inbound and nine outbound trains on weekdays only. Saturday train service were reintroduced in 2004 and Sunday train services only extended west of Henderson early this decade.
The last inbound train left Ranui at 3.38pm and the last outbound train from the city was catching the 5.40pm Papakura train from Auckland Station and transferring at Newmarket to the 5.50pm Waitakere train. To get there from the city, centre you could catch the ARA platform 4 bus leaving K Road at 5.18pm and hope it made it to the train on time (given that it was the last train!).
The New Network west, beginning on 11th June 2017, is quite different to the situation in 1992. There will be four routes from Ranui to Henderson, with three of these running half-hourly (141. 142, & 143) and one running hourly (146). This is considerably simpler than the 27 route variants serving this part of the west in 1992. And while there will no longer be direct bus service to the city centre, trains to Britomart now run every 10 minutes at peak, every 20 minutes during the day and every 30 minutes late evenings and weekends. While this isn’t the ultimate train frequency, it is certainly a rather substantial improvement on the eight inbound and nine outbound trains that existed in 1992.