Commuters are struggling and more frustrated than ever as Auckland Transport’s new Eastern bus network proves it’s not faster and more convenient for everyone.
One local commuter Khorshed Tarapore launched a petition calling for AT to reverse changes made to the east Auckland bus network and bring back a number of old bus routes.
The petition has amassed almost 1500 signatures and hundreds of comments of support.
The university student says since the new bus changes were introduced on December 10, 2017, her commute into the city is significantly longer and more difficult.
Where previously Tarapore caught a bus direct from her home in Pah Road, Cockle Bay into the city, her commute is now two hours long including a 20 minute walk to the bus stop and one bus transfer.
“They have taken something that was so convenient and turned it into something that is inconvenient and difficult, and then AT tell me the new network is more successful,” she says.
The university student says the bus connections are unreliable and she often finds herself having to wait for a connecting bus because the bus is too full of passengers or running late.
Tarapore says Cockle Bay has been completely left out of what was previously one of the most popular bus routes – the 550.
While she does have the option of catching a bus from Howick to her home on Pah Road, she says this bus only runs every hour during non-peak times meaning it rarely fits in with her bus schedule.
Tarapore reached out to her local MP Simeon Brown, who recently held a public meeting where locals could speak directly with AT about transport concerns in east Auckland.
The meeting had a turnout of around 200 local residents, many of whom expressed dissatisfaction with the new bus timetables and routes.
A Half Moon Bay resident who didn’t want to be named says she now has to take three buses to get into Auckland City.
“I think Bucklands Beach, Half Moon Bay and Howick have completely fallen off AT’s map and its unacceptable,” she says.
Tarapore said she decided to start the petition after seeing how “ignorant” AT was at the public meeting.
“They just kept saying bus usage had increased, and weren’t listening to the people who were now having to walk 20-40 minutes to their nearest bus stop, or transferring buses multiple times, or simply choosing to drive rather than deal with public transport,” she says.
“I hope this petition shows just how many east Aucklanders from basically every area are being disadvantaged.”
Tarapore says she hopes AT will reinstate the 550 bus route from Cockle Bay to Britomart and the 552 bus route from Bucklands Beach to Britomart.
AT spokesperson James Ireland says the new bus network will undergo a routine review in June or July of this year, six months after it was introduced, but says it’s unlikely to result in whole routes being reinstated.
“The new network is designed with more frequent, shorter services that provide better links to rapid transport such as trains, busways and ferries which are unencumbered by regular traffic,” he says.
“It’s more likely that any changes made will be tweaks to the timetables rather than changing whole bus routes.”
Ireland says AT stats show an increase in passengers with March 2018 having 51,971 more passenger trips than March 2017 in the east new network area.
Ireland also says only 18 per cent of journeys in the east new network area had a transfer in them in March 2018.
However since the east new network launch there have been several instances where some suburbs have seen a decrease in patronage, he says.
In March 2018 Cockle Bay had 10,697 journeys, compared to 13,967 in March 2017.
In March 2018 Howick had 23,452 journeys compared to 25,563 in March 2017.
Pakuranga MP Simeon Brown says he thinks Auckland Transport should be conducting a thorough review of the network to ensure that journey times have not been increasing for east Aucklanders.
“If it has, I would expect them to move quickly to resolve any issues,” he says.
“I think the number of signatures which Tarapore has received on her petition shows that there a large number of people affected, and I hope Auckland Transport takes these concerns seriously and engages with affected commuters.”