The Wrong Side of my Car

A blog about Auckland City, its streets, and culture shock

16 Nov 2016

What’s so special about those Link Buses?

Someone once told me that Ponsonby is about halfway from the city centre to Grafton.

Is it?

Huh?

Yes it is:

The green link bus route. Note Sky City, Ponsonby, and Grafton (Hospital)

Turns out that person was a regular user of the Inner Link.

The Link buses are not just like any other bus line. They have a distinctive ‘Link’ brand. The buses have distinctive colours. They don’t have the usual numbering system like the rest of the bus network. They have has a separate map.

What is the magic recipe?

Timetables

Here’s the timetable of the green link bus:

Timetable

Mon to Fri:
Every 10 mins from 6.30am to 8.00pm *
Every 15 mins from 8.00pm to 11.00pm *

Saturdays: Every 15 minutes from 6.30am to 11.00pm *
Sundays & public holidays: Every 15 minutes from 7.00am to 11.00pm *

* Actual frequency may vary.

And that’s all of it. Let me count in how many ways that’s an awesome timetable:

(*1) 

In theory. In practice it doesn’t work that well due to congestion and crappy bus lanes in some places.

Maps

I dug up the bus map of central Auckland:

Central isthmus bus network

That’s a lot of lines, covering the entire area. You can take the bus to anywhere.

The trouble is, when? Does this line run only on peak hours? How often? Will I have to wait for an hour? Does it run in the weekends at all? This map can only be used in conjunction with a big pile of timetables. If you don’t happen to have a direct bus, good luck finding a transfer which doesn’t require a long wait.

Now, the link bus map:

Link buses

That’s a comparatively paltry looking network. But this map has a really important property: all lines (including the rail lines, by the way) have some variant of this awesome timetable above. If you go to a bus stop or station on that map, you know there will be a bus or train “soon”. Finding your way is as simple as following those lines.

Any line will ‘just work’.

Save the Outer Link

There’s petitions for a lot of things. Save our rivers. Save our endangered animal species. Ban microbeads. Save our bus line.

Wait a minute. A bus line?

Yup. When Auckland Transport wanted to discontinue the Outer Link, people started a petition to save the Outer Link. Why did you do that, AT?

Actually they didn’t just drop that Link service. Quite the opposite, they’re introducing a much larger and more connected network of similarly frequent lines. This much larger network would have easily provided enough service to replace the Outer Link. It’s all the thick lines on the map below:

Proposed network (compare to the final network).

I can only guess why they came back on this. One reason is obvious on the old bus map, in Mount Eden village. They were going to lose their frequent service providing an easy connection to places to the east and west.

That is another unusual property of the Link buses: they don’t just go from and to the CBD.

The petition headline also hints at another issue with the proposal, more on the PR side of things:

Auckland Transport are proposing to retire the very popular Outer Link buses. Not only are these buses on time and are consistent on Sundays, but they go past all the major parts of the city and many want them to stay!

Having a lot more more services which are “on time frequent and are consistent on Sundays” is exactly the point of the new network. However, believing that, and additionally that the new services are in fact so good you can even transfer between them, is a big leap of faith. Maybe the current more incremental approach will be easier on people. Maybe they should have capitalized on the Link brand more. And look: the bus line between the city and St Heliers will be called the Blue Link.

New network

You all know how it usually is when you take the bus. Stressing out about being 5 minutes late. Stressing out about missing a connection. Or that annoying problem of arriving 40 minutes early because the next bus is too late. Or you want to leave but the next bus is still half an hour away. What a PITA. Well, increasing the frequency on the bus lines doesn’t just make it more of that.

It really becomes a very different kind of service.

The service provided by those Link buses. Coming soon to most parts of Auckland *2.

(*2) 

Except the North Shore it seems. But that’s a rant for later.

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