Students tested by late bus


Susannah Cowan is tired of an unreliable bus service delivering her late to university - and it seems there are around 700 others like her.

Miss Cowan set up a Facebook page catchily named "881 - Why you no come?". By Wednesday, 688 people had agreed with her. Miss Cowan, who studies commerce and science at the University of Auckland, relies on North Star 881 buses as they are the only ones going directly to the city centre campus from the North Shore.

She says the bus, used by around 2000 people a day, leaves from Torbay and runs on the Northern Expressway to the university and on to Newmarket, but is notoriously unreliable. "It is supposed to come every 10 minutes, but it is more like every 20 to 30."

On the bus timetable, the 881 runs every 10 minutes from Albany and every 20 minutes from Torbay at peak times, then hourly during the day.

Miss Cowan catches it from the Albany park-and-ride station and says that when it finally arrives, there are so many people waiting it often cannot pick up anyone from Constellation Drive onwards.

"As students, we are angry that we are paying $33 a week, when we are not rolling in money, and we can't even get to our destination," she says.

Miss Cowan created the page on August 13 and says it attracted hundreds of "likes" on its first day. TJ Yohendiran is one of those: "I was at the station at 7.50am, couldn't get on till 8.40am."

Another disgruntled passenger, Saskia Goris, posts: "Got to Constellation this morning at 8.10am, bus didn't come till 8.30, by that time it was so packed and we had to stand. I had an assignment due at 9am and was late handing it in."

Miss Cowan says students often arrive late at university. "If you have a test or an assignment due in, you are pretty much screwed."

As a precaution she catches the Northern Express bus that stops at Britomart, and walks to university when she has an assignment due. "That's something we shouldn't have to do."

NZ Bus, which owns North Star, has an online site for complaints but previous experiences have led Miss Cowan to believe her concerns would go unheard.

"You just receive a phone call a few weeks later and someone says, 'Thanks for your suggestion, we're working on it', but nothing changes."

So the 21-year-old is collating suggestions and complaints from the social media site to present to Auckland Transport, which may be able to exert influence.

"If they're planning to keep the service every 10 minutes at peak times, then they need to get more buses or just change the schedule so people aren't expecting the buses when they are not coming."

NZ Bus representative Rajeev Jadoo says the company has received 16 complaints about route 881 since July.

He says there has been a significant increase in passenger numbers since March when the every-10 minutesservice was introduced from Albany.

"The new timetable was to cater for increased demand, particularly from tertiary students returning for the start of the new academic year.

"We have been monitoring the patronage growth and have introduced larger capacity buses on to many of the peak services."

Mr Jadoo says NZ Bus will work with Auckland Transport to review bus schedules and capacity.


BUS PICTURE OFFENDS

"881 - Why you no come?" has received other attention as well. Founder Susannah Cowan was issued a copyright infringement notice the day after the Facebook page was created.

Initially Miss Cowan uploaded a picture of an 881 North Star bus as the cover photo, an image banner at the top of the page. The next day she received an email from Facebook saying a third party had reported the page and pictures for copyright infringement.

Miss Cowan said copyright never crossed her mind when she Googled the internet for a photo.

"I shouldn't have done it in the first place but to be honest I didn't even think about it."

She removed the photo immediately and created her own picture of a cartoon bus which resembles the 881.

The cover photo is now a cheeky slogan reading, "Sorry I'm late, I tried to catch the 881".

Isaac Harrold, who "likes" the page, had a similar experience when he created a meme about the service. Memes are an online image captioned with witty comments. Mr Harrold's meme showed a picture of the 881 and read, "Waiting at Sunnynook Station - drives past you when it isn't even full".

Facebook removed the meme and sent Mr Harrold a message explaining it was a copyright infringement.


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