Brian Rudman: Prepaid bus fares just the ticket

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Ideas for improving the system range from putting exhaust pipes through roof to spacing stops further apart.

The main complaint about bus-stop shelters is their rarity. Photo / Janna Dixon
The main complaint about bus-stop shelters is their rarity. Photo / Janna Dixon

On Monday, I suggested that while we twiddle our thumbs in leaky bus shelters awaiting the revolution in Auckland transport - electric trains, integrated ticketing, the new route network - we turn our thoughts to ways of fine-tuning what we have.

Quick and inexpensive improvements such as banning the advertising overlays that black out NZ Bus windows, giving buses the right of way when exiting stops and reading-strength lighting inside buses. Suggestions flowed in.

Some were to the point, like Richard Barter's: "Could I suggest that all exhaust pipes on buses exit through the roof so pedestrians and cyclists are spared exhaust smoke belching straight in their faces."

And from Peter Elbeshausen: "Here's an easy way to speed up the stops of buses. The front doors should be only for entering the bus and the door at the middle of the bus for leaving it." In similar vein, bus driver Barry suggests: "Ensure all fares are prepaid before boarding. A great deal of time is taken in taking fares and providing receipts and giving change."

On bus shelters, the big issue wasn't that they leaked, but their rarity. "Any bus shelter would be an in improvement in my area," wrote One Tree Hill's Catherine Simpson. Ditto Kiwi Girl, who complains, "Why am I, and others who make the same trip with me on a regular basis, not entitled to a covered bus-stop shelter when we are all struggling to manage our shopping haul and stay dry?"

With her heavy shopping haul, I suspect Kiwi Girl wouldn't agree with those who complained there's too much stopping and starting. Scott Osman suggests, "Stops to be at least 500m apart." Scott R is more draconian, demanding: "Rationalise all bus stops so they are at least 1km apart - not ridiculously close as at present." In defence of the existing spacing, could I suggest that not every one lives on the direct route. Most walk in from surrounding streets.

There were plenty of ideas about improving and expanding bus lanes. Cam Pitches from Campaign for Better Transport suggests bus lanes the length of Manukau Rd and bus priority on the St Marys Bay section of the motorway to the bridge. Both he and Garth MacLeod want to extend the bus lane at Greville Rd so the 73 buses using this on-ramp each morning aren't delayed by merging general traffic. Mr MacLeod says it would mean extending the bus lane only 20 metres!

Mr Pitches also wants AT's complaints response time reduced from 10 working days to two, and a Hop credit if a timetabled bus or train fails to arrive.

Anon sensibly asks that buses travelling into the CBD from various outer areas share the same stops once they hit the main arterials. This means waiting passengers don't have to gamble whether a bus to town will arrive at stop A or B first - particularly helpful when buses are often full by then anyway.

Bus driver Steve suggests that when an empty bus is following a full one, both should stop and standing passengers be transferred, so everyone has a seat.

Anon also suggests a smartphone app that tracks the bus you want to catch, so he knows when to dash out of his nice warm home.

Now some responses from Auckland Transport. Within urban Auckland, the region's 6600 bus stops are spaced about 400 metres, or a five-minute walk, apart. As for giving buses right of way at stops, as in New South Wales, publicist Sharon Hunter says: "AT supports this initiative, but we are not currently pursuing it at this time - a potential for the future." Which rather begs the question, if AT supports it, why not initiate the law-change process now.

On window advertising, Ms Hunter says: "We will be working with our operators to minimise advertising over windows for the convenience of passengers. This is a work in progress and includes looking at other options for advertising, aside from windows."

With NZ Bus' sister company iSite Media busy online selling a range of bus advertising on Auckland routes - the Links included, ranging from the bus back to the the full wrap - the idea of "working with" might be a bit on the defeatist side. Particularly when the Infratil-owned company brags it is "fully committed to ... growing the market".

- NZ Herald

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