Amelia Wade is a court reporter for the New Zealand Herald

Extra buses brought in to help ease Auckland commuter chaos

Every available bus in Auckland is being used to try to ease commuter chaos in the city as the network struggles to cope with demand.

Auckland Transport has asked every bus company in Auckland to help but only six were in a position to offer up buses. Yesterday many people were left stranded at stops for almost an hour as full buses drove past. When they finally got on, many were left with just standing room.


Efforts to cope with the increased demand have improved services today with minimal wait time at some of Auckland's busiest bus stops.

Every available bus in Auckland was used to try to ease commuter chaos in the city this morning.

Any services showing "Bus Full" on both Dominion Rd and Mt Eden Rd were soon followed by extra buses with space.

Waiting passengers were met with a long line of full buses on both of those routes over the past few days, with the network struggling to cope with demand.

And although by 8am this morning six full buses had passed by the bus stop at 215 Dominion Rd - the Auckland city end by Valley Rd - there were enough other buses arriving soon after that there was almost no extra wait time.

A man working for Auckland Transport was waiting at the Dominion Rd bus stop recording the number of full buses that passed and noting if customers were having to wait long for the next service.

At the Mt Eden Shops bus stop the wait time was also much less than previous days, as was the line of people waiting to get on a service.

At 8.30am a small group of passengers were left waiting for less than five minutes in Mt Eden when a packed bus was soon followed by two showing "Bus Full".

However, two more buses with space soon arrived and picked up the few remaining passengers.

This was a pattern throughout the morning, with full buses being followed by extra services to pick up those that did not fit on.

Free rides for some

Some passengers were getting free rides home yesterday as some of the buses didn't have HOP cards installed and yesterday one union was giving some of its users a "fare-free" day as part of ongoing industrial action.

Every March, patronage on public transport spikes as university students return and people opt to get to work on buses or trains because the weather is better.

This week, more than 2500 extra bus seats were added to the Dominion, Mt Eden and New North Rd routes. However, this has not been enough to cope with the demand.

One regular user said at one Mt Eden stop a 50-person queue formed on Tuesday with some shouting at the drivers to let them on.

Yesterday morning, even 30 minutes after peak hour, workers were still waiting for spare seats on buses heading into the central business district and took to social media to vent frustrations.

"Dozens of people waiting on New North bus stops as packed buses go past," posted Michael Field at 9.28am.

Auckland Transport has asked every bus operator in Auckland to "provide all additional buses currently available". A spokesman said NZ Bus, Ritchies, Party Bus, Bays, Howick and Eastern and Birkenhead Transport were able to help.

"All buses from all operators are currently in service."

The current level of demand was expected to ease as patronage fell about 30 per cent in April, the spokesman said.

NZ Bus was approached by Auckland Transport last year about adding extra buses this March. Chief operating officer Shane McMahon said they don't have any buses left in their depots during peak hours.

Director of the Party Bus Company Mark Markovina said they usually operate only on school bus routes but since the start of the month, after dropping students off, some of the company's buses head into the CBD to pick up commuters and take them along the Northern Express Way.

However, most of the Party Bus fleet don't have HOP machines so people are getting free rides. A regular commuter from Victoria Park to Smales Farm said he's had free journeys home for the last two days and his bus has been full with others doing the same.

Auckland councillor George Wood also said the jammed buses meant commuters were losing faith in the public transport.

"It is a real wake-up call for Auckland Transport because if they want to increase patronage, they've got to make provisions for greater capacity. It seems at the moment they're staggering along with using every bus they've got, having to go out and get other private companies to supplement their capacity. But that's not what we want."

Meanwhile, Howick and Eastern drivers who are part of the First Union will today be refusing to take cash or Hop card fares, meaning a free ride for some passengers. The action is part of an ongoing dispute over overtime and weekend rates at the East Auckland bus provider.

- NZ Herald

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