New central Auckland bus network 'a massive step backward', residents say

Auckland Transport's "simpler" bus network, which includes the 75 route, is actually making it more difficult to get ...
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Auckland Transport's "simpler" bus network, which includes the 75 route, is actually making it more difficult to get around, say Stonefields and Remuera residents.

Residents of the central Auckland suburbs of Stonefields and Remuera say the area's simplified bus network is actually making it harder to get around.

Jonathan Shamrock moved to Stonefields in January specifically because the area had good public transport. 

Up until last week he caught the 635 bus to work in Newmarket, about 8km away. It took about 35 minutes.

Now he spends 55 minutes in transit each way, has to take two buses, and sometimes spending 15 minutes waiting in the rain after Auckland Transport cancelled the 635. 

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The change was part of a shake-up of central the Auckland bus network.

As well as launching two new services on Sunday – the TāmakiLink, which connects Mission Bay directly with the CBD, and the 20 between Morningside and Wynyard Quarter via Kingsland and Ponsonby – AT has replaced some suburban routes, including the 635, with local "connector" buses which link up with other bus services on main roads where people can transfer.

AT said the new network would give public transport users "better access to popular destinations".

However, for Shamrock, the changes had been "a massive step backwards".

Shamrock has tried two routes on the new network – one via Glen Innes and another through Ellerslie. Both require him to catch two buses.

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To make matters worse, he said, the bus stops where he waits for about 10 to 15 minutes to transfer don't have shelters, which means if it's raining he gets soaked.

"That just doesn't make sense. I just think it's going to make people not want to use the buses," said Shamrock.

Another former 635 passenger annoyed by the service's cancellation, Amali De Alwis, has created a petition to bring the service back.

More than 143 people, including Shamrock, have signed the petition so far.

Like Shamrock, De Alwis, who lives in Grand Drive in Remuera, moved to the area less than a year ago because she could easily commute from there to her office in Beach Rd in Parnell.

"I rent and the main reason I chose to live on this particular bus route was because it takes me door-to-door in just 30 minutes," she said.

She described her new commute, which she said took more than twice as long, as painful.

"I have two options. Either I have to walk uphill to Remuera Rd, catch the 75 and then go to Midtown, Wellesley St, and then I have to walk from Midtown back to Beach Rd, which is a 20 minute walk.

"Or I have to take the bus which goes [along] Grand Drive to the Meadowbank Station and get the train to go to Britomart."

De Alwis used the first route on Monday and tried the second on Tuesday, but the bus that was meant to pick her up on Grand Drive never showed up.

That meant she had to take the 75 again, which took an hour and a half, she said.

"I'm just really upset because Remuera is a maximum of 10km away from the CBD. It really shouldn't take that long."

Both De Alwis and Shamrock said they had submitted feedback about the new routes to AT but were yet to hear back.

Stonefields Residents' Association chair Martin Taylor said a few locals had voiced concerns to him about the cancellation of the 635 bus.

"I wouldn't say it's a huge outcry or anything but I'd say it's been raised a little bit."

The group planned to meet with residents during the next two weeks to get feedback on the area's new bus routes and pass it on to AT.

AT spokesman James Ireland said its staff were monitoring the new bus network carefully and welcomed feedback.

"Aucklanders can be assured that all the feedback they send to us will be read and used to ensure we know how passengers are using the services and whether any changes need to be made."

 - Stuff

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