Local transport options include bus, train, ferry, taxi, shuttle and car rental. Use the AT Public Transport website to find public transport options. AT Public Transport also has a text messaging service that can be used to find the time of the next bus, ferry or train or to find the quickest way to get to your destination using public transport, as well as apps for iPhone and Android.
Many Aucklanders depend on their cars and for most tourists accustomed to extensive public transport systems, frustrations can mount. It may be more convenient to hire a car if you wish to do a lot of cross-city travel, or if you plan on leaving to see the nearby natural beauty, though roads frequently become heavily congested.
The Britomart Transport Centre on the corner of Queen St and Customs St is the main information centre for public transport. You will find free bus, train and ferry schedules in this centre – something that is very handy since the frequency of some public transportation services is low and sometimes irregular. The timetables can also be downloaded from the AT Public Transport website.
The Auckland Discovery Pass can be purchased for $16, and provides travel on all forms of public transport, except the Fullers ferries and the Airbus that runs between the CBD and the airport.
Bus is the most-used method of public transport in Auckland, carrying over 40 million passenger trips a year. Buses to popular destinations usually run every 5-15mins. For example Kelly Tarltons and Mission Bay have buses (numbers 745-769) running at least every 15min Monday to Saturdays though much less frequently Sundays.
If you don't mind a 5-10min walk to a bus stop you can get by without a car in Auckland. However buses are not always reliable, especially during peak hours. Delays of up to 15min are common on certain routes. Buses are also a slow way to travel long distances, and travel is remarkably more difficult going across town than on a main north-south route. If possible consider taking a train or ferry instead. If you are travelling to less frequented areas or outer suburbs be prepared for long travel times and long wait periods (30min +) between services.
Auckland's bus services are not integrated – there are different bus companies serving different parts of Auckland. The largest operator, NZ Bus, has re-branded based on parts of Auckland served. The following are buses that run to different parts of Auckland:
The Inner Link bus ($1.90) services Auckland CBD and the surrounding areas of Newmarket, Parnell and Ponsonby – it is fairly frequent and is a useful way of getting around these areas. The City Link bus runs in a circuit from Karangahape Rd/Upper Queen St to Britomart or the Wynyard Quarter and costs 50c. Bus fares are measured in stages, with one stage being $1.90 cash, $3.40 for two stages, $4.50 for three and $5.60 for four (as of January 2013). Any bus travel within the CBD will cost $0.50 (for at most a 5min ride).
There is a new integrated bus system in Auckland, the Hop card which allows transport on all NZbus services and will soon allow transport with train, ferry and other bus providers.
Bus passes in Auckland are troublesome since there is a lack of an integrated bus system – each bus service uses its own card system and they are mutually incompatible. All NZbus(i.e. Metrolink, North Star, Go West, Urban Express, Waka Pacific) buses use a snapper based contactless smart card system, Ritchies uses a touch sensor, and Howick and Eastern uses a wayfarer chip system.Buy bus cards (they can be bought from different locations in Auckland, Britomart being one of them) if, and only if you are certain about where you'd be travelling to – otherwise you'll find yourself paying cash.
One exception to this is bus travel on the North Shore. They have recently introduced a Northern Pass system whereby travellers (and commuters) can purchase a day- or week-long pass which covers inter-operator travel on the North Shore. You can buy day passes on the buses heading to and in the North Shore – just keep the ticket and show it to the next bus driver, and you will be let on the bus.
Most bus services run to and from the CBD, and so there are relatively few "cross-town" buses. It might sometimes be faster (and more convenient) to take buses into the city to take another bus out! If you want to get around the same area easily, it is also possible to take the bus to a "hub" where lots of buses run through, to connect to another bus. The bigger bus hubs are (but are not limited to):
Most bus stops that are frequently used have displays showing the times the next buses arrive. These are fairly reliable but do not place all your faith in them – sometimes the signs display that a bus has come and gone, and then several minutes later the bus arrives.
Travel by urban train is a good option, but only if you are near a train line; there are four lines and not all suburbs are served. While train services had a poor history due to underinvestment, they have improved in recent years due to increased investment in carriages and the upgrading of many of the 41 train stations. Electrification and new trains will be rolled out during 2014 and 2015. An annual patronage increase of 30% was achieved in 2005, largely due to double-tracking the routes, bringing total patronage to more than 5 million passengers a year for the first time since the 1960s.
An AT Hop card can be purchased for easier tag on/tag off travel, however the savings made using it would require many journeys to counter the initial outlay. You may also have difficulty in retrieving any unused credit when you leave Auckland. One card though can be used to pay for multiple passengers at the station kiosks. Cards are only able to purchased at the main transport centres.
There are four lines: the Eastern, Southern (with the Onehunga line branch) and Western Lines. Services on the Southern line run from Britomart station in Auckland's CBD south to Papakura, with a few services on to Pukekohe. The Southern Line runs roughly parallel to the Southern Motorway and indeed runs right beside the motorway through part of Auckland. It branches to very short Onehunga line at the Penrose station. The Eastern Line is a short line that runs from Britomart through four stations in the east of central Auckland before joining the Southern line just before Westfield station. Services on the Eastern line also continue to Papakura and Pukekohe. The Western line runs from Britomart west to Waitakere Station. There are no train services on the North Shore or in the eastern suburbs of Manukau City.
The Southern and Eastern Lines have the most frequent and reliable services. Trains on these lines combined run every 10 minutes on-peak, 15 minutes off-peak and 30 minutes on evenings and weekends. Approximately 85-95% of these services run on-time. Trains on the Western Line run every 15–20 minutes on-peak, every 37 minutes off-peak and every 30 minutes on weekends.
The road network experiences severe congestion at rush hour. The geography of Auckland constrains the network to a limited number of routes. Auckland has a comprehensive road networks for a city its size, but lack of investment in public transport and geographic sprawl means the city is largely dependent on private cars.
It is often easier and cheaper to hire a car instead of using taxis, simply because the city is so large and spread out. Auckland city is well covered by the main global car rental companies, such as Avis, Budget, Hertz, Thrifty & Europcar. All car rental companies offer competitive pricing for economy class vehicles and unlimited mileage options. Local car rental companies like Apex and Jucy may also offer competitive pricing.
There are three main motorway systems running through Auckland. The Northern Motorway (from North of Orewa to the Central Motorway Junction (CMJ) a.k.a. Spaghetti Junction) - note that it has a toll for the last few kilometres beyond Silverdale. The Southern Motorway runs from the CMJ past the Bombay Hills where it splits into State Highway 2 (SH2), and merges to the Waikato Expressway. The Northwestern Motorway runs from Auckland Port through CMJ to near Kumeu. These motorways clog up during the morning rush in the CBD-bound direction, and the in the opposite direction during the evening rush. The Harbour Bridge has a method of mitigating this traffic load – it changes the lane system from 4-4 to 5-3 favouring the side which has the heavier traffic load, so be careful when crossing the bridge during different times, some lanes might not be there at some times!
Watch heading southbound over the Harbour Bridge - if you are heading to the Southern Motorway (e.g. to the Airport or Manukau), make sure you are in at least lane 3 (if not lane 4) before you reach the bridge to ensure you go over on the main bridge and not the clip-on lanes. Otherwise you will have only a few hundred metres after the bridge to cross two lanes of traffic to lane 4 before lane 1, 2 and 3 split off towards the city centre and the Northwestern Motorway. Inner lanes go to the CBD, middle lanes to West and the port, outer lanes South, but mind that the directions are not clear or timely and it is easy to head off in the wrong direction.
Some motorway on-ramps have traffic lights operating in busy periods – they allow one or two cars to proceed every three to eight seconds to ease the merging onto the motorway. Cameras may be operating to catch red-light runners.
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