Auckland Transport faces ire from students and parents following possibly lawbreaking passenger overloading on after-school buses.
The dangerous overcrowding has been the product of a wider revamp of East Auckland’s bus network, which resulted in the axing of two school buses serving Macleans College students.
The revamp, which went into effect in the new year for school buses, also resulted in reports of poor routing, leaving many students clamoring for a seat.
In the new after-school plan at Macleans, the number of buses were cut down from five to three, with two also serving double duty in taking on students from Bucklands Beach Intermediate (BBI).
On certain days, students have been unable to catch a school bus as there is physically no room left for passengers to step on. This has left many scrambling for placings on a few public buses.
The amount of standing passengers has raised concerns that the buses do not meet Land Transport loading regulations. Buses are required to carry a Certificate of Loading stating the maximum number of passengers and the number who can stand.
That figure varies depending on factors such as the weight and size of the vehicle and its seating configuration. Operators that exceed the limit can be fined.
Out of zone student Ren Saito takes school bus 427 after school: “It’s a lot of pushing and shoving from other people, just trying to get onto the bus and it’s basically impossible to get a seat if you’re lucky enough to even get on as most of them, [the seats] are already taken up by BBI kids.”
The Collegian understands that a student was injured earlier in Term 1 on bus 427 as a result of overcrowding. The student reportedly stood in the rear doorway area by necessity, and was bruised by a swinging rear exit door according to a description provided by parents.
The parents of the student involved in the incident had emailed both AT and the bus operator ‘Go Bus’ to raise the issue of overloading and was informed that the comments would be looked into. However no change to bus loading or procedure has been observed since the incident.
Other students taking bus 427 surveyed found the experience was “hot”, “suffocating and claustrophobic”. Multiple also complained that standing in the front doorway area next to the driver felt dangerous.
Similar conditions were also reported on bus 425.
Many students suggested that Auckland Transport could add another bus to the roster to relieve congestion or provide a separate bus for BBI students.
The situation on public buses
The overcrowding has produced an knock-on effect on public buses which have been unable to pick up, (often elderly) members of the public due to being full with Macleans students.
Students who take these buses are doing so, either because the reduced school bus services are too full or that they do not go on a route useful to them. Former routes 080 and 326 went to destinations that are difficult to correlate with the remaining three school buses.
Students report having to run to bus stops away from the school in order board public bus 712.
“In the mornings only just everyone fits, however in the afternoons you must run for the earliest stop, otherwise you won’t get a seat. If you were let out late you must run for the stop [near the] roundabout, for a 70% chance to stand. The last resort is to wait for a bus at the bus stop outside the [turf] while not getting your hopes up”, student George Cui says.
Another student who takes bus 712 said she estimated 20-25 passengers standing, with several being forced to stand in doorway areas.
Similar issues were reported on public buses 735 and 733 departing from the Priestly Drive bus stop.
Many also complain of poor bus coverage on days of early finish when school buses do not arrive earlier as the previous buses did before the revamp.
Deputy Principal Mrs Thompson told The Collegian that the school had exchanged roughly fifteen emails with AT about the issue. However communications had broken off a few months earlier following a change in AT personnel and that little response had been received since.
The school is not responsible for the operation of the buses and has directed concerned parents to voice their complaints with AT and the bus operator Go Bus.
Editors note: Updated after publication
Auckland Transport responded an hour after this article was published with this statement:
“We have focused our limited resources on getting children to schools within their zones in accordance with our policy under the Regional Public Transport Plan. We recognise there is a demand for out-of-zone travel and cater for this when we consider it is an efficient use of resources. Additionally some school routes have been consolidated, where they were travelling along the same roads as each other and had surplus capacity.
“We have removed school bus services from some schools where good public transport options exist or have recently been introduced as part of the New Network. Conversely we have also introduced some school services where public bus routes have been altered and no longer provide for students’ travel.
AT also said they would continue to investigate. The Collegian initially requested comment in March.
Go Bus, the bus operator provided this statement to The Collegian several minutes after this article was first published:
“We are aware demand at times can be high and have recommended to Auckland Transport that a review of the number of services it provides to MacLean’s College should be undertaken.
The driver of the bus cannot exceed his Certificate of Loading to ensure safe passage of customers on the bus.”
Written by Justin Hu, contributing edits by Angela Zhang, published on 06/08/18
Thanks to those who provided their experiences (listed below):
Colannah Figgins, Archi Tulsian, Jagjot Kaur, Thulashi Kandakumaran, Medha Penneru, Amy Jin, Ibrahim Madawi, Chanel Lai, Samridhi Gupta, Olivia Lee, Madeleine Bremner, Karen Wu, Nicholas Ye, Ren Saito, Etienne Naude, Jeffrey Dai, Raymond Zhang, Howard Wu, Iris Wu, Khushi Kohli, Vivian Li, Alice Park, Roy Zhao, Rhea Loasby, Jaden Covenden, Tamara Smith-Becerra, Stephanie Chong, Joshua Tan, Georgia Wang, Fiona Yu, Emily Chen, Campbell Telfer, Tiffany Ho, Joel Newson, Nico Muller, Joven Singh, Brooke Walker, Balroz Singh, Sean O’Loughlin, Niraj Patil, Sam Keane, Vincent Ng, Will Crozier, Ditoya Ghosh, Keegan Hayward, Ryan Nowacki, Piper Shields, Kevin Cao, Justin Kempton, Storm Bicknell, Grace Green. Editors note: Apologies if your name was butchered in an earlier revision, everything should be corrected now.