Auckland Transport’s (AT) bus fleet is struggling to keep up with extra demand brought about by March fever.
Traditionally the busiest month of the year for public transport providers, this year’s March has been particularly taxing for AT, as passengers report overcrowding and longer wait times. An ongoing driver shortage, returning tertiary students, and less workers taking holidays are all contributing to AT’s resource shortage – despite a December board report in 2018 which urged the organization to prepare for these very issues.
Rosmini College, like many other Auckland secondary schools, has its after school bus network catered by Auckland Transport. Unfortunately for students and staff, resource shortages have left the school with a fleet incapable of accommodating the high demand from students. Students at Rosmini College reported they had been left kneeling, sharing seats, and standing in dangerous areas in order to fit onto their buses.
The school’s bus warden expressed disappointment with AT’s oversights. “There is not a lot I can do,” he told NZ Herald. “I can only ring the bus company and ask for a second bus but if they say no then that is their call”. He also said students who AT were unable to accommodate had been forced to ring their parents at the office to organize transport instead.
Students aren’t the only ones voicing their frustrations – many parents have also expressed disappointment with AT’s service. Parent Libby Haskell, whose daughter rides the bus every day, says she regularly reports overcrowding issues through the AT feedback form. However, she says has not found a response since her first report on February 13. “From my experience, this is a bit of an ongoing issue,” she told NZ Herald. “It has been worse this year than last year.”
It is believed AT’s issues have arisen in part due to disinterest among workers. Auckland NZ Bus driver Nathan Whare told RNZ the industry was experiencing a drought of experienced drivers, as many considered the job unattractive. “There’s not much time left for people to bond with their families and you want to couple that with what we get paid – it’s really low and you could go Monday to Friday doing whatever job and get similar pay.”
Auckland isn’t the only city experiencing driver shortages. In Wellington, the number of bus drivers in training has fallen significantly. “It went from 10 or 12 candidates [in training] a week and it actually took a dive to zero,” NZ Bus executive Zane Fulljames told RNZ. “Currently we have two people”.