Auckland airport shuttle

Not the most scintillating topic for a post I know.

I hate taking taxis from airports. I always prefer to try and figure out the public transport in places I visit, and use it. I find that way, I feel much more able to find my way round cities and freer to explore. And save money too.

Generally, I find it a bit of a struggle to figure things out to begin with. Some cities have prepaid tickets for buses, some take cash on board. Some have flat fares and free transfers, some don’t. Plus, of course, I’m often in unfamiliar territory and/or struggling with a foreign language.

I think Airports could generally do better at explaining things like this and Auckland Airport definitely could. There’s a fairly frequent bus downtown (or to the CBD as they say in these parts) and it was interesting to pay attention to the passenger experience – mine and that of others.

For starters, outside the terminal there a bus stop which gives the times of the first and last bus… but not the frequency. So unless your travelling at 6am or 11pm, that’s none too helpful. Inside the terminal, there are dozens of leaflets about hotels and tourist destinations… but there isn’t one that says – in bold capitals please – HOW TO GET TO THE CITY FROM HERE. I did find some info in a city guide, but why make it so hard… I’d have thought this would be the number one concern of many arriving passengers after getting their bags and immigrating.

Then on the bus, there are dozens more leaflets… but as as far as I could see, no clear map showing the route, so that passengers could anticipate where to get off. So people were struggling, often in faltering English, to extract this information from a driver who had other things to worry about.

And the driver called out fragmentary information as he went along. But it was jolly hard to make out one “backpackers” from the next. And I speak the language! How come no PA system at least?

I noticed on the trip in and out that there was an onboard TV which wasn’t working. Maybe that was designed to give me the most important information we needed?

Do the managment of this service travel on the coach and observe the obvious signs of anxiety on the faces and in the body language of many passengers?

On the return trip, I saw a couple of passengers who had just come in from the airport, not knowing where to get off. They had to get the driver to stop on his way back out of the city so they could bail out before being whizzed straight back to the airport.

I’m a pretty confident traveller and good at figuring these things out, and it was hard for me.

So how about some much clearer signage, perhaps multilingual. And leaflets with information about the bus more prominent than the ones on how to jump off the City’s tallest building. Though perhaps that’s what some passengers might want to do after this experience…

You don’t need to hire a fancy market research company to figure this out, surely?

And while I’m on this soapbox, here’s a thought about what humans do when they have up to 20 minutes to wait for a bus. They get out a book, get distracted, and don’t spend the entire time scanning the streets looking for a particular bus. Yet both times, I almost missed the bus because it didn’t pull into the stop, but merely slowed down as it passed… I don’t know if that’s standard protocol.

And for those of you who won’t have to deal with this particular bus, I think there’s a moral in the tale for all of us. No doubt including me… I wonder how easy this website is for a first time visitor…?

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