After more than a decade working in London, Julian Ostling knows all about commuting. Hence when his Kiwi wife Emily relocated the family to Snells Beach in 2011, Julian had no qualms about commuting to work in downtown Auckland. “Just point me to the commuter bus,” Julian recalls with a chuckle. “I carpooled for a few years as a feasibility study,” explains Julian, before finally forging ahead with his bus brainchild, the Mahu City Express.

The road to launching his new commuter coach, however, was strewn with chicanes at every turn. Unfazed and well versed as a change agent after establishing his own enterprise as a business analyst, the energetic entrepreneur negotiated his way through licensing issues, the Land Transport Act and the gnarl of Auckland Transport red tape.

Finally, on Labour Weekend 2015, Julian fired up a 16-seater bus and chauffeured his first four passengers on the maiden Mahu City Express tour to the Big Smoke. “It felt euphoric whizzing down the bus lane for the first time,” grins Julian. Four months later the coach was chocka.

Currently, two coaches transport 250 passengers each week on non-stop services from Snells Beach and Warkworth down to the CBD, and, with the growing traffic logjam often bringing commuters to a crawl if not a grinding halt, Julian’s comfy bus seats are filling up fast.

Passengers love the service: “Taking the Mahu Express is a lot less stressful,” says Diane Halstead, an educator at Auckland Art Gallery. “It’s ecologically sound, and I love the sense of camaraderie on board.” What’s more, Julian adds a personal touch with Magnum Mondays and Fizzy Fridays, and he’ll even whip up a birthday cake.

“Passengers also save time and money,” says David O’Sullivan, Julian’s business partner at Ostling and O’Sullivan. “We gain two hours a day where people can listen to podcasts, e-books or music, some check their social media, answer e-mails or simply relax. It’s a great buffer between home and work life.”

If that’s not convincing enough, let’s crunch the numbers: catching the bus slashes the average commuting time by at least 30 minutes each morning. And it’s good news for the wallet. Taking fuel, maintenance, parking and tolls into account, Mahu City Express commuters more than halve their costs.

Julian Ostling is switching up a gear and aims to add more services, but first he’s keen to hear what Junction readers need. So let’s give him our feedback and do something great for our environment, pocket and lifestyle.


What stops you from jumping on the Mahu City Express?