Wellington Scoop

How to restore confidence in the buses?

by Michael Lee
Are the changes to the bus fiasco being suggested by the Wellington Regional Council likely to be fulfilled? That question needs urgent attention.

A report to the council’s Sustainable Transport Committee says an operational team remains in place dedicated to “quickly resolving residual issues”. One of the ways being considered to improve the new network’s performance is increasing the number of direct services between Miramar and Karori.

Personally I feel the Council is showing how dysfunctional it is in handling the problems. There are several matters which need addressing.

Councillors acknowledge that the introduction of the new network has caused considerable discomfort for many bus customers, and that there are still problems to be dealt with.

How much consultation was carried out with the bus companies and the drivers themselves? Who, or what computer drew up the timetables? Did this happen in New Zealand or overseas?

Overcrowding and insufficient capacity on some key routes, plus the inaccuracy of the real-time information system at bus stops, have been identified as major frustrations for commuters, says chair Chris Laidlaw,

Why weren’t these problems foreseen before the new system started? Were customers consulted at all?

While the council has expressed its apologies to customers affected by the disruption, it also says it’s trying identify causes of the problems. As one solution to overcrowding, it’s working with the operator to introduce depot management practices that would ensure only the largest capacity buses are used at peak on routes 2, 3 and 36.

But I believe that larger buses {especially on routes like Karori south and west} will only further congest our narrow streets. We already have “large” buses on route 2. And I see no evidence of smaller buses on the Karori/Seatoun run. It’s a “cattle truck” mentality.

The Council plans to impose fines on “under-performing” operators, a move I abhor.

Why hasn’t it sat down with the operators and drivers and worked on issues such as tight timetables, which are sometimes resulting in drivers unable to have a comfort stop, especially on the Karori/Seatoun route. Drivers are running behind time, and are under severe stress.

How many NZ Bus drivers have resigned, and how many were made redundant?

Councillors need to give us a sensible and workable action plan, with public consultation as well. This is the only way to restore our confidence in the Wellington bus service, with the emphasis needing to be on service.

Michael Lee is a long time Karori resident and frequent bus user.


  1. David Mackenzie, 10. August 2018, 9:03

    Hear, hear!

  2. Jack Yan, 10. August 2018, 11:27

    We cannot blame NZ Bus or ‘small buses’ for the public transport mess. A friend drives one route and has the largest single-deckers around. [via twitter]

  3. Michael Gibson, 11. August 2018, 12:42

    Dear Chris (Laidlaw) – I appreciate that the Council’s reason for re-routing our Mairangi buses is to save out-of-town students a very short walk from the Railway Station to the end of Lambton Quay.
    However why do you allow older people to be kicked off buses at V.U.W. when they want to go to the Kelburn-Northland Medical Centre and that is where the bus is going in order to turn around?
    It is just possible that your colleagues in the Wellington Regional Development Agency could also see the merit of taking visitors by bus to and from the Cable Car Museum, the Carter Observatory, the top of the Botanic Garden, the Kelburn Pharmacy and the Cable-Car Cafe.
    Is this too “local” to concern Regional Development people? Are they too single-minded to ignore local people?

  4. Traveller, 12. August 2018, 10:50

    The 17e service that is scheduled to depart from Kowhai Park at 7.40am was cancelled three times in the past week. Creating mayhem for children who were depending on it to get to school on time. This is not the way to restore confidence in the buses. The old timetable’s number 8 buses from Kowhai Park were always reliable in the mornings.

  5. Traveller, 13. August 2018, 9:25

    This morning the bus app did not say that the 7.40 17e service from Kowhai Park was cancelled. So lots of school pupils turned up for the bus. And at 7.50 they were still waiting – their bus to school did not come. This experience, for a second week, is destroying any confidence in the reliability of the new bus service.

  6. CityZen, 13. August 2018, 13:09

    After another disastrous commute on the Wellington buses this morning, I have to ask myself, why do we keep paying for it? As I waited for 25 minutes, I rehearsed my speech “With respect driver, I cannot in good conscience pay for a service this unreliable”. Then tagged on of course. [via twitter]

  7. JennyKayNZ, 13. August 2018, 14:41

    News reports of building anger over the Wellington Buses mess is the tip of iceberg. New drivers may be learning routes but that won’t fix poor network design & loss of direct routes eg like Miramar to Newtown or Karori to Newtown. [via twitter]

  8. Trevor H, 13. August 2018, 19:10

    Wellingtonians only have themselves to blame for this disaster. They continue to vote like sleepwalkers for well past-use-by-date politicians. It will be the same next year. Ho hum.

  9. Prags, 14. August 2018, 11:57

    I wish there was some way we could find out if a bus is full before it comes by so I can find another way of getting where I need to go. Yesterday I had 3 full buses go past before I could finally get on one. I end up late for whatever I’m going to. [via twitter]

  10. Thomas Coughlan, 14. August 2018, 12:00

    Catching my third bus of the working week, and it’s the third time it’s been delayed. Already lost 27 minutes this week to bus delays and it’s only Tuesday morning….From Manners St to Parliament (basically the whole CBD) only one passenger thanked the driver when getting off the bus. Wellingtonians will know that’s kind of a big change. But the bus was 17 minutes late at the first stop and roughly 22 minutes late by the last stop. [via twitter]

  11. Sarah, 14. August 2018, 12:04

    Last #1 bus for Island Bay at 11:12pm on Willis St, driver stops and just says “Nope I’m stopping at Courtenay Place, should be another one right behind…” Guess what? There isn’t any! Getting tired of paying $15 for a uber every night. [via twitter]

  12. Lim, 14. August 2018, 13:07

    You only need to look at the various social media – Neighbourly, Facebook and Twitter. It has been over a month and the bus network is still not working for many people. Overcrowding, late and missing buses, phantom real-time tracking and not to mention many people who have now been forced to use alternative transport because the commute time is excessive and unreliable (eg. 1.5 hour or more for a simple 4 – 5 KM trip)

    It is a fundamental network design fault together with extremely poor operational implementation. Nothing short of bringing back many of the old point to point design is going to address root cause of problems.