Wellington Scoop

How to fix Karori’s bus problems

by Mike Flinn
In my last report, my comparison of peak-hour passenger loads in March with proposed trips in the new 15 July timetables showed that the Karori Road/Glenmore Street corridor could result in the highest average loads per trip within the city. On 6 August and 7 August I followed up with passenger counts because after three weeks I assumed the new services would have settled down.

Both the inwards AM Peak service and the outwards PM Peak service were clearly under strain with many passengers having extended waits at bus stops and full buses were by-passing stops. Both Peak periods have some similar issues, reduced trip numbers and route changes but each has its own variables.

The AM Peak service along Karori Road now has only a 10 minute frequency on the No 2 service to Seatoun through the CBD, supplemented by a combined 10 minute frequency service from Karori West and Karori South to Brandon Street only, plus two extra trips around 7.30AM from the Mall to Brandon Street, which gives 26 trips over the 2 hour period.

The previous timetable had 19 trips on route 3 to the CBD and onwards to Courtenay Place and Lyall Bay plus 7 trips from Karori West or Karori South to Courtenay Place, also a total of 26 trips. However, up to 250 extra passengers used the cancelled Route 17 (6 trips) until 15 July and they still have to be carried along Karori Road.

In March at the Karori Tunnel I counted 1315 passengers on 28 trips from Karori Road for Glenmore Street, an average of 47 passengers per trip and on 6 August I counted 1285 passengers on 27 trips from Karori Road, an average of 48 passengers per trip.

The current AM timetable has a similar number of trips before 7.30AM compared to the previous timetable but after that time and especially after 8AM buses are filling up soon at stops even before the Mall, increasing waiting times for passengers at later stops until after 9AM.

Clearly the solution is at least two additional trips. But a partial solution, if there is to be any delay, would be to extend West and South trips after 8AM to Courtenay Place to provide some relief through Karori.

For passengers in Glenmore Street after the Tunnel, there are now only the five trips on Service 13 from Mairangi with capacity to pick them up as the former Route 21 from Wrights Hill is cancelled (and these two routes previously provided 11 extra trips down Glenmore Street). The route indicator on the front of buses should be changed from “Brandon St.” to “Lambton Quay at Brandon St” to reduce any doubt some passengers may have as to where Brandon Street is.

Up to 9AM, four of the five AM Peak trips on Route 18e to Miramar (via Kelburn, Taranaki St, Newtown and Kilbirnie) now pass down Karori Road. Some passengers from Route 17 may use this service but many passengers have transferred from the previous Route 18 service.

In the PM Peak timetables, there were previously 13 trips listed on Route 3 from Lyall Bay between 4PM and 6PM, five trips timed from Courtenay Place and two which started along Lambton Quay, a total of 20 trips to Karori Park. In addition, there were 11 trips to Karori South or Karori West from Courtenay Place, a total of 31 trips up Glenmore St to Karori Rd. There were also a further 3 trips on Route 13 to Mairangi and 6 trips to Wrights Hill on the now cancelled Route 21 up Glenmore St.

The new timetables have in the PM Peak time 12 trips from Seatoun through Courtenay Place on Route 2 and 10 trips from Brandon Street to Karori South or Karori West on Routes 33 and 34 a total of 22 trips. There are a further 5 trips from Brandon Street to Mairangi on Route 13, also up Glenmore Street.

This shows that the trip numbers to Karori Rd. have reduced from 31 to 22 and up Glenmore Street from 40 to 27 and this is clearly a major cause of the delays and full buses in the PM peak.

The passenger count during the PM Peak period on services to Karori Road at the Lambton Quay North stop was 1327 in March with 30 trips at an average of 44 passengers per trip. On 6 August the count was 1295 passengers on 23 trips – an average of 56 passengers per trip.

My observations on the PM Peak Hour services at Lambton Quay North and Lambton Quay at Brandon Street show that the anticipated 10 minute interval between buses from Seatoun at Courtenay Place is not being achieved and is irregular with some buses starting from there in twos or closely spaced.

This means that buses are filling up before Lambton Quay/Brandon Street and passengers for the South and West trips from Brandon Street are not able to get on the buses from Seatoun, leaving passengers at Lambton Quay North waiting to pick up the last of the available capacity. Glenmore Street passengers then depend on the Mairangi No 13 service to get home and I suspect that some CBD passengers use the longer No 37 service to Wright’s Hill via Kelburn just to get home.

Overall, very unsatisfactory services.

Additional trips are required immediately and South and West trips should be changed to start from Courtenay Place not Brandon Street after 5PM (with a 15 mins earlier start time from Courtenay Place).

Claims that the use of small buses is causing some of the difficulties and delays are not borne out from my observations. On Route 2 nearly all trips were run with 3 axle buses (capacity up to 75 passengers) and the majority of trips on Routes 33 and 34 were run with 3 axle buses with only a minority with 2 axle buses (capacity up to 60 passengers).

Apart from the reduced number of bus trips, intended to reduce costs, there is also the impact of the creation of the Karori Tunnel “Hub” and the resulting cancellation or diversion of some Karori routes.

In my opinion the “Hub” is not justified as the previous network provided a good range of services without the need for passengers to change buses. The Karori Tunnel “Hub” and bus route changes certainly need review.

Mike Flinn is a former assistant general manager of Wellington City Transport.


  1. michael Lee, 13. August 2018, 10:50

    A very comprehensive and revealing report Mike – congratulations on showing up all the deficiencies of the new flawed system. Fewer services and fewer bus stops can only infuriate customers.
    As a regular customer, I fully endorse the idea of bringing back the South and West Karori services to start from Courtenay Place. As I have reported previously, I also can see no” smaller” buses on the Number 2 route as alleged by the Regional Council. “Hubs” are a system from the past and are proving a disaster for passengers trying to get to work or to an appointment on time. Abolish them.
    Re-calculate the timetable between Seatoun and Karori so that drivers have time to have a rest stop. No wonder they are resigning.

  2. Peter Deefholts, 13. August 2018, 11:28

    While the timetable for the number 2 from Karori shows a bus every 10 minutes, the reality is a bus every 15 – 20 minutes. The significant increase in traffic from Karori into town (from around 7am onwards) shows that people are choosing to drive rather than be subject to what is now a very stressful commute – with getting home from work an even more frustrating experience. On average it is taking us 30 – 45 minutes longer to get home from work in the evening.