Wellington Scoop

How to fix the VUW bus problems

by Mike Flinn
Bus services to Victoria University have to cope with large numbers of students and staff arriving in time for weekday lectures beginning at 9am, 10am and 11am. Lower numbers arrive or leave for the rest of the day and only small numbers need bus services at evenings and weekends.

The largest source of university services is trips to or from the Railway Station.

Until 15 July the eastern and southern suburbs were served by Route 18, the southern suburbs and CBD were served by Route 22/23 from Houghton Bay/Southgate and the CBD and Station were served by Route 20 from Mt Victoria to Highbury. From the North and West came services from Karori (Routes 17 and 18), Route 22/23 from Mairangi and Route 47 from Johnsonville, Khandallah and Ngaio.

The major changes after 15 July have resulted in Route 18 from Miramar being reduced to five morning peak trips only and a new all day “Hub” introduced at Courtenay Place with a 10 minute frequency to carry students from the southern and eastern suburbs after changing there from other bus services. This “Hub” service includes the new Wright’s Hill service through the Karori Tunnel “Hub” and shuttle trips (Route 21).

The Railway Station trips (Route 22) now include a mainly 10 minute frequency service incorporating the Mairangi service that is terminated at the Station.

Karori students are provided with Route 21 trips and five morning peak Route 18e trips along Karori Road. The northern suburbs students have to catch extended trips from Mairangi with an extra travel time of at least 10 minutes.

On Wednesday, I looked at the services from the Station, Courtenay Place and Route 18e from the southern and eastern suburbs arriving between 7am and 11am.

Before 15 July, arrivals in this period (recorded in early March) were 1107 from the Station (Routes 17 and 20), 580 on Routes 18 and 47 (eastern and southern suburbs) and 117 on Routes 22/23 from southern suburbs and CBD, a total of 1794.

On Wednesday my counts showed a total of 907 came from the Railway Station (Route 22) and 687 from Courtenay Place (Route 21) and Route 19e, a total of 1594.

Until around 9am, Route 18e has four of its five trips arriving. Until this time trips on Route 22 from the Station are under severe pressure with 398 passengers on eight trips, at an average of 50 per trip. Of the eight trips, four had over 50 passengers, with one having 72. Between 8.30am and 9am, the 10 minute frequency has two extra trips to give a partial 5 minute frequency. But this is still inadequate given the large numbers wanting to get to 9am lectures.

Many of the trips were late by 10 minutes or more due to the heavy loads and road congestion.

Before 9am with Route 18e operating, there is a lesser demand from Courtenay Place (Route 21) with 197 passengers on eight trips, an average of 25 per trip. In this time period the ten minute frequency is too generous and the frequency should be reduced to 15 minutes and the resources then freed up switched to support Route 22 at the Station to reduce trip loads. Route 18e brought 164 passengers on four trips, an average of 27 per trip. This gives total arrivals of 759.

After 9am there are distinct peak demands for 10am and 11am. From the Station, 509 passengers came on 13 trips, an average of 39 per trip. There were five trips with over 50 passengers but timekeeping was good. From Courtenay Place 304 passengers came on 11 trips, an average of 27 per trip (two trips carried over 50 passengers) and the 1 bus on Route 18e had 22 passengers. Arrivals in this period totalled 839 and for the whole period from 7am totalled 1594.

In the short term the increase in trips on Route 22 must have priority but if Route 18 is reinstated throughout the day between Kilbirnie and Karori then both the Courtenay Place “Hub” and the Karori Tunnel “Hub” concepts should be dumped and an updated version of pre-15 July services reintroduced to cut passenger transfers between buses to a minimum.

Finally, I see reports of difficulties with Route 2 via Hataitai to Miramar and Seatoun and Route 36 via Hataitai to Lyall Bay.

Before 15 July in the AM Peak period through Hataitai there were 35 trips, including 13 from Hataitai. Since 15 July the number of trips has been cut to 27, including three from Hataitai.

In the PM Peak period before 15 July there were 25 trips from the Railway Station on routes 2, 5 and 6 through Hataitai. After 15 July there are now 12 trips on Route 2 from Karori to Seatoun, 8 trips on Route 36 from the Station to Lyall Bay and 3 trips on Route 12e to Strathmore on this corridor.

This means that there are two fewer trips overall.

Nearly all the Route 36 departures from the Station are timed 3 minutes after No 2 buses are timetabled at Lambton Quay North but given the travel times on longer routes, such as the No 2, are variable, the sequence of trips through the CBD on a day to day basis will vary.

GWRC has refused to run any PM Peak trips to Hataitai to keep short distance passengers off these longer routes. With all these factors, it is no surprise that there are complaints.

And also …

The Platform C shelter at Lambton Terminal has the white line for buses stopping about 4 metres short of the section for passengers to board. Consequently, passengers have to queue in the open next to the shelter to board a bus. Some common sense needs to be applied here.

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


  1. Gary.tram, 12. August 2018, 11:29

    Thanks Mike for your well fhought out suggestions. These are practical solutions that can be put in place very quickly and at very little cost. Is the GWRC willing to listen and take action or do they still have their heads in the sand. The Transport committee need to be reminded that they work for the ratepayers.

  2. Winona, 13. August 2018, 20:17

    Reinstate route 18 throughout between Kilbirnie to Karori. It is taking the students double the amount of time to get to Victoria University.

  3. Keith Flinders, 13. August 2018, 22:48

    At the GWRC sustainable transport meeting last Wednesday which I attended it was indicated that the 18 route would be reinstated, but no timing was given. This will be welcomed by not only students at Vic, but by Karori and Miramar north people who want to get to the hospital without using multiple buses and the uncertainty of not geting there on time.

  4. H., 15. August 2018, 10:25

    Surely also thinking about the cablecar needs to be added to the mix. It’s a 10 minute service from the heart of town that goes to only a few minutes walk from VUW. (And under the new bus system the heart of town has particularly poor connections to VUW).
    However, despite being originally introduced as a commuter service & having been used by commuters for many years, it is now being deliberately excluded from the commuter transport network. The clearest sign of this is that the pricing is very different for using it & using buses & that the transfer pricing doesn’t apply to moving between it & buses. (You can also tell in that only some snapper cards work with it).

    The justification that’s been given for excluding it from commuter pricing is that about 1/2 the passengers on it are tourists – but : 1) the fastest way to get commuters to stop using it is to price it for tourists not commuters – and the pricing differential has been in place for several years (so there is a a vicious cycle going)
    & 2) They’ve just made a huge difference between cash & snapper fares on buses – surely that difference could be used to ensure that tourists pay more than Wellingtonians anyway.