Wellington Scoop

Refusing to pay bus fares? A plan from Newtown organiser

Residents at the Newtown Community Centre meeting last night protesting against the new bus service. Photo: RNZ / Emma Hatton

Report from RNZ
Fed up Wellington bus passengers should consider not paying their fares in protest at the capital’s revamped public transport network, says a community organiser.

Kara Lipski, organiser of last night’s Newtown meeting to discuss bus problems, said she set up the meeting so people could come and share stories and to feel like they were not alone. She said with the support of bus drivers the public might hold a fare strike.

“The reason why I have suggested the fare strike action is to put [the regional council] on notice that we’re not going to go away. If we don’t see a return to the bus service that we had, then there will be action taken.”

More than 100 people packed out the Newtown Community Centre last night at a meeting for commuters to come together and vent.

Mother of three and Newtown resident, Kayte Fairfax, said she had not taken the bus since the changes came into effect on 15 July.

“I’ve got a three-year-old and 18-month twins. You say, ‘maybe two changes are okay but three’s a bit much’ – no way can I take three kids and stand in a bus stop or a hub with a shelter or no shelter, keeping three young children safe while we do a little change-over.

“I would challenge the regional council to think about this in terms of equity and who isn’t able to come to public meetings and who can’t catch the buses anymore.”

Four councillors attended the meeting, to listen.

Go Wellington bus driver Trish Fenaughty said her first week driving under the changes was the most stressed she had ever been.

“I felt like, I need to get [commuters] on, because I know there’s a limit on how many buses come through here so everybody was getting on and then I had a 24-year-old faint … maybe a panic attack. So I’m sorry to those of you who get crammed on.”

She said she had to take the afternoon off, during that first week, due to stress.

DomPost: Fiery meeting about buses


  1. LoFi Sheriff, 13. August 2018, 8:39

    Was really disappointed in Sarah Free saying she supported the new bus hub system at the Newtown meeting last night. [via twitter]

  2. Sarah Free, 13. August 2018, 8:40

    Yes, don’t think I replied well. Larger hubs like Kilbirnie could work in principle; and offer a choice of destinations – but only if there are frequent reliable services and hubs are attractive (good shelter, lighting, information, shops etc). None of which is reality right now. [via twitter]

  3. Lim Leong, 13. August 2018, 9:41

    Hi Sarah. With all due respect. I beg to differ. The new “Hub and Spoke” transportation model is never ever going to work well for Wellington. “Hub and Spoke” model has been around for over 50 years and its benefits, limitations and drawback are well understood.

    A critical assumption of a hub and spoke design is that traffic must be allowed to flow unhindered from the spoke to the hub. Unfortunately, this assumption does not hold true given Wellington’s geography and topography. Wellington has mostly single lane, narrow roads and the traffic flow is unpredictable at the best of time. Any delay on the route leading to the hub will cause a domino effect throughout the entire network. This is what commuters are experiencing with excessive delays and more delays caused by missed connections.

    Real world examples of where hub and spoke model have worked well have multi lane roads and/or dedicated bus lanes to ensure that traffic can get smoothly to the hub for a transfer to the spoke. Wellington does not have the luxury of multi lane roads or dedicated bus lanes. Wellington simply does not have the space.

    It was GWRC’s insistence on the hub and spoke design which created this mess/debacle in the first place ignoring feedback from thousands of rate payers during the last consultation round.

    Root cause of problem is a fundamental network design flaw and the only resolution is to bring back many of the old point to point network design while retaining the small portion of new design which has worked.

  4. Rose, 13. August 2018, 12:44

    I saw Sarah Free this morning checking out the issues we commented on last night about the GPS boards not working, and taking note of the buses that were not showing on the Boards, so at least she follows through. I agree with the previous comments. There was nothing wrong with the routes and timetables that we had before. Return it to this, offer more services – we are not prepared to wait for months. It needs sorting NOW.

    Sarah does need to listen that we don’t want hubs. They are unnecessary for such a short journey. Its less than 5ks into town. Complete waste of money.

    Also i agree about how fantastic the drivers have been and we should not be taking it out on them. It’s not their fault. I’ts GWRC and the City Council who need to step up and take responsibility. They didn’t listen to any feedback we gave them or they have manipulated the data to suit their needs.

  5. Revolt Wellington, 13. August 2018, 19:46

    How come at the bus meeting in Newtown, 99% of the people present supported a quick transition (by 2025) to electric buses to fight climate change, and yet the Regional Council is not on board?? [via twitter]

  6. Dan Newman, 13. August 2018, 19:49

    Too many buses just don’t turn up or are late Metlink, and your systems for communicating that to passengers are woeful. Can’t rely on public transport. [via twitter]

  7. Josie B., 13. August 2018, 20:40

    @revolt – how many were at the meeting? 99% suggests it must have been 100 or more.

  8. Keith Flinders, 13. August 2018, 22:42

    Josie: There were about 120 at Sunday’s Newtown meeting, being about the max capacity of the hall. The meeting was arranged and run by Kara Lipski whose efforts were apreciated by all. Since then, 16 have signed the petition at the Revolt web site at http://www.revoltwellington.co.nz. At this web site are links to many news items about the current debacle, and about the effects of diesel pollution and noise on human health.

    Next meeting is at Kilbirnie on 26 August where Paul Eagle will again be the MC.

  9. lindsay, 14. August 2018, 8:53

    And two more meetings have been announced:

    Public meeting about the buses:
    Thursday 6th September, 7.30 pm
    Miramar Gateway Baptist

    Let’s Talk Buses – Hutt Valley
    Tuesday 11 September at 7pm
    Petone Rugby Football Club · Lower Hutt

  10. Glen Smith, 14. August 2018, 17:19

    Lin Leong is right. The root cause if the current fiasco is a fundamental design flaw which requires fixing. A bit like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, our officials pat our shoulders reassuringly while pathetically, and in the end futilely, tinkering with a fatally flawed basic transport design. It is surprising how wrong they can get it when there so many examples of getting things right.

    I am currently in Munich, a city of 2.6 million. Cars are surprisingly scarce. Instead pedestrians are everywhere and vast numbers of cycles ply the extensive cycle networks. Airport trains leave every 10 minutes. Buses plus ‘heavy’ and ‘light’ rail are pervasive, each filling their own niche but essentially all following the logical design of ‘lines’ that start at a peripheral location, traverse the central city then continue to another peripheral location. No one is forced to transfer at ‘hubs’ to get to the city. Instead there are multiple lines across the city with ‘heavy’ rail (underground), ‘light’ rail (surface) and buses commonly running in parallel, often immediately beside each other. Having adequate across town capacity means the stupidity of a ‘Hub’ and ‘Spoke’,that forced additional transfers, is unnecessary.

    Unlike Wellington’s tight geography, Munich has broad avenues. But there is no reason we can’t follow the same logical design principles on a smaller scale. Instead we have rudimentary cycleways, truncated rail that terminates at the Station, no rail to the airport despite 59,000 predicted transfers by 2031, and planners continue to try and stuff endlessly more commuters down an already over capacity Golden Mile. Unsurprisingly people stay in their cars and congestion protections are dire. All of this can be fixed, although not immediately. Planners need to listen to the public who have been telling them the solution for decades. Fiddling around with the deck chairs while the ship is sinking is futile.

  11. Ross Clark, 14. August 2018, 22:59

    Glen – agreed (having been to Munich myself); and what this confirms is how much the travelling public does not want to transfer in the journey. Transfers don’t work in a bus-to-bus situation, unless the service frequencies are very high, and often don’t work in a bus-to-rail situation either – hence the direct bus services which come into Wellington from the Hutt Valley and the Kapiti Coast Line.

  12. Lim Leong, 15. August 2018, 8:56

    Having a design which requires multiple transfers to get to a destination in a *compact* city like Wellington is pure madness. There are so many real examples across all suburbs which highlight the fundamental design flaws. For a trip from Northland to the CBD (approx 2.7 Kms) you now have to transfer at the Railway Station or walk from the Terrace, adding an additional 15 -20 mins. Wellington College students who have after-school activities now have to endure a long 1 to 1.5 hours journey to get home – that is assuming you don’t miss the connecting bus. I know of an older couple in Wilton with mobility issues who now are too scared to use the bus network due to transfer. The new network is a show stopper for some people.

    I really don’t know what the transport consultants/planners were thinking (or rather smoking) when they dreamed up this fancy hub and spoke model. This is despite thousands of feedback at the last so called “consultation round”. People may not have used the technical jargon “hub and spoke” vs “point to point”. But people are essentially saying that they want “point to point” notwithstanding the fact that “hub and spoke” design will never work well with Wellington’s topography and roading constraints.

    There is only one answer to this problem. Rollback/reinstate the old network, stabalise the network quickly and then seek further improvements to the old design by incorporating some hub and spoke design *where* it makes sense.

  13. Mike Mellor, 15. August 2018, 20:27

    Glen Smith: one of the issues in Wellington is that we don’t have Munich’s wide avenues in the city centre – everything goes down the Golden Mile, where there are too many buses, and we haven’t got the room or the patronage for multiple parallel modes. The conundrum that GWRC faced was how to keep access from the suburbs while reducing the number of buses along the Golden Mile (and there are still too many for reliable operation). Their solution is hubs, which have existed at the region’s railway stations for years, but seems a step too far for bus/bus changes (exacerbated by chronic unreliability). Where to from here is a difficult question, particularly with everything nowadays being contractual.

    Ross Clark: there are no longer any direct bus services into Wellington from Kapiti (they go no further than Porirua), and the Hutt Valley ones are going through an upheaval, having changed operator, being outside the Metlink network, and opting out of Snapper.

  14. Ross Clark, 15. August 2018, 22:05

    Mike – thanx for the update. What scope is there for running more buses, especially the Hutt services, along the quays?

    The idea that I have always wanted to test, was whether there was a market for direct buses to and from the Taranaki St area which would use the quays and bypass the Golden Mile completely. Thoughts, anyone?

  15. Neil Douglas, 15. August 2018, 22:36

    People don’t like changing buses! It’s not just the connection time, it’s the hassle, inconvenience, anxiety and discomfort.

    Many studies have been done to estimate the size of the transfer penalty and I’ve done a few myself. The latest was in Sydney and came up with a penalty of 15 minutes for a bus to bus transfer as viewed by bus passengers. They also valued the time at the connection at 1.3 more ‘costly’ than the equivalent time spent on a bus.

    So a 5 minute transfer would add 15mins + 5mins x 1.3 = 21.5 minutes to a bus trip.

    These values can be used to work out the patronage loss from introducing a transfer. But their size does indicate a sizeable disincentive from introducing transfers.


  16. Lim Leong, 16. August 2018, 7:56

    Contract is an instrument and it is not an impediment to change. It is how much you value and put your customers first. This is speaking from someone who has led and implemented some very complex nationwide data transport networks. Data transport network and physical transport network are built on the same theory and design foundation.

    The new bus network is achieving exactly the opposite of what it sets out to do, which is to improve service and reduce overall network congestion. More and more people are going with private cars/Uber/Taxi which will cause more congestion. Commuters have no choice – who would want to risk missing an important appointment using the public transport network. Likewise, who would want to take over an hour to travel 3km using the bus network.

    If there is no radical change soon, we could well see a fleet of clean and green electric buses circling the hub and spoke with few or no passengers. Meanwhile, overall traffic congestion is worse than ever!

  17. Glen Smith, 16. August 2018, 16:13

    Mike. I absolutely think we can replicate Munich’s logical design despite our narrow roadways – we just need to get past the mindblock that everything has to go down the Golden Mile. The spine study started from the premise (fixed underlying assumption) of a single PT corridor, a premise so mind bogglingly stupid I wonder if they were talking to Trump. This has prevailed and eventually led to the Hub and Spoke design, a desperate and ultimately doomed attempt to eke out sufficient capacity along the Golden Mile for future growth and for mode transfer from car to PT.
    We need additional across town capacity in the form of parallel high quality bus, rail and cycle corridors. The Golden Mile is the logical bus corridor, the Quays the ideal rail corridor (using 2 of the six lanes) and Featherston Street the best route for a high quality dual cycleway using parking space from one side of the road (cars already occupy 30% of the city and can be stacked in car parking buildings). Hey presto you have all the across town capacity you are likely ever to need to run ‘lines’ of different modes, all within a few hundred meters of most CBD destinations.

    Lim (apologies for the previous mistype). Agree absolutely with almost all your comments. Except we should quickly stabilise the current system as you say but then not introduce any hub and spoke design but instead plan to ADD (not substitute) a rail corridor parallel to buses (along the Quays) and transfer some of the across town ‘lines’ to rail. This will take some time.

    Neil. Yes planners seem to ignore the very high ‘disincentive’ penalty associated with transfers and just look at the ‘walk and wait’ time. You would think they knew better.

  18. Lim Leong, 16. August 2018, 20:27

    Glen. I enjoy reading your analysis and agree with you that there are many real world examples that Wellington can adapt to make it work with some common sense.

    The latest press release today from GWRC specifically on the reinstatement of Bus 18 has proven to me that GWRC refuses to listen and fails to consult in good faith.

    GWRC is still insisting the new hub and spoke model is the right design for Wellington when everyone is telling them they don’t want hubs and the real world data and feedback have proven that the new network model is fundamentally flawed. I don’t think there is any other option for the common people but to fight on …

  19. Ross Clark, 16. August 2018, 21:01

    Neil Douglas – thank you – this puts some hard numbers on what we have always known.

  20. Lim Leong, 18. August 2018, 21:23

    Hi Neil. Thank you for sharing your research. Very interesting article you did on Transfer Penalty. To many people, the transfer penalty is very real especially in a compact city like Wellington. The fear of missing a connection and being late for work, an appointment etc means people are opting for private cars/uber/taxi currently.

    I learn something new from you as Transfer Penalty is something that does not feature in a data transport network. Data transport networks only have to worry about bits, bytes and packets. However many of the underlying network architecture design considerations are the same across data transport networks and physical transport networks, even right down to technical jargon.

  21. John Rankin, 19. August 2018, 7:23

    1. @GlenSmith is exactly right that the root cause of the problem is the single PT corridor through the CBD. And right again that the solution is a second, parallel high quality corridor. There is no sense addressing the symptoms without also addressing the cause.

    2. It would be interesting to repeat the @NeilDouglas survey in Vancouver or Edmonton in Canada, where bus-to-bus transfers “just work” — services run on time and missed connections are pretty much unheard of. @RossClark suggests that higher frequency is the answer, which reduces the impact of missed connections, but I’m not convinced this is the whole story. It’s treating the symptom, not the cause, which is that buses don’t keep to their timetables. We first need to reduce the likelihood of missed connections, by focusing on better time-keeping. In Wellington, increasing the frequency may even make time-keeping worse.

    3. We are facing a multi-faceted problem, with no silver bullet that will fix it. We are going to need a broad range of interventions, each bringing incremental improvements. For example, I noticed in Vancouver that a bus signalling to pull out from a bus stop has priority over other traffic: other vehicles must yield to let the bus go first. Drivers who don’t give way get ticketed. Wellington might wish to consider introducing this approach. I’m guessing bus drivers would welcome such a rule, as it would make their task a bit less stressful, while eliminating one of the factors that creates delays.

  22. Neil Douglas, 19. August 2018, 8:27

    Lim, transfer penalties are well established – when I did my PhD (1980-1984) at Leeds University, a colleague was researching transfer penalties for railways from behaviour (times and costs on routes that have transfers or are direct) and from surveys of peoples ‘stated opinions’. The penalties increased with distance reflecting unfamiliarity/anxiety/bags etc).London Underground has estimated them from peoples choices across the network and they tend to be lower reflecting the high frequency of service, familiarity, ingrained mental maps of the system. And even NZ has estimated some but back in 2001 as part of a national ‘Value of Time’ study. These 17 year old values are still referenced in the NZTA Economic Evaluation so I would assume that GWRC used them in evaluating their new bus plan. See page 5-463. Waiting time is valued as double time spent on the bus and the transfer penalty is 5 minutes. So a transfer with a 5 minute wait would add 15 minutes according to NZTA.


  23. Lim Leong, 19. August 2018, 9:56

    @Neil Douglas. Many thanks for the URL to the NZTA EEM study. I believe GWRC has been very wrong to assume people will just to suck up the transfer penalty. Very flawed assumption as people don’t want to do a transfer in a compact city and Hub and Spoke design will never work properly with Wellington single lane, narrow roads.

    @John Rankin. I agree with your view that increasing frequency could actually cause more delay and unreliable service. Wellington does not have the infrastructure to support higher frequency buses as you cannot control what is going to happen on single lane, narrow roads. Personally I have noticed the high frequency Bus 22 which is supposed to be every 10 mins. They are either not on time or they arrive at the same time following one another. If you are relying on the 22 to catch a connecting bus at Vic U, you are likely to miss the connection. The knock-on impact is then the person has to wait a long time because the connecting bus is low frequency.

    In data transport, this phenomenon is known as “network collision” and in a physical transport network it is “bus bunching”. This is what happens when you ramp up the throughput in a constrained environment. This is a well studied and well known phenomenon in network design. IMHO, the answer is not more frequency but more direct routes with the correct spacing. This is actually what the old point to point network design is. The old network was largely working before it was unjustifiably dumped.

  24. Kerry, 19. August 2018, 22:59

    There is a parallel debate on my 15 August light rail article. The barriers are these, and they need to be tackled together:
    — Too many buses on the golden mile because demand exceeds capacity.
    — Bad timekeeping because there are too many buses.
    — Very few alternatives because there are only three roads—for all purposes—between Thorndon Quay and Frank Kitts Park.
    — Connections slow and unreliable because of bad timekeeping.
    — Reducing bus numbers is possible but requires good connections.

    Neil: A 15 minutes time-penalty in Wellington was reasonable a couple of months ago, and might be optimistic today, but it doesn’t have to be like that. Time-penalties become negligible if buses and light rail are on opposite sides of the same platform, with doors open at the same time. This is not always possible, but other good options work if the timekeeping is right.

    The first step is a reasonable definition of timekeeping. Zurich was achieving 95% of services less than 90 seconds late in 1994, and GW could come close by 2028 (when light rail opens) if it tried (with WCC):
    — No services more than 30 seconds early leaving any stop.
    — No more than 5% of services more than three minutes late at any time.

    The reason why light rail is a game-changer is vehicle length, and Auckland is proposing 66 m. Modern trams can comfortably run at up to about 40 an hour — nearly as frequently as buses — but can handle five or more times as many people.
    — The capacity problem can be solved by light rail on the waterfront and by Midland Park.
    — The too-many-connections problem can be solved by running about 40-50 buses an hour on the golden mile, with future growth on light rail.
    — The timekeeping problem can be largely solved simply by running fewer buses, and further-improved by progressively fixing the worst delay-points.

    The slow-connections problem then solves itself.

  25. Neil Douglas, 20. August 2018, 9:18

    Kerry – Market research for the Sydney Light Rail in 2013/14, which I did, backs up your idea with penalties higher for bus than for rail (but they are still significant reflecting the hassle of getting off and on versus a direct trip). They are lower because of less anxiety and greater amenity (comfort) at rail stations.

    I designed, analysed and reported three surveys. We surveyed 6,700 Sydneysiders. The surveys were for the Inner West so were shorter than the transfer survey I did for TfNSW a year previous. The LRT market research interviewed LRT users on the existing Lilyfield service. Transfer penalties were included as was the preference for LRT versus bus versus heavy rail for different qualities of vehicle and stop. The estimated transfer penalties were lowest for rail/LRT and highest for bus v bus transfers. The preference for LRT was highest amongst existing users and rail users and lowest amongst bus users. For rail/LRT it was a 5 minute penalty and for bus it was 8 minutes. Connection / wait time was valued at 1.5 times onboard time.


  26. Sarah, 20. August 2018, 9:24

    People are still feeling disgruntled and it feels like these meetings are just to dull the complaints, without doing anything about them. I encourage people to join this FB page to air their views, https://www.facebook.com/groups/1793889044040784/

  27. Roy Kutel, 20. August 2018, 13:13

    Sarah – you could alert people to the petition on the NZ Parliament website. 359 have signed it as at 20th Aug.

  28. Glen Smith, 20. August 2018, 19:46

    John. Yes, even a casual glance at trip projections tells us we need a second corridor. In fact, despite starting from the premise of a single spine, one of the key findings of the Spine Study was that a ‘secondary spine’ of 29 southbound units per hour (ie another half a full corridor) would be required almost immediately. They briefly look at solutions then chose the stupid one (without presenting other options) of trying to continue to run everything down the Golden Mile by aggregating demand and imposing unnecessary transfers. Hence the Hub and Spoke model.
    The Opus TN24 report (2012) looked at overall transport projections until 2041 (still effectively short term – we should be undertaking long term strategic planning for this century and beyond) based on the proposed transport plan at that time which was basically National’s massive roading plans. It found there would be a roughly 20% increase in total transport trips, almost all increased road trips. Unsurprisingly they projected an almost 90% overall increase in congestion. The reason a 20% increase in road trips produces a 90% increase in congestion is because the relationship is non linear. A city has a limited capacity to accommodate car transport based on the ‘critical density’ of individual carriageways. You can add arterial capacity but you can’t easily increase the capacity on the smaller roads these feed into. As you approach this limit you get escalating congestion and once you pass it you ONLY get increased congestion without transporting more people.
    If we want to maintain congestion at its current level, then the 20% extra transport trips have to be on alternative more efficient modes. Cycling and walking would be good but given Wellington’s variable climate we should assume this is PT.
    Currently PT trips are less than 20% of total transport trips. Therefore if we want accommodate the 20% increase in total trips by 2041 on PT we have to more than double existing capacity. And this is only 2041 without looking to later this century and beyond.
    The current across PT load requires more than one bus corridor (the spine study showed it required one and a half bus corridors at peak times). Therefore to keep congestion at its current level we would need three across town bus corridors by 2041 – which we don’t have. Kerry is right – we HAVE to add the higher capacity of rail. And this is only one of a number of compelling arguments for adding rail. The most compelling is network design (but run out of time to look at that here).