Wellington Scoop

Regional Council buying Uber rides for stranded bus commuters

Report from RNZ
Some Wellington commuters left stranded by bus network changes have been given free Uber rides paid for by the Greater Wellington Regional Council.

Wellington’s network underwent radical changes in July, and the teething issues passengers have experienced are yet to ease. As a result, there have been rare situations in which Greater Wellington staff members have booked Ubers for passengers who were in for a lengthy wait.

Greater Wellington spokesperson Stephen Heath said the organisation has placed council officers and contractors at selected bus hubs, and they are permitted to book Ubers in certain situations.

“Greater Wellington has funded a very limited number [of Ubers] in situations of significant need – such as for the elderly, for people going to hospital and so forth where the passenger was in for a considerable wait for the next bus,” Mr Heath said.

“It’s not a service we generally offer and it will cease once our promised improvements are made to the new services, people become familiar with them and we are confident that someone in great need won’t be significantly disadvantaged by the roll out.”

Mr Heath said the council made the decision early on to provide as much support as possible around the city, given the disruptive changes made to the bus network.

The staff they have placed at bus hubs in Kilbirnie and outside Wellington Hospital are trained in conflict resolution and dealing with angry people.

On Wednesday morning, two staff members in Newtown were guiding passengers to the right buses, updating them on when their bus would arrive, and even walking people to the hospital under the shelter of an umbrella.

“In addition to extensive advertising and online and printed information, we provided personal assistance to passengers,” Mr Heath said. “[They are] providing information on the new bus routes and generally helping people to get to their destinations. It’s a service we will continue to provide for a while yet, we have no cut-off date.”

Mr Heath said reactions at bus stops has been mixed but they are “universal in their thanks for the help we provided at roll out and continue to provide”.

Justin Hall, a former bus driver and now regular passenger, said having staff at the bus stops can be helpful.

“But they can’t be at every bus stop. They can’t help everyone out,” he said. “They can’t help that. Particularly for elderly people. It doesn’t fix the situation. It doesn’t solve things. They need to fix the teething problems and get things back to normal.”

An Uber driver, who did not wish to be named, said he caught the bus into Wellington from Miramar for his studies. He had noticed more people turning to Uber to get to work, rather than waiting around for a full bus.

“The new routes. Nobody has figured out the new routes so far, so they try to be safe by taking an Uber.”

Despite the issues with the service, and some passengers saying they’ve turned to Uber or taxis as an alternative to the bus network, Mr Heath said patronage is steady. He said the network carried about 90,000 journeys each day and there had been no fall in numbers since making the changes.


  1. Sömnigbjörn, 30. August 2018, 10:38

    Every Wellingtonian kept waiting for a @metlinkwgtn bus should take a taxi and invoice the regional council. If they’re willing to do it for people at a select few bus stops then they should be willing to do it for the rest of us. [via twitter]

  2. Roy Kutel, 30. August 2018, 10:52

    Sömnigbjörn: Send your taxi bill Chris Laidlaw at GWRC. He gets $157,000 a year (on top of his pension) for signing off this bus plan disaster.

  3. Heidi P, 30. August 2018, 12:30

    The only fair thing would be to take the uber costs out of the salary of those responsible at WCC and GWRC. I don’t pay my rates for a failed public transport system where randoms can use a taxi service on my tab, it’s downright unlawful.

  4. Barbara S, 30. August 2018, 15:19

    I don’t want my rates to pay for Uber taxis if the buses are failing the public.

  5. Katy Mansfield, 30. August 2018, 15:23

    Well said Heidi – where is the authorisation for spending our rates on taxis? It’s yet another cost to their bungled ‘plan’ (which took them EIGHT years to do!).

    Apparently, 17 staff get more than $180,000 a year with the CEO getting $420,000+ so yes, these well paid ‘planners’ should pay the taxi fares not rate payers.

  6. Nicola Willis, 31. August 2018, 8:45

    This is the tip of the iceberg. I’ve had dozens of Wellingtonians tell me they’ve been forced to pay for Uber or taxis since the bus-changes came in. Not good enough. Looking forward to an action plan from GWRC. [via twitter]

  7. Jess Berentson-Shaw ‏, 31. August 2018, 9:26

    Four days of walking/scootering/riding between Newtown & Hataitai with the kids (a distance of 1.5km with 8 road crossings none that prioritise pedestrians) has seen 3 near miss incidents between cars & the children. We are giving up. The infrastructure is utterly appalling. [via twitter]

  8. Keith Flinders, 31. August 2018, 11:27

    Nicola Willis: At the Karori meeting last night, which we both attended along with more than 300 others, the implication from Crs Laidlaw and Ponter was that the No 18 bus route Karori to Miramar North via Wellington Hospital would be re-instated by Christmas (2018?), perhaps sooner. A long time for bus users to wait, and the GWRC should look at employing charter buses to operate non peak services until they negotiate a variation to the present contract with NZ Bus. Councillors indicated last night that extra buses have been added this week, and more will be added next week, to the No 2 route at peak hours. No doubt the additions will be subject to the availability of drivers which Wellington is still short of.

    I received from you yesterday in the mail an invitation to “Sign the Petition”, but using the URL provided found that there wasn’t a petition, just a form to gather names and addresses. This petition is on the Parliament web site.
    Petition request: That the House of Representatives urge the government to appoint an independent commissioner to examine the impact of recent changes in Wellington’s public transport network and replacing the diesel buses with cleaner vehicles.
    Petition reason: Wellington’s public transport network has gone backwards under Greater Wellington Regional Council management. Seven years of planning has produced a substandard service with unreliable timetables, inadequate passenger facilities, stressed and fatigued drivers, and a fleet of polluting diesel buses.

    Covers the points bus users are concerned about.

    I urge you and Wellington Scoop readers to sign it, adding to the 425 signatures already there.

  9. Michael Gibson, 31. August 2018, 13:23

    GW Chair Laidlaw has yet even to acknowledge my email as published on Wellington.Scoop on August 11th:
    Dear Chris – 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?

  10. Margie Scotts, 31. August 2018, 15:00

    The CEO of Metlink is the person who should lose his job as of now. He is responsible for the officials who created a flawed network design and convinced the WRC it was sound, issued tender documents that allowed a tenderer to reduce the number of bus services (in Karori’s case by by more than 30%), pay drivers less and for longer hours and put dirty old diesels on the road. The Regional Councillors failed in their governance role, ignored consultation in 2014 that it was not fit for purpose, and let their Metlink CEO continue. A previous example of incompetence is the Snapper contract. In 2014 the WRC told me Snapper owned the passenger data and would only sell it back to the WRC and the price was too high. I think Metlink should be put into statutory management now.

  11. Morris Oxford, 31. August 2018, 19:24

    Margie, how does one find out who the top people at Metlink are?

  12. T. Shoveler, 31. August 2018, 21:47

    Morris Oxford – look at the GWRC web site – they must each earn more than $180k a year with the CEO getting over $420k a year according to the Annual Report.