The chair of the Regional Council’s transport committee is unconvincing when she explains why she has failed to attend three of the four public meetings about Wellington’s continuing bus problems.
Asked why she had attended only one of the public meetings – she attended the Kilbirnie meeting on August 26 – Cr Donaldson said she found the behaviour of community members at the meeting unacceptable. “These are not Regional Council meetings and I have not been personally invited to most of them,” she said. “I went to the Kilbirnie meeting and found a lot of the behaviour unnecessary and unacceptable, especially towards our staff … My priority now is to make sure we fix all the problems.”
Bus commuters are not likely to accept her claim that their complaints are unnecessary and unacceptable. The words are more relevant when applied to the continuing bus problems which have resulted from the new systems introduced by her committee.
And what of the other three meetings?
She said she did not attend the second public meeting, in Karori, because she was in New Plymouth visiting her new grandson. She did not say why she missed the third and fourth meetings, in Khandallah and Miramar.
Barbara Donaldson may have been dismissive of commuters’ complaints. But the statistics show why she should have been treating them seriously. The DomPost’s Tom Hunt reports:  that there were 1050 complaints about Tranzit in the first 11 days of the new bus system.
Tales of injuries, no-shows, and a three-year-old trapped in a door are among the complaints … between July 15 and 25. The complaints, starting from when Tranzit took over many Wellington city routes, range from no-show or late buses through to drivers asking passengers which way to go. Wellington’s other major bus operator Go Wellington generated 111 complaints in the same period.
Tranzit’s Keven Snelgrove is as dismissive as Cr Donaldson. He told the DomPost that “no one would be surprised with the number of complaints” in July given it came as part of a major overhaul. Complaints on north and south routes had reduced by about two-thirds, he said.
He may be the only person who was not surprised by so many complaints about his buses. Transport Minister Phil Twyford is reported as saying he is disappointed by the failure of the system. The DomPost’s Collette Devlin reports  that he said:
“I’m disappointed that commuters have borne the brunt of this system failure. I, like Wellingtonians, expect the Regional Council and the bus services to sort it out as soon as possible.”
Devlin quotes a strangely evasive response from Regional Council chair Chris Laidlaw (who has attended only two of the four public meetings):
He said he had told Twyford there would be inherent risks in taking on a project of such a size that was a “leap into the future … We said we would not be able to satisfy everyone … we said all this from the start … it was acknowledged by everyone that it would not be easy.”
It seems Twyford wrote to the council at the end of March raising concerns about the changes. The council gave him a verbal update at a meeting on April 12. And then Laidlaw wrote to him on April 20 saying
… he hoped the meeting addressed Twyford’s concerns and helped the minister understand how the council was improving the quality of public transport and how it was planning for a smooth transition. “I trust our briefing helped provide you confidence that we are actively identifying and managing the inevitable risks in this area.”
And more – the Laidlaw letter said (back in April) that depot construction and routes were proceeding to plan, while hub construction was “well underway.” Tell that to travellers for whom hubs remain uncompleted in mid September.
August 16: Where’s Barbara Donaldson?