Wellington Scoop

Core problems remain as urgent bus review promised

by Mark Cubey
Greg Campbell is not having a good week.

The Greater Wellington Regional Council’s chief executive said last week that he would be shelving all his other duties until the ongoing problems with Wellington’s region’s bus network were resolved.

Those duties presumably didn’t refer to his role as chair of the Council jointly administering the Whitireia and WelTec tertiary institutions, but now it looks like he won’t need to put aside time for that either. Education Minister Chris Hipkins said on Tuesday that he plans to dissolve it and appoint a Commissioner.

Greg Campbell fronted at yesterday’s packed meeting of the Regional Council’s sustainable transport committee, chaired by Barbara Donaldson, to hear solidly argued cases stating how badly the Council has messed up the planning and implementation of the region’s bus system, and “made the city a nationwide laughing stock” as Michael Gibson observed.

This is on top of “thousands” of emails received by councillors and Metlink, the operating arm of the regional council which is charged with design and implementation of the system.

On Twitter, complaints continue to flow in daily. There are always new problems, which is not what Metlink will be wanting, nearly ten weeks into the new system. Worse, the same problems continue to resurface. These are not “teething problems” any more.

For example, the 7:40am inbound service on the #24 route has been frequently cancelled over the past couple of weeks. Most likely reason: no one to drive the bus. We’ll get to that. Other bus services continue to be cancelled on a regular basis.

Even the routes that have had extra services added aren’t coping. On Twitter this morning, Rochelle wrote: “Our #3 buses are completely useless today. 20 people have been offloaded from 4 #23 buses in a row and haven’t been able to board a #3. 2 were missing. 2 were full.”

To their credit, the Metlink social media team have been doing a sterling job of responding to complaints, comment and sometimes rage from passengers. (Metlink and the GWRC call them “customers”; I just … can’t.) But there’s only so much that Metlink can do, or say.

Complaints about dropped services, driver behaviour and so on are met with a response that they have been passed on to the operator concerned. In some cases, this will be the long time (and unionised) operator NZ Bus, who used to run over 70 per cent of Wellington’s bus services, and now run around 28 per cent of the routes, including the #2, #3 and #14.

Sixty per cent of the region’s services are now operated by Tranzit, under two subsidiaries (Tranzurban Hutt Valley Ltd and Tranzurban Wellington Ltd), with smaller operators looking after most northern routes. Uzabus provides most Porirua and Kapiti Coast services (with around six per cent of services), and Mana Bus (part of Newlands Coach Services, also at six per cent) operates in the northern suburbs and Tawa.

These contractors operate to (surprise!) contracts, and Metlink is not in a position to effect sudden change on these without negotiation. Even penalties for non-performance aren’t an option – yet.

The GWRC agreed with operators that any financial penalties attached to performance provisions would be waived for the first few weeks of the new contracts. This was to let all parties work together establish the new network, resolve issues and allow for customer change, and gather and validate data. Penalties for non-performance are planned to be introduced no later than 30 September.

Services reinstated as requested

It is obvious that any changes to contracts will take time. Even the service reinstatements to two bus routes that were agreed to by the committee yesterday are unlikely to be put in place until late in the year.

These alterations to the #14 and #18e services were first proposed at last month’s Sustainable Transport meeting. That meeting agreed to the extension of the off-peak #18e service from north Miramar to Kilbirnie, via Wellington Regional Hospital in Newtown and Massey and Victoria universities, and recommended that officials investigate the reinstatement of the #14 from Hataitai to Kilbirnie. However, the report from Campbell tabled at yesterday’s meeting recommended that the #18e service only extend until 6:00pm, and that the #14 bus service continue to terminate at Hataitai.

A well-researched presentation from two Roseneath residents, supported by the Hataitai Residents Association, prompted discussion on how a frequent and reliable connection between Roseneath/Hataitai and Kilbirnie is essential for older and younger travellers to properly access shops and sports facilities.

Questioning from first-term GWRC council Ian McKinnon made it clear that the connection between Roseneath and Hataitai and the eastern suburbs had been underestimated. As Marian Horan, one of the Roseneath speakers said about Kilbirnie, “This is where we go.”

The meeting disregarded the argument in the Council report that there are insufficient passenger numbers to support the service, and voted to extend the #14 bus route from Hataitai along its original path east as far as Kilbirnie (though not to Rongotai, where it used to terminate).

A decision was also made to extend the #18e schedule between Miramar and Karori until 8:00pm, rather than 6:00pm.

The council will be receiving feedback on whether other routes can be changed.

It’s a start. But core problems remain.

Despite Greg Campbell taking personal responsibility for fixing the network’s problems, and agreeing to an independent review, GWRC officials and councillors still seem overly optimistic about the chance of issues being resolved.

For instance, yesterday’s report cited no significant downturn in passenger journeys since 15 July, when the changes were introduced. Yet on Tuesday, as part of their consistently good reporting in the Dominion Post, Tom Hunt and Damian George put the GWRC on the back foot regarding its claim that the bus service had increased passenger numbers (short take: you can’t count three journeys that have replaced one direct trip as a tripling in numbers) .

I challenge anyone who takes the time to read the 22-page report not to feel cynical about the ability of the GWRC to resolve this issue.

It’s possible that an independent review of management and council can, as Campbell suggested at the meeting, “give a view of what has happened and articulate that well.” But such a review, even if it happens “urgently” as was agreed yesterday, will still take time: consultation, documentation, implementation… and it’s hard to see much of the action that is desperately needed happening before the end of the year.

Even the agreement yesterday that removing seats from buses was a kneejerk response to a problem of overcrowding and capacity, and that these should be replaced, is likely to take much longer than it took to install them.

And fundamental problems with the system may yet be inherent.

As the meeting learned through answers to questions about three key transport features posed by long-time walking and public transport champion Mike Mellor, there is still much that remains unknown about core components of the system.

There has been no analysis yet of the promised reduced congestion along the Golden Mile. Nor has there been any study of how the introduction of double-deckers has affected time spent boarding and alighting at stops, and consequent bus-on-bus congestion.

Second, it cannot be determined if the bus hubs can work as planned. We don’t know, because most them haven’t yet been completed. (And the hospital hub hasn’t even been started.)

Most significantly, it is impossible to tell if organisational capacity exists to deliver the new public transport system as planned, with its new timetables, routes, hubs and operators.

To date, Mellor said, the process has been an indictment of the effectiveness of GWRC’s project management, totally inadequate risk management, and lack of communication. The Council, he said has “failed in risk and project managing – and listening”, and doesn’t have the data to measure – “You should know today what happened yesterday” – so how can it be confident of delivering on its promises? The Council has a big task, he said: “Rebuild trust.” And this will be “a long, painful and humbling process”.

Back to school

An independent review will not solve the immediate problems being faced by schools like St Pat’s College, who have had direct and student-only services cut. This was starkly outlined yesterday by the Kilbirnie college’s rector Neal Swindells who told the meeting of his concern for his students. They face overcrowded and extended journeys from the school’s northern suburbs and Kapiti Coast catchment, and are being put in danger.

“[The] two #753 buses to the station in the afternoon are significantly overloaded and are unsafe,” Swindells said in his presentation. “On Monday this week, they were both loaded to the gunwales and there were thirty-odd students who couldn’t get on. So what they do is they run across the road to catch the new #24 bus, which by the time it leaves St Pat’s now is also over full.”

In response to questions, he said that 85 boys were late to school on Monday, even though the start time had been put back to 9:15am from 8:55am.

With just one more week of term before school holidays start next weekend, he’s hopeful of a solution before the start of the fourth term. But he’s worried. “I’d hate to have an accident before then.”

The crucial players: drivers

Accidents are also very much on the minds of drivers, who have been put under huge stress by the changes, with long shifts, new routes that cannot be completed within the scheduled time (for which they get penalised), and continually crowded buses that are more difficult to drive (60 passengers make a bus over seven tonnes heavier). They’re also shouldering the blame for bus no-shows, when a shortage of drivers is the ongoing problem exacerbating all the other problems in the system.

It’s no wonder they feel under assault, and under-consulted: a crazy situation given the wealth of accumulated frontline experience accrued over years by experienced drivers on Wellington’s often difficult route and roads.

As Graeme Clarke, general secretary of the Manufacturing and Construction Workers Union, wrote today in an opinion article for Stuff, an email sent last week by Greg Campbell to “stakeholders” of the bus system suggesting that a review “could” be commissioned “to ensure that all available options have been considered” was not sent to the Tramways Union. If the drivers and their union are not stakeholders in the bus system, Clarke asked, who is?

Many experienced drivers from the NZ Bus fleet took redundancy rather than work for Tranzit and Uzabus, who have refused to negotiate on a collective employment agreement. This ongoing problem, dating back to before the tender process for the new routes began, is at the heart of the problem affecting the potential success of the system.

It’s a problem that neither GWRC councillors nor officials seem keen to engage with.

You could hear the frustration from Richard Wagstaff, President of the NZ Council of Trade Unions, when he addressed the committee yesterday. He has spoken to them, he said, “so many times” on the importance of protecting drivers’ terms and conditions. But it seemed to him that the committee was “impenetrable”.

Yet Wagstaff was still hopeful that a solution could be bound to the ongoing dispute between the Tramways Union and bus operators Tranzit and Uzabus about drivers’ pay and conditions. A collective agreement would solve the problem of the driver shortage, he said, and “we can resolve this though dialogue and consultation”,

But this would only happen if Tranzit stepped up to the negotiating table, something it has refused to do for six months.

Wagstaff said that problems with the network will not be resolved until the dispute is settled. “This problem you find yourselves in now cannot be addressed until you confront the issues affecting the bus drivers.”

During committee members’ questioning of Wagstaff, Councillor Ken Laban described the process as farcical, with Tranzit refusing to engage properly with the union. “We all know what the issue is: they won’t negotiate. They need to get their ass in the ring.”

Wagstaff said that the council had the power to force negotiations forward, by appointing a facilitator to help settle the dispute. He said that the time for talk from the GWRC is over and it has to use its power to make Tranzit and Uzabus meet with the union. “We don’t see Tranzit as even trying … the Council can put Tranzit on the mat.”

However, (as Roy Murphy’s report also notes) no motion to this effect from the meeting was forthcoming.

What’s next?

From 10:30am next Wednesday, all union bus drivers will hold a stop work meeting (at St Pat’s in Kilbirnie, appropriately) to discuss the state of collective agreement bargaining that is under way with their bus company employers, and consider what industrial action will be taken.

It’s unlikely that what comes out of that meeting will be good news for anyone.

The Tramways Union is now expecting NZ Bus to try to reduce penal rates, as it tries to compete with the lower wages paid by Tranzurban and Uzabus.

Drivers are quitting both main employers, fed up with difficult conditions, constant stress, and inability to properly deliver services to the satisfaction of the (largely supportive) public.

The GWRC keeps talking, but to date has failed to show the kind of consultative leadership that the situation and times demand.

Let’s hope that we see some decisive and forward-thinking action from Greg Campbell, a man with the time and, one would hope, the motivation to put things right. Because, as a wise and successful retailer once said, it’s the putting right that counts.

Mark Cubey is editor of The Wellington App, the capital’s free news and listing app for iOS and Android.


  1. Hmmm., 20. September 2018, 17:38

    It’s going to end badly. We’ll have a patched up system we’re all told to be grateful for because it’s a bit better than we have now. And Greg Campbell and GWRC will call it a success because people have given up complaining and hey! They’ve manipulated the numbers to show patronage numbers are up, so that proves it’s a success in their minds. But out and about you can feel Wellington’s mood of anger turning to stuck bitterness as our new future unfolds. Wellington’s much loved public transport system will never be the same.

  2. Jonny Utzone, 20. September 2018, 18:46

    @Hmmmm, wait till the revenue figures come in. Even the most creative of accountants will struggle to manipulate these figures. If revenue is down, then ratepayers will end up paying more. If revenue is up as Greg Campbell is trying to tell us then our rates can be reduced (yes, pigs really can fly like a phoenix).

  3. Graham Atkinson, 20. September 2018, 19:23

    It’s very easy to blame all the problems on Tranzurban who incidentally have fewer buses and run fewer services in Wellington City than NZ Bus. Your 70% to 28% compares carrots and apples – NZ Bus have around 30% of the regional business to Tranzurban’s 60% but within Wellington City it’s closer to around 50% for NZ Bus, about 40% or just over for Tranzurban with Newlands/Mana operating the rest.

    NZ Bus cancellations due either to driver or bus unavailability remain higher than Tranzurban’s despite the former having had the ability to retain as many of their drivers as they needed (redundancy would surely have only been offered to the surplus). From my experience with both operators, churn is significantly lower at Tranzurban and ongoing recruitment is rapidly filling the gaps that were covered by imported drivers, most of whom have now returned to their home operations. Tranzurban haven’t got it all right yet but with the extra resources the group were able to mobilise and the high level of cooperation between planners there and at GWRC, significant improvements to reliability should flow through within a month.

  4. Tony Jansen, 20. September 2018, 19:25

    Thanks to Steven Joyce and the National Party for designing and implementing the PTOM. Thanks to the Labour Government for doing nothing to assist repealing or changing this legislation.
    Thanks to the GWRC who have displayed incredible incompetence and callousness to give Wellington the current bus transport system. I struggle to comprehend how people on six figure salaries could be so stupid and then so arrogant and irresponsible. Unfortunately the old functioning network has been so dismantled that there is probably no way back. What we are saddled with is a dysfunctional mish mash which I doubt will ever run optimally. Our future will be private transport use which was the intent of the National Party when they designed and implemented this legislation in the first place.

  5. Lim Leong, 20. September 2018, 19:45

    “It’s the putting right that counts” and that HAS to start with looking at the flawed transport network design. Without addressing the fundamental hub and spoke network design issues, this debacle will drag on with no end in sight just like the leaky house debacle. A leaky house will always remain a leaky house no matter how you patch it.

    Does GWRC has the courage, capability and leadership to fix the design flaws? I seriously doubt it from what I can see. Here is hoping there is a higher authority stepping in …

  6. John Rankin, 20. September 2018, 21:30

    @LimLeong: it’s not clear that the original hub and spoke design was flawed. As I understand it, and perhaps someone can comment, GW did not implement the hub and spoke design developed by the MRCagney consultants. After the 2011 design was published, public consultation led to the design being modified. Making piecemeal changes to a hub and spoke network has a habit of producing unexpected, and often adverse, consequences. Especially when changes are made for political reasons.

    I hope the independent review will include a look at the original design and comment on the consequences of the difference between the “as drawn” and “as built” network. Did GW inadvertently introduce “design flaws” when it amended the design or was the original design flawed? Can anyone shed light on this?

  7. Lim Leong, 20. September 2018, 22:52

    @John Rankin. I tried to look for the original network design document on the GWRC web site but can’t find it. It was reported in Stuff that the original network design had 17 hubs and GWRC reduced it to 8 hubs based on public consultation. This was reported in Stuff a week or two ago.

    A design of 8 hubs for a compact city like Wellington is insane and if it is true that the original design had 17 hubs then I don’t know what the overseas consultants were smoking at the time. The current design of 8 hubs has meant that transfer is pervasive throughout the city even for short journeys less than 3 Kms, eg. Northland to CBD.

    I completely agree that making piecemeal changes to a hub and spoke network is very high risk especially if you do not have a realistic simulation model. Hence the independent review has to start from looking at the network design and not try to randomly patch the network which is what GWRC is doing right now.

  8. Wellington Commuter, 21. September 2018, 0:40

    Here are three links to the 2011 Wellington City Bus Review by MRCagney:
    (And no I don’t know why this one report is in three separate pdfs on the GWRC website).
    Here is a link to the GWRC 2012 Consultation Information Booklet.
    And here is a link to the 2012 Wellington City Bus Review public consultation Public Feedback Report (esp section 3.2).
    Enjoy …

  9. Eastern Ward Councillor Sarah Free, 21. September 2018, 8:36

    I am just thankful that the public still has the time and energy to submit to GWRC. For what it is worth, here is my email to them before their meeting regarding the 14 extension to Kilbirnie:

    “Having read your committee papers (I can’t be there myself tomorrow unfortunately), I need to make a plea for more work to be done on investigating the extension of the 14 service to Kilbirnie. It does seem as if your planners are focussing on all commuters getting from their home suburbs into the CBD, completely ignoring the significance Kilbirnie has as a local centre for shopping, schools, sporting venues, professional services, and churches and other religious institutions. It is as important a centre as Johnsonville in the WCC hierarchy, and local people need to be able to get to it with one bus. Also, if the whole hub idea is even going to be partially accepted by Wellington commuters, small hubs such as Miramar and Hataitai shops should be phased out, and Kilbirnie made more significant and useful. The problem with the figures given by your staff is that I am sure many people are taking other modes of transport at the moment to go from Hataitai and Roseneath down to Kilbirnie. I’m hearing a lot of this anecdotally and it’s not good; we all want people to be able to use convenient public transport instead of cars or Uber, Zoomy or whatever. Please do ask the staff to reconsider this, perhaps as a trial, if they are doubtful.”

    Thankfully the Committee did seem to have listened, and it is hopefully the start of a more realistic approach to the needs of bus users.

  10. Bernard C, 21. September 2018, 9:49

    I’m afraid they say they listen but we know from experience they don’t listen to public submissions. That is how we got to this unrealistic bus scheduling/running show we are watching. The people who created the problems can’t even see them. Calling for submissions is done just to try to mitigate the public outcry. Councils call for submissions as part of their PR effort that is all. Jeanie is spot on.

  11. Mike Mellor, 21. September 2018, 9:53

    Lim Leong: as you can see from the map on p33 (thanks for the links, WellyCommuter!), the number and location of the hubs proposed then was very similar to now, not a reduction from 17 to 8:

    Newlands – no longer a hub
    Johnsonvile – no change
    Wellington Station – no change
    Zealandia – replaced by Karori Tunnel
    Brooklyn – no change
    Hospital – no change
    Kilbirnie – no change
    Miramar – no change
    Karori Mall – no longer formally a hub, but still a place to change buses
    Island Bay shops – no longer formally a hub, but still a place to change buses.
    Courtenay Place and Hutchison Rd (a hub in all but name) have been added.

    So, no real change in the number of hubs – let’s knock this myth on the head.

  12. Ana Wilson, 21. September 2018, 10:20

    Thanks for that clarification Mike. Do you have a solution for multiple bus rides from Northland to CBD?

  13. Lim Leong, 21. September 2018, 10:42

    @Wellington Commuter. Many thanks for the URL to the design document. Useful.

    @Mike Mellor. On Page 48, “Proposed Peak Only Services Map”, I counted 9 hubs. It is now 8 hubs, a reduction of one hub from the original design. Interesting as the source of the number of hubs reduction came from GWRC as reported in Stuff. The design document has not changed – in my view the design is flawed. Having a transport network with 8 hubs is insane and a complete lack of common sense for a compact city especially given Wellington does not have the underlying infrastructure to support a hub and spoke network.

  14. James S, 21. September 2018, 11:17

    Looking at the 2012 feedback report on the original consultation, it seems that Wellington residents predicted all the issues that have come to pass. The review should take a careful look at the extent to which these concerns were taken into account in developing the final system. Also of interest, the feedback statement said people were concerned about the future of the trolley buses, but not to worry, they would be retained!

  15. Gillybee, 21. September 2018, 11:23

    I’d like to know what the terms of reference are for the inquiry?

    Evidently Tranzit are @ 140 drivers short and NZ Bus @ 40. Mark perhaps you can look further into this. Morale is at rock-bottom among drivers, who as noted in the above article are under the gun with impossible to meet performance targets (and hostile passengers – most of whom thankfully have the sense to aim their vitriol at the politicians, not the drivers)

    In a nutshell the three issues are:

    1. Fix the network
    2. Improve drivers’ conditions
    3. Replace the diesels with cleaner and quieter vehicles before asking Wellington ratepayers to fork out more to pay for climate change “resilience”

    ReVolt Wellington have a petition on their website calling for an “independent commissioner to examine the impact of recent changes in Wellington’s public transport network and replacing the diesel buses with cleaner vehicles” to be presented to government at the end of October.

    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.


    @ 660 signatories so far. Let’s make our voices heard and get some real action on this issue.

  16. John Rankin, 21. September 2018, 13:38

    @LimLeong: why is 8 hubs “insane”? I agree with your comment about the underlying infrastructure. The system depends on having timed transfers, so “on time” performance needs to be aiming for no more than 1 minute early, no more than 2 minutes late. It is going to take years to achieve this level of performance. You are right that there is a lot of work to make infrastructure that supports reliable timed transfers. I suggest this needs to be the focus, not the number of hubs.

    For example, Edmonton has 25 “transit centres” — a bigger and flatter city, but one with a long-standing hub and spoke network. The lesson from there is that hub and spoke bus networks scale as a city grows. If LGWM delivers a rapid transit network as part of its programme of investment, the connecting bus network will need to be operating at “between 1 minute early and 2 minutes late” the day the first rapid transit line opens. Work to get there needs to start now, if not sooner.

  17. Ross Teppett, 21. September 2018, 14:01

    Excellent article by Mark Cubey.
    The drivers’ struggle for a fair deal goes to the heart of the matter. It’s outrageous and deplorable that the GWRC, our peak local government entity, took the position of allowing a cut-price tenderer (Tranzit)- with a pathological hatred of collective worker voice (i.e., unions)- to take over the majority of routes in Wellington. And GRWC has the gall to say it wants to be a Living Wage employer! Where’s the evidence of Tranzit being anti-union you ask? Firstly, there is no real collective bargaining happening between Tranzit and the unionised drivers. The company is not negotiating. It’s a farce. Everytime a Tramways Union official appears at a Tranzit depot to talk with drivers the company calls the Police. And there are reports Tranzit is now trying to set up an ‘alternative’ company union i.e., a ‘yellow’ union. Not a real (arms-length, fully independent) union, just a vehicle to get around the legal necessities of the Employment Relations Act. If this is the case I’d say we are in for serious industrial relations turmoil.

  18. Lim Leong, 21. September 2018, 14:12

    Hi @John Rankin. The key question that I am asking is why did the designers/planners design a 8 Hubs model knowing that Wellington does not have the underlying support infrastructure to make it work? From a design perspective it is doomed to fail with the current infrastructure. Blind faith or something else?
    As for whether the capital investment should be on road infrastructure or light rail or tram, there is another debate on which will bring a better outcome long term. I am refraining from commenting as that is beyond my expertise area. I do think people like Glen Smith’s and Neil Douglas’s long term views make sense.

  19. greenwelly, 21. September 2018, 14:33

    I’m guessing this article is gonna take up a few column inches in the Weekend DP, could even make the front page?

  20. Graham Atkinson, 21. September 2018, 17:22

    Gillybee I don’t know where you get your Tranzurban figures from but virtually all services are currently being covered (less than 0.8% of trips not operated daily) with approximately 18 – 20 out of town drivers and at the current rate of recruitment most if not all of these will be off home by mid October. And because of the mix of work ensuring virtually all drivers are rostered around 45 hours per week, most are taking home as much if not more than they were with their previous employers. And Tranzurban are operating the cleanest diesel vehicle fleet available anywhere (the entire fleet being Euro 6, recognised internationally as the highest possible standard) and with seven (shortly to be 10, and 30 by mid 2021) pure electric double-decker buses, Wellington’s air is already cleaner.

  21. Benny, 21. September 2018, 18:05

    At the risk of repeating myself, another broken promise from GWRC is the electric, blissful, clean future of PT. While 3 electric buses are roaming the streets against 50+ last year, our health take a big hit from air and noise pollution. I am aware there have been promises to convert the ex trolleys, with 30 brand new ones adding up to 82 by 2021, but somehow, my trust is a bit broken at the moment. Of course, electric buses won’t fix the network, but for me, it’s another display of GWRC’s disgrace.

  22. Benny, 21. September 2018, 18:45

    @Graham Atkinson, Euro standards do not take into account CO2 emissions, only all the other pollutants. From that perspective, the replacement of old diesels with new diesels was good news. The replacement of the trolleys with old diesels, on the other hand, was not. Overall, the heavy pollutants might have come down, but if you replace electric buses with diesel, CO2 emissions are doomed to increase, and of course they have.

  23. Jonny Utzone, 21. September 2018, 21:44

    I checked Edmonton’s transit centres and they are more like rail stations – take the first one listed, Abbottsfield. It has:
    Bike Rack Capacity/ Designated Parking for Disabled/ Park & Ride/ Paid Park & Ride/ Passenger Drop Off Area (Kiss and Ride)/ Transit Arrival Sign/ LRT Station Adjacent/ Accessible Public Washrooms/ Convenience Store/ Larger Shelter/ Public Pay Phone/ Public Washroom/ Seating/ Snack/Beverage Vending Machine/ Emergency Phones/ Transit Information Intercom.

    On this basis Wellington rail stations and a Wellington bus station might qualify but not much else. Unless GWRC has millions to spend, I think comparisons have to be reasonable. What for example has GWRC got planned for the bus hub outside the hospital?

  24. Alex, 21. September 2018, 21:52

    Government funding should be obtained to revert the system to default immediately, before moving forward.
    Nothing justifies ripping out the social fabric of a community to perpetuate an unnameable theoretical construct. Revert to default and rebuild a peerless transportation network from scratch. No other way can be justified!

  25. Glen Smith, 22. September 2018, 1:15

    Just been to Genoa, another city with trolleys, this time articulated and able to run off wire on ?diesel auxiliary. If only we had a wire network like that…..
    Lim and John. Once again have to agree with Lim. It may be possible, at a struggle (and the current debacle shows just what a struggle that is) to get a Hub and Spoke plan to work (and any design has to have some aggregation of minor routes) but why would you do this for major routes in a city of Wellington’s size when, with the right design, you don’t have to?
    The current bus fiasco is the end result of a series of planning blunders, one of the major ones being the flawed Spine Study. This has been promoted as evidence that rail performs little better than bus and at a lot higher cost. But the only rail option examined was light rail via a Golden Mile route. This tells us nothing about other rail options.
    As an analogy, let’s imagine that London Transport do a study looking at the option of bringing the local underground tube line to the surface, running it at walking pace (or less) along the length of Oxford St, amongst all the pedestrians/buses etc, then dropping it underground again. The result would be a disaster. But that tells us nothing about the benefits of the same rail line placed in a dedicated tunnel underground which real world experience shows us is stunningly successful both functionally and economically. In fact the study would never be undertaken since the idea of running your main across town PT mass transport line down your busiest multipurpose streets is obviously just plain dumb. Yet this is what the Spine Study did. And this was the ONLY option they examined. The study’s results tell us nothing about the cost benefit of a Quays rail corridor (functionally the equivalent of the tube line but separated horizontally rather than vertically from the main pedestrian streets). The Spine Study is almost worthless and should be tossed in the bin.
    Unfortunately our planners seem unable to recognise this and have continued to use it as a planning base. With a single over capacity spine you are forced to introduce a Hub and Spoke and impose dysfunction and inconvenience on commuters. And the Hub and Spoke plan didn’t fit with our trolley lines so they had to go.
    As Lim says ‘it’s the putting right that counts’ and the question is where from here. The Regional Council is quite right that the previous status quo was unsustainable with growth longer term. But the solution isn’t Spine and Hub, it’s adding a high quality across town rail corridor using a point to point design and then moving some of the bus passenger load onto this. Parallel across town bus and rail corridors (functionally the same as underground rail and surface buses used commonly overseas) give huge flexibility in both function and capacity for ongoing transport planning this century and beyond. This is, in my view, the only viable long term regional transport design solution. It will take time and money and we can expect some compromises as we work towards the final network but a lot of the basics could be implemented quickly with the right leadership. So not much chance of it happening any time soon….

  26. Concerned Wellingtonian, 22. September 2018, 7:00

    To Graham Atkinson: your talk of the wonders of the electric double-deckers and the marvellous Optare Euro-6 diesels is a fat lot of use to New Zealand’s biggest suburb where none of them operate. This is partly because of one of those features of Wellington overlooked by the design idiots, the Karori Tunnel, is not big enough for the double-deckers, whose chief merit is holding up the traffic on Lambton Quay.
    P.S. I gather that none of the Councillors and only a couple of junior GW officers need the Karori Tunnel for their daily travel. Do they know where it is?

  27. Neil D., 22. September 2018, 7:24

    @Benny – EU is moving to introduce CO2 standards for heavy duty vehicles including buses.
    On 17 May 2018, the European Commission presented a legislative proposal setting the first ever CO2 emission standards for heavy-duty vehicles in the EU. As a first step, the CO2 emission standards are proposed for large lorries, which account for 65% to 70% of all CO2 emissions from heavy-duty vehicles. In 2022, the scope will be extended to include other vehicle types such as smaller lorries, buses, coaches and trailers.

  28. Newtown, 22. September 2018, 9:28

    @Alex I disagree that Govt should step in and fix GWRC’s mess. They had a budget (lowest cost option wins), a timeframe (circa 6 years), and expensive consultants (unfamiliar with the landscape). GWRC needs to be held accountable and fix this.

    Didn’t anyone in the team tell GWRC that Big Bang projects carry a large risk, and that it is better to implement things in smaller chunks, review and adjust, then release next change?

  29. Richard E, 22. September 2018, 12:16

    “. notes that some people have had a negative customer experience with using the bus network, but that there has been a general trend of improvement in service delivery since 15 July”

    That report’s beyond parody.

  30. John Rankin, 22. September 2018, 14:51

    @JonnyUtzone: when Edmonton was smaller, it had fewer, smaller, less sophisticated hubs and other necessary infrastructure, like bus lanes. It supports my claim that when you invest in the underlying infrastructure, hub and spoke bus networks will succeed and can adapt to growing demand. And it supports @LimLeong’s point that as Wellington has not made the investment in infrastructure, the new network was doomed to fail. And the old network was no longer able to adapt. So rather than “Unless GWRC has millions to spend …” I’d say, “Unless GWRC makes the necessary infrastructure investment, the new network will continue to be unfit for purpose.”

    @MikeMellor nails the key issues which needed further work: “the impact of bigger buses on the Golden Mile – and … creating more priority bus lanes to make sure buses [are] on time at hubs.” GWRC remains committed to the new network design. Is there the political will to invest in suitable infrastructure to let it succeed?

    @GlenSmith: while I agree with your analysis, mass rapid transit in a city like Wellington requires a high-performing bus network to be in place first. Introducing rail will not fix a broken bus system. On-time performance is even more important when buses are connecting to urban rail. If we don’t put the infrastructure in place now to support timed transfers between buses, we will face even bigger problems in future when we need timed transfers between regular buses and rapid transit.

  31. Jonny Utzone, 22. September 2018, 19:59

    The golden mile and more bus lanes? The golden mile is a one long bus lane already! There is no way buses will ever be rapid along it and anyway, who wants buses ploughing along at 30kph on Lambton Quay, Willis St and Courtenay Place, apart from one or two deluded transport planners. The answer is to make people walk 250 metres to bus termini at either end with an electric bus shuttle (should have been a trolley bus) running along the golden mile.

    Stop the empty buses running along the golden mile and it would be a much nicer space for pedestrians, workers and shoppers. Simple really – catering for the lazy never produces an efficient solution.

  32. Roy Kutel, 22. September 2018, 20:17

    Glen Smith – The $1 million Spine Study looked at many options including heavy rail in a tunnel to C.Place and ruled it out (option 7). There was also a waterfront heavy rail option – option 8. “This option extends the existing heavy rail lines southwards from the current terminus at Wellington Railway Station in an underground tunnel. The route would have stops at the BNZ Centre and at Courtenay Place. The remainder of the route to the hospital would be served by buses”. Option 7 scored -0.7 whereas LRT scored +0.3 and BRT +0.4. And that was that. Heavy rail was not taken forward to detailed analysis.

  33. Lim Leong, 23. September 2018, 5:53

    I agree with @Glen Smith and @John Rankin on the high level design. There are many reasons why GWRC have got itself into this shambles. One of the main reasons as @Kerry put it succinctly: “Mess about and hope: current policy” is a guaranteed path to disaster. Whichever longer term option is chosen, there is no getting away from having to invest in the underlying infrastructure. It is blind faith for GWRC to think that they can get this new network to work (using hub and design as capacity mitigation strategy) without the underlying infrastructure investment. The new network is doomed to fail from the outset and randomly patching a hub and spoke network will make it worse.

    I can see from the writings on these forums that many commenting on Wellington.Scoop have a professional/consulting background. GWRC can pretty much get a fairly good idea/framework on the high level transport design just by reading these forums and listening to the public and saving itself hundreds of thousands in consulting fees.

    Where to from here? I strongly appeal to GWRC to do a full or partial rollback to bring about network stability. This will buy time to consider and sort out the longer term options and the underlying infrastructure which will take time. First, GWRC needs to have the humility to acknowledge that there are fundamental network design errors. The ongoing denial and PR spins are causing more public anger. GWRC needs to put customers first by introducing improvements rapidly in days/weeks not months/years. If GWRC is unable to bring about rapid changes and improvements then perhaps it should heed the public call to step aside and let more capable people helm the ship.

  34. Glen Smith, 23. September 2018, 9:26

    John. When you say we ‘require a high performing bus network in place first’ are you saying we should first stick with a single across town bus corridor and attempt to make it ‘high performing’ ? This is what is being attempted at present, requires a Hub and Spoke design to work (due to the Golden Mile being 100% over capacity in terms of units per hour), will logically fail and is demonstrably failing. Or are you saying we should first build a second spine as a bus corridor and then later convert it to rail? This defies logic. Why would you not go directly to rail? And how would the system function while you then change the second corridor to rail (likely to take several years) at a time in the future when total trip loads are even higher and the original bus corridor (presumably the Golden Mile) is even less able to cope?

  35. Wellington Commuter, 23. September 2018, 12:14

    @GlenSmith. What is being attempted at present is NOT “sticking with a single across town bus corridor and attempt to make it ‘high performing’ ” … the closure of one south-bound bus stop on Lambton Quay is the only change to increase PT capacity along the golden mile corridor under the Bus review. It is the ABSENCE of any substantial investment in improved reliability and capacity that is probably the most important reason why the bus changes and the Hub & Spoke design failed and will continue to fail. Your claim that the Golden Mile bus corridor is 100% over capacity now does not mean that PT corridor capacity cannot be increased, only that any attempt to increase PT capacity without such investment will fail (something everyone now understands). For goodness sake, there is STILL not even a contiguous dedicated PT corridor at peak times between Courtenay Place and the Railway Station. What has been done wouldn’t even count as implementing basic bus priority which was the “Do Minimum” option in the 2013 Spine Study.

    The second big lesson from these bus changes is to highlight just how much Wellington commuters hate interchanging (and, as a PT commuter, hate is the correct word). This is, of course very bad news for Light Rail fans. Because the proposed light rail line will terminate at Newtown and Kilbirnie, all PT riders from other southern/eastern suburbs will have to bus to one of these hubs and then transfer to light rail. This means all those who now still have a direct bus service (Island Bay, Lyall Bay, Seatoun, Miramar South) would also have to bus and interchange to get to work. The huge increase in commuters interchanging is spelled out in the Spine Study Summary of Findings:
    Kilbirnie: Bus Rapid Transit = 210, Light Rail = 1,340
    Newtown: Bus Rapid Transit = 150, Light Rail = 1,020

    The Spine Study predicted that the increased need to interchange for light rail would lead to a fall in PT usage from Miramar and Island Bay, compared to increases with Bus Rapid Transit. A light rail service to south and east Wellington will be worse for the majority of PT commuters (slower with interchanging) than the hub & spoke bus network design.

  36. John Rankin, 23. September 2018, 14:15

    @Glen. In my view, we need to change the organisational culture around how public transport is planned and delivered in Wellington City. The critical measure is on-time performance, where “on-time” means leave no more than 1 minute early, arrive no more than 2 minutes late, at various “timing points.” Achieving this will take several years and require a number of changes to the PT system, such as:
    – designing realistic timetables that reflect what drivers can practically and repeatedly deliver
    – identifying and implementing measures to reduce the natural variability in trip times, like giving buses priority over other traffic [*]
    – giving feedback to drivers in real time that they are running early, on-time, or late, including holding buses briefly at hubs for late-running connections
    – collecting and using operational data to predict and measure the impact of every intervention
    – adjusting the schedules as needed to reflect any major seasonal variations in travel time, such as winter when more people plus weather slow the system down

    The goal is to achieve this level of performance routinely well before the first rapid mass transit line opens. As far as I know, all the cities that have tried to upgrade an express bus corridor to rail have regretted that they didn’t go straight to rail in the first place. It’s cheaper and less disruptive.

    I think Mike Mellor has some practical solutions to mitigate the Golden Mile problems. Perhaps he will comment. And yesterday would be a good time to start working on a new rapid transit corridor through the city.

    [*] I would also change to flat fares on buses, i.e. eliminate distance-based pricing. The flat fare buys as many boardings as you need within, say 90 minutes of the time you board the first bus. In cities that work this way, I often go to a shopping centre and back on a single fare. A big advantage of this price policy is that you only need to tag on, not off, which reduces the dwell time at stops. And it’s scalable: a day pass buys as many boardings as you need in a 24 hour period; a monthly pass buys travel for a month; university students buy an annual pass as part of the start-of-year registration process.

  37. Kerry, 23. September 2018, 14:45

    Wellington Commuter – A quality bus corridor has a hard limit of about 50–60 buses an hour (explained very well in the 2011 Bus Review), and (by my count) the golden mile is now at about 80 bus/hr. That is an improvement on 100% overload, but still an overload, and most of the congestion savings might have been used up by introducing double-deck buses, which are notoriously slow at stops. Exclusive bus lanes and greater bus priority at traffic signals will reduce delays but cannot help with capacity, which is set not by bus lanes but bus stops.
    If you insist that there can be no hubs, you create two nonsensical situations:
    — A car is the only sensible option for routes other your local bus stop, at a time when cities around the world are committing to reducing or even eliminating private cars in the CBD.
    — Anybody who doesn’t have a car will have to change buses anyway, by waiting as long as it takes.
    Everybody now knows that everybody in Wellington hates hubs. However, a few people (including Councillor Laidlaw, to his credit) recognise that hubs can work very well, if bus timekeeping is sufficiently accurate. Bus timekeeping is now on the agenda. The Bus Review also calls hubs ‘pulses’, which explains their function. At a given time — so many minutes past each hour — buses converge on the hub in a single pulse, then leave when all passengers have made whatever connections they wish. While this is very effective, it needs care in timetable design, and much better timekeeping.
    So now that you have set impossible requirements for public transport in Wellington, what do you think GW should do? What other cities are doing it, and where is the evidence that it works?

  38. Glen Smith, 23. September 2018, 19:35

    Roy Kutel. I am well aware of the Spine Study findings and also its flaws. All Quay options (not just ‘heavy’ rail) were eliminated at the ‘medium list’ stage on some demonstrably subjective, imprecise and arbitrary analysis using flawed premises, incorrect data and circular arguments. No detailed analysis (technical reports/ costings/ exploration of options) was undertaken of ANY Quays options. There isn’t really space here to fully critique the report and I suggest readers review it themselves (on the GWRC website). But let’s look at a couple of major basic issues.
    The whole analysis was based on a single spine when capacity projections (including those in the study itself which used very conservative PT projections and only short term- to 2041) show we require two spines. So the correct analysis question is ‘what combination of TWO spines is the best’- in my view clearly bus along the Golden Mile and rail along the Quays. This basic flawed premise severely affected weighting scores on a number of criteria. For example on ‘Social Severence’ the study states ‘for waterfront options public transport spine would be removed from the central city to an edge location’ (attracting a low subjective score) when this is false for two spines (which increases city coverage).
    The study put very high emphasis (and resulting subjective scores) on proximity to workplace destinations and largely ignored the glaring need for a high quality ‘bypass route’ for commuters wanting to get across, and not to, the CBD. This appears to be based on incorrect data since the short list report (same authors) states ‘the majority (86%) of future forecast trips from the north end in the CBD rather than passing through. This applies for all modes (including cars) in 2031’. Even a cursory look at traffic flow data (or a brief glance out the window at the traffic through the Terrace Tunnel and bypass) tells you this is false. In fact the majority of cars from the north continue on through the Terrace Tunnel.

    The assessment of proximity to workplace was based on 400m for all modes (resulting in very high subjective scores for a central alignment and very low subjective scores for a waterfront alignment only two blocks away) when all studies show commuters are prepared to walk much further to a high quality spine (around 800-1000m based on empirical Wellington based data).
    A waterfront route was stated to need 3 car lanes (when 2 would suffice) and was given low subjective scores on severence without any explanation as to why 2 lanes of rail with units every few minutes produces greater severence than 2 lanes of bumper to bumper cars. High scores were given to a central alignment based on ‘policy consistency’ particularly with N2A which in turn only looked at a Golden Mile route. That is ‘we’ve decided on a Golden Mile route because we’ve already decided on a Golden Mile route’ (a self perpetuating circular argument).
    The scores were subjective (why -2 rather than -1.5?) And imprecise (why -2 rather than -1.865?). Minor cumulative errors make the final scores arbitrary and meaningless. I could continue. It would be interesting to have the process reviewed by a serious scientific journal.

  39. Glen Smith, 23. September 2018, 20:13

    The whole discussion seems to assume that introducing rail lines will necessary require more transfers than buses – and this is likely true if you design your rail on a Hub design with aggregation of demand onto the rail spine. This is what the Spine Study, and as far as I can see the majority of our light rail advocates, automatically assume (and why, as Wellington Commuter points out, the Spine Study showed higher transfers for rail than bus). I question the necessity and logic of this. The alternative is to run all your lines as point to point (a peripheral location to another peripheral location on the other side of the city) but with some as rail ( the high load lines) and some as bus ( the more ‘minor’ routes or where rail is technically difficult). Using this design you would likely first introduce Kapiti to Airport and Hutt to Airport lines based on the huge projected airport commuter load (59,000 projected daily trips by 2031) preferably seamlessly by having ‘track sharing’ units. The main benefit would be to open up the whole CBD to commuters from the north.
    However other point to point rail lines could then be established. We have two existing truncated rail lines to the north – Johnsonville and Melling (which is also truncated on the Lower Hutt end). These should be continued all the way to another peripheral destination on the other side of the city. My suggestions, based on ease of construction and likely longer term medium density growth, would be to Lyall Bay/Rongotai (perhaps as a single one way loop down Onepu Road, along the Lyall Bay Parade and back down Tirangi Road through the growing Lyall Bay Shopping Precinct) and Miramar (all the way down Park Road). Each would only require a couple of extra kilometers of track.
    We would then have 4 across town point to point Rail corridors but more could be added this century based on growth and balancing load between the Quays and Golden Mile. ?Karori to Seatoun would be a longer term option. Island Bay much more difficult.

  40. Mike Mellor, 23. September 2018, 23:26

    JR: my ideas about practical solutions for the Golden Mile are pretty mainstream – e.g. continuous bus lanes for the whole length (preferably full removal of private cars); priority for buses (or flows containing buses) at traffic lights; minimising dwell times through measures like all-door boarding, off-bus ticket purchase/validation, and making it easy for buses to pull fully against the kerb; plus very simple measures like having a map at every bus stop showing both the whole network, and where buses from that stop go and their connections.

    And it’s not just along the Golden Mile: the whole length of the core spine routes (at least) has to have the infrastructure and the operating practices to support precision operation. That’s quite a big ask, but it’s essential for a world-class transit system.

    All these things are done elsewhere in the world, with positive effects on reliability and punctuality, and it’s good to see that GWRC has voted to initiate a bus priority work programme with WCC, and is also focussing on making sure that timetabled connections are met. Current punctuality standards are that a bus must leave its starting point between 1 minute early and 5 minutes late, passing each subsequent timing point less than 1 minute early, so we’ve still got a fair way to go.

  41. Roy Kutel, 24. September 2018, 6:30

    Glen – The option report of the $1 million Spine Study did look at two heavy rail routes (waterfront and L.Quay). I think you will have your work cut out justifying another million dollars (probably more) of ratepayer money spent on consultants to redo analysis done only 6 years ago because you don’t agree with the findings. Judged on Melbourne, you can budget construction costs at $1 billion a kilometre so that’s at least $10 billion to get to the airport. That’s over $20,000 a person living in Greater Wellington. Say $60,000 for an average family of 3. Where’s the money coming from and how much better than the Airport Flyer provided free to ratepayers by NZ Bus? How many hospitals could you build and operate for $10 billion?

  42. Jonny Utzone, 24. September 2018, 9:31

    Mike Mellor – which bit of the golden mile isn’t a bus lane now and how fast do you want buses to travel?

  43. Glen Smith, 24. September 2018, 10:15

    Roy Kutel. Why do you keep focussing on ‘heavy’ rail? No Quays options at all were properly investigated including ‘light’ rail or bus. Which of the fundamental flaws in the methodology of the Spine Study that led to no investigation of Quays options being undertaken do you think I am incorrect about? (I can outline more if you like). And if it is fundamentally flawed shouldn’t it be revisited?

    Where do you get your costings from? Neil Douglas and Daryl Cockburn costed the initial stage (Station to Courtenay Place) at just $94 million, Courtenay Place to the Basin is a straight surface run and from there to Kilbirnie would be the marginal cost of adding rail to the NZTA’s planned SH1 roading changes (if the logical option of running the two together at the same time via a stacked multipurpose Mt Victoria Tunnel were pursued). Even the Spine Study, which examined the more expensive Golden Mile route and the more expensive option of a separate rail tunnel, came back with costings of rail to Kilbirnie of less than a billion.

    The reality is we have no idea about the cost of all possible rail options in a Wellington setting because our planners haven’t been competent enough to properly examine all available options. There are indications this deficiency is being corrected but I’m not holding my breath. The cost would then have to be compared to the societal costs of not pursuing rail. The congestion costs alone will soon likely climb to hundreds of millions per year (now conservatively estimated at $1.2 billion in Auckland – how many hospitals would that build each year?). Then there’s pollution, health costs, climate change and the huge cost of having to futilely build more roads (with the associated cost of accidents, deaths, policing etc) to accommodate commuters who don’t have a viable PT option. It would be nice if our planners did their jobs thoroughly but they have failed so far. I invite you to join me in encouraging them to do so.

  44. Mike Mellor, 24. September 2018, 10:52

    Jonny Utzone: Courtenay Place, Manners St, Willis St and Lambton Quay all have stretches where buses have to share the road with general traffic. Only Hunter St and Customhouse Quay have bus lanes for their full relevant length.

    It’s not so much about speed as about reliability. The way other vehicles hold up buses is variable and unpredictable, leading to unreliability and all that entails. Allowing buses a smooth run is essential.

  45. luke, 24. September 2018, 11:57

    Do we really need cars on Courtenay Place? Delivery vehicles excepted.

  46. Jonny Utzone, 24. September 2018, 13:16

    Mike – there are very few cars using Lambton Quay, Willis St or Manners St now. They use the Quays and the Urban Motorway. From 4.30pm – 6pm the Golden Mile is an elongated bus park with many empty/quarter full buses lined up simply because GWRC wants to run 90% of buses through the CBD instead of ending most of them at WRS and C.Place and getting people to walk 250 metres. Bus unreliability has little to do with road traffic in the city centre.

    Enforce some exercise on bus users (like rail users) and the ‘lungs’ of the city centre would not be choking in noisy dirty diesel fumes and we wouldn’t be looking at ridiculously expensive mechanized transport solutions either.

  47. Dave Armstrong, 24. September 2018, 13:31

    Reducing bus congestion in Lambton Quay has some merit IF you reduce car congestion as well but none if not. Also, simple hubs at Courtenay Place and Railway Station only could have had some merit, and could have been experimented with, but the GRWC have swatted a fly with a sledgehammer. If you wait more than five minutes for a connection at any bus hub it doesn’t really work. [via Facebook]

  48. D. Watson, 24. September 2018, 13:32

    Glen – Auckland City Rail link is $1 billion per kilometre. $3.4b for 3.45 kms. I’m thinking an underground terminus at C.Place would be way more expensive.

  49. Casey, 24. September 2018, 14:15

    Dave: A 5 minute light rail service Railway Station to the Zoo would make all feeder routes work. Rationing road space along the Golden Mile in peak hours by keeping non essential traffic out would improve matters too.

  50. Glen Smith, 24. September 2018, 15:41

    D. Watson. Underground rail is very expensive and in the spine study was justifiably given poor scores on a number of criteria including cost, resilience and consentability. I am talking about a surface rail corridor. The Quays is an almost straight surface run using 2 car lanes. Neil Douglas and Daryl Cockburn (with good credentials) in their 2013 Scoop article costed this at less than 100 million from the Station to Courtenay Place (although their proposal was at the ‘lighter’ end of the rail spectrum than what I think is required). It would be nice if our planners actually did some formal costings of options. This is their job. [As the system is now full to its maximum of 50, comments on this topic are now closed. You can send further comments to the shortage of drivers article.]