Wellington Scoop

Blocking bus windows – distracting from the real issue

by Helene Ritchie
What is wrong with the Wellington Regional Council and their more and more stupid bus decisions…they just keep coming, unlike the buses!

How on earth could they, at the Regional Council meeting this week, have supported advertising that will block out the windows of buses. How ridiculous and awful. Did Councillors Barbara Donaldson, Jenny Brash, Daran Ponter, Roger Blakely, Chris Laidlaw, Penny Gaylor, Adrienne Staples, Ken Laban, Prue Lamason, really all vote for this?

I just cannot understand how this Regional Council has got so lost, and distracted, and continues to make stupid bus decisions.

This is clearly a failure of governance and management.

The justification for this seems ludicrous, and likely unjustifiable even if reported correctly – that revenue would increase by 30-50%. Yeah right.

Revenue will only increase when people want to use the buses when they are reliable, frequent, fast, comfortable, quiet, non polluting, affordable, and direct (without unnecessary transfers and hubs).

This is what the Regional Council should instead have focused on.

So, now with adertising on the windows, the bus will still not come, will still drive past, be crowded, have no driver (so not come), have a poorly paid driver, stressed and working long hours, be early, be late, be cut, be the new destiny (NIS – Not in Service), and be doubly charging (for hubs and transfers).

Added to all of that, it will now be a moving semi dark cave – with passengers not being able to see our wonderful city, or where the bus stop is to get off. Wellingtonians will not only suffer from the pollution of diesel buses, but also from this visual pollution.

We used to have the best, most used public transport system (with electric buses-trolley buses), in the country till it was stuffed up by the Regional Council.

Public transport is vital to our personal, economic, environmental and social well being. It is a core function of the Regional Council. It is at the heart of Wellington’s commitment to climate action, and minimizing carbon emissions.

But instead we have a Regional Council which thinks large window-blocking advertisements on buses will improve he service and maybe even save it.! What a distraction from the real issue.

I am now writing to the Chief Executive to ask for his explanation, and for the immediate release of the officer report that accompanied this decision and the voting record as recorded by the Regional Council.

Helene Ritchie is a former deputy mayor and long time city councillor, with unique governance, transport and environmental leadership experience. She is standing for the Regional Council.


  1. Michael Gibson, 4. October 2019, 8:29

    I noticed this stupid and undesirable item on the GW Agenda and am very pleased that Helene Ritchie is trying to do something about it.
    By the way why are so many of our buses purple as well as noisy and smelly? Wasn’t there a huge song-and-dance about their being a uniform yellow when the new set-up was launched fifteen months ago? Isn’t there something in the contract limiting the level of noise and fumes?
    Is blocking the views from the windows simply calculated to be a diversion?

  2. Cr Daran Ponter, 4. October 2019, 9:03

    Dear Helene, As an experienced former Councillor you will be fully aware that the report that you are seeking from the CEO is already available on the GWRC website – has been for a week now.
    The GWRC did move a number of years ago to ban advertising on windows, due to complaints from bus users not being able to see out the windows. I supported that move. Roll on two years and there is a new product that apparently allows for advertising while also allowing users to see out the windows. Hence agreement to a trial on one side of the buses. A similar trial has recently been conducted in Auckland. The trial will be evaluated with bus users to understand their reactions to the new product. Bus advertising is a means by which the Council can gain income and offset the need for fare or rates increases.

    Note that there are currently 50+ Drivers in training. Once they enter the workforce we will be able to reintroduce and add services, remove unnecessary hubbing and reduce crowding. There is still work to do to improve driver wages and I am committed to working with the unions, operators and the government to find a solution that will once again recognise bus driving as a career.

    Here is a link to the report.

  3. Alan, 4. October 2019, 9:32

    Very, very well said Helene. One wonders if the mandarins at GWRC have any concept on what constitutes a bus service.
    They have insisted that buses working their contracts are painted in their unexciting colour scheme and are now bit by bit covering them with advertising. I understand that it’s the “interim” buses that will probably be “wrapped” but as you rightly say adding advertising will not improve overall service one iota.

  4. Concerned Wellingtonian, 4. October 2019, 10:53

    What are the odds on Helene and Daran getting on well together in the next triennium?

  5. Helene Ritchie, 4. October 2019, 12:12

    Dear Daran, Yes I had seen the report, but was interested in whether the CEO had furnished another for this bizarre decision of the Regional Council.
    As a Candidate, (and former City Councillor) I always go to source information which in this case is the report and recommendations that formed the basis for the regional Councillors’ bus advertising decisions this week. The recommendations were moved by Cllor Donaldson, seconded by Cllor Laidlaw. The voting record is in my opinion piece.
    Unfortunately, the report gives no figures of increased revenue, instead just says, “Officers estimate that allowing this new advertising could lift current revenue by 50% based on current commercial demand”.
    I also note that the so-called public consultation is over the Christmas period when many bus users will be away on holiday.
    By the way Concerned Wellingtonian: I love Daran. But I am not standing for election to a lovefest, I am standing to serve the public interest as a Regional Councillor and to do the best I can representing them.

  6. Benny, 4. October 2019, 14:01

    @Michael: the purple/grey/blue buses are +30yo diesel buses Auckland wanted to get rid of. Wellington took them temporarily… in 2017 to compensate for the decommissioning of the trolley buses. Two years later, the buses are slowly but surely getting metlink branded, achieving the uniform look and feel they want, but brushing away quietly how temporary wellington was supposed to endure these noisy, smelly, lung killing, climate destroyers. The current plan to have them replaced by electric buses is the opposite of ambitious. There is a roadmap to be voted on for after the elections. Choose your councillors carefully.

    Finally, on the windows advertising … it’s not only a pain for the bus users but also an eyesore for city residents. With this sort of reasoning we should cover the buildings, the roads, anywhere it can generate cash.

  7. David Mackenzie, 4. October 2019, 14:21

    I have no objection to advertising. The covering of the windows will not complete obstruct light. They will be translucent.

  8. Catherine, 4. October 2019, 16:28

    I’d like to add that the advertising on windows makes it difficult to see in! Who knows what is happening to the passengers on the bus when only the driver is there for security and is busy driving. Cameras only record what is happening, they don’t stop it and then it is too late.

  9. Andrew, 4. October 2019, 20:08

    @benny the Auckland buses, while older than the new fleet being run by the other contractors, are not 30 years old. There are no pre 1990 buses in service on metlink routes. The buses you are talking about are 2005-2010, so they are more like 13 years old, rather than 30.

    Also Daran Ponter is pretty passionate about public transport, he’s not going to vote for something that doesnt support the cause. You are inventing a storm in a teacup in your article here Helen.

  10. Ben Foden, 4. October 2019, 22:18

    Time will tell, but given the passenger negativity towards the earlier advertising on windows it is surprising that this is being rolled out “on trial” to any buses, without being fully evaluated separately by GWRC. But then – so many in the GWRC will no longer be within a month it would seem, so they don’t have to live with their decisions.

    Helene – (and I say this in jest of course) GWRC would probably be happy to drive an advertising trailer around town with Metlink branding. Bonus – no pesky passengers to complain about, saves having to be seen to “listen” to them, like Donaldson is promising to do (after years of refusing to do just that). Actually, maybe that is closer to the truth than it was intended.

  11. Cr Daran Ponter, 4. October 2019, 22:49

    Dear Helene, It’s a trial. The trial will assist to determine whether the new material is as good as its proponents say it is (ie ability to see through it) and also give a clearer understanding of likely revenue.

    The GWRC is facing some significant fiscal pressures which means that we we are obliged to look carefully at better defining the core business, identify savings and other potential revenue sources.

  12. Keith Flinders, 5. October 2019, 2:07

    Andrew: Many of the ex Auckland buses entered service there in 2003 and are of Euro 3 specification, so would not be permitted to be in operation in many other countries. An inventory of the buses deployed by NZ Bus on Wellington routes can be seen at http://vault.revoltwellington.co.nz/

  13. Helene Ritchie, 5. October 2019, 8:36

    Dear Daran. Advertising on bus windows is no sound way to fund public transport. It might bring in a few dollars. But, how could this have been given such priority at the last meeting of this GWRC? There were no criteria or specifics given for the trial. As Sue Kedgely (who voted against), said it is more the beginning than a trial.

    So, ultimately passengers and ratepayers will just have to like it or lump it, unless you and I will have the privilege of voting against it (or not having to!) in February next year.
    That will depend not on us, but on the voters!

  14. Gillian Tompsett, 5. October 2019, 8:45

    On the topic of noisy and polluting buses, the age of the buses is a misnomer. Wellingtonians were promised 50% Euro 5 and better when the trolleys were decommissioned. The NZ Bus fleet that services the east-west corridor is currently comprised of the following:

    Euro 5: 23
    Euro 4: 11
    Euro 3: 66

    The Euro 3 standard is now so old and the buses have done so many kilometres, there is no requirement for them to comply with any emission standard and no emissions-testing regime in place to verify that the newer buses comply with modern Euro standards.

  15. Cr Daran Ponter, 5. October 2019, 13:43

    Dear Helene, Advertising on buses is a universally accepted means of gaining revenue. It will never be the primary means of funding public transport.

    It was an item on the penultimate Council meeting because a trial now will allow councillors to be informed of its results when setting the 2020 Annual Plan.

    If you go over the Sustainable Transport Committee meeting minutes for the past 18 months you will see more than 20 approved motions (I do hate that word!) from me on additional services, new routes, amended routes, route reviews, electric buses etc, all of which are being acted upon, but many of which require one primary thing – more drivers – which is also being worked on.

  16. Alan, 5. October 2019, 16:00

    Am I right in saying that NZ Bus whose vehicles will be so “adorned” only get a small amount of the revenue generated, the lion’s share going to the regional council. Seems hardly fair to me. Whose buses actually are they. Not the council’s.

  17. Andrew Bartlett, 6. October 2019, 7:54

    Alan, You are most likely correct. The same could be said for the passengers too! It is shocking, but NZ Bus whose vehicles will be so “adorned” (boarded) only get a small (zero) amount of the (fare) revenue generated, the lion’s share going to the regional council. More seriously, my understanding is that (eg) NZ Bus instead has the certainty of a flat fee presuming they provide the right bus, on time, and run the route.

  18. Matthew, 8. October 2019, 1:28

    I walk and bike to work and subsidise transport I never use through my rates. I’m glad to see all revenue sources being explored (including advertising) to make public transport more financially self-sufficient. Good on GWRC.

  19. Brendan, 8. October 2019, 7:26

    Matthew – need to double rail fares to achieve this. It’s the rich rail commuters who are benefiting from your generosity.

  20. Dave B, 8. October 2019, 12:27

    @ Matthew. I walk and bike to work and subsidise roads I never use through my rates. I would be glad to see congestion-charging applied to make car-commuting more self-sufficient instead of being heavily-subsidized.

    @ Brendan: Not all rail commuters are rich, as I am sure you know. And don’t forget the car-commuters, rich and otherwise, who benefit majorly from less traffic on the roads because of rail. Remember the ensuing road-chaos when the Hutt Valley rail line was disrupted by severe weather in 2013.

  21. Meredith, 9. October 2019, 0:30

    What about me? I don’t know whether I can get on the bus if it comes because some of those Auckland dirty diesels don’t “kneel” and the step is too high. I pay rates but I am trapped at home. Anyway I don’t want advertisements blocking my view into or out of the buses.

  22. Jenny, 13. October 2019, 9:17

    I hate being on a bus with advertising on the windows; it obscures the view. If revenue is the issue, put cameras at all traffic lights in the Wgtn region – the number of drivers (incl bus drivers) running the red light has made it dangerous to cross when pedestrian green light says cross now.