Wellington Scoop

“Refresh” of bus timetables will improve reliability, says Daran Ponter

News from Wellington Regional Council
Metlink is refreshing its Wellington City bus timetables from Sunday, to improve reliability and better match customer demand with available driver and bus resources amid national driver shortages. Regional Council Chair Daran Ponter says in the lead up to these changes, 14 Tranzurban operated services that were suspended are now reinstated.

The timetable changes from 26 January will reduce the number of suspended services to 21, down from 55 services at the end of 2019, with further services expected to be restored in the near future.

“Though there will be less suspended services overall, some Tranzurban services will remain suspended as we, along with the rest of the country, continue to deal with driver shortages,” Cr Ponter says.

The timetable refreshment coincides with a time when the Wellington network will be under peak-hour pressure, says the Chair of the Transport Committee Roger Blakeley.

“So while available resources will be targeted to areas of greatest need customers can expect peak time buses to be operating at or close to capacity.

“This is generally Metlink’s busiest time of year with students coming back to university, so we’re advising customers travelling by bus that they may not get their first choice of bus during the morning peak, and to consider travelling earlier if it suits their schedule.

“The changes being made to Metlink timetables will also reflect feedback collected during our recent Bus Network Review where customers gave us valuable feedback,” Cr Blakeley says.

Metlink is encouraging bus users to check the new timetables on January 26, and stay up to date with the network by subscribing to My Metlink, downloading the Metlink app or checking the Metlink website.


  1. Brent Efford, 22. January 2020, 22:48

    Good to see, and I won’t offer any negative comments! BUT I hope that the new(ish) councilors will not forget that Wellington suffers one of the biggest ‘infrastructure deficits’ in the world as far as public transport is concerned, and the Let’s Get Wellington Moving project/farrago is totally ignorant about it. How many other urban regions have a rail transit system which carries 70% of the passenger/km and yet doesn’t penetrate the CBD?

  2. Manny, 23. January 2020, 6:03

    Yeah right. …like the GPS and electric signs that made the buses run on time (not).

  3. Derek G., 23. January 2020, 9:03

    Ooh, golly gosh – GWRC promises a timetable that ‘will’ improve reliability. I shall wait and see at my bus stop.

  4. George G., 23. January 2020, 9:56

    Wellington rail carries 70% of passenger kilometres? This can’t be true for the whole Wellington region 24/7 where car drivers will dominate followed by car passengers so I can’t see rail’s share being over 5%. ‘Penetrating’ the CBD might raise rail’s up to 6.5% (say) but with some drop in bus share.

  5. Kara Lipski, 24. January 2020, 9:49

    Hopefully Metlink has listened to Strathmore Park residents who need their bus service to travel direct to the CBD via the Basin Reserve.

  6. Mike Mellor, 24. January 2020, 17:46

    The new timetables are on the Metlink website here with the changes outlined here. (The first page is linked from the Metlink home page, but the second one is harder to find.)

    Route changes are:
    Route 12, Strathmore Park-Kilbirnie: between the peaks Monday-Friday every other bus is extended to/from Newtown (Hutchison Rd), giving an hourly service at those times between Strathmore Park, Newtown and the hospital;
    Route 18, Miramar (Darlington Rd)-Miramar shops: extended to/from Kilbirnie at all times, with the 18/18e daytime combined frequency reduced to half-hourly (currently every 10 mins Monday-Friday, every 15 mins at weekends) and hourly weekend evenings (currently half-hourly).

    The other timetable changes are too many to detail here: see https://www.metlink.org.nz/our-metlink-bus-journey/whats-happening-now/ for summaries by route.

  7. Marion Leader, 25. January 2020, 7:25

    So, the 18e is only scheduled to operate hourly during the day between Karori and the Hospital.
    Why hasn’t a decent service been restored for the elderly and others who need what we had in the old days?

  8. Cr Daran Ponter, 26. January 2020, 20:33

    Note that this is the first phase of service changes. Further services changes will be rolled out during 2020. Further community engagement is required on some of the the proposals.

  9. D.W., 27. January 2020, 6:13

    Timetable ‘changes’ and not ‘improvements’! GWRC’s expectations are approaching the public’s after five years of worsening service.

  10. Kara Lipski, 27. January 2020, 10:31

    I guess the battle to restore all services goes on. While extending the 12 to Newtown is a partial improvement, I am certain that Strathmore Park bus users would appreciate a direct service to the CBD via the BASIN RESERVE. Is this so really hard to do?

  11. Russel C., 27. January 2020, 13:15

    Kara L – great idea for a Basin bus service especially with the women’s world cup cricket later in the year. The Basin should be a fulcrum for bus services with a cut and cover Light Rail service under the Basin ‘hill’ as a medium term (5 years!) horizon. Let’s Get Wellington Moving to the Cricket.

  12. Alana, 27. January 2020, 17:52

    The biggest problem was the decision to establish hubs – longer bus trips and standing in the cold doesn’t induce more bus users and discourages the rest of us. One service went from 20 minutes to an hour to reach the same destination and there you lost a bunch of passengers in just one move.

  13. Ross Clark, 28. January 2020, 3:17

    @Alana. Agreed – transfer-based systems (and light rail enthusiasts take note!) only work when there is a very high-service-frequency on both journey legs. In a bus context like New Zealand’s, and specifically Wellington’s, direct buses are to be favoured if at all possible.

  14. TrevorH, 28. January 2020, 8:01

    @Alana: you are exactly right. It was strongly signaled by many before the shambolic changes were implemented that requiring commuters from suburbs like Miramar to switch buses en route to the CBD was going to be a major disincentive for public transport. But the GWRC’s arrogance rendered them stone deaf.

  15. Karori Pete, 28. January 2020, 9:11

    But GWRC says patronage is up! I wonder how they have come up with this statistic? I suppose its by treating a trip that used to be direct as 2 trips after forcing passengers to transfer.

  16. Kerry, 28. January 2020, 9:38

    Alana & Ross, a light rail enthusiast has taken note.

    The problem is not hubs, which are essential if the objective is anywhere-to-anywhere public transport.
    The principal hub is the Railway Station: how would Wellington manage without it? All buses would run on the golden mile, which is already grossly overloaded. A realistic maximum is one bus a minute on a conventional bus route, about half present-day capacity. Golden mile improvements are coming, and will help, but cannot make hubs really effective
    Yes, hubs work when there is a very high level of service on both legs, which is roughly what happens at the Railway Station.
    The other way of making hubs work is good timekeeping, which isn’t going to happen until golden mile bus traffic is roughly halved. Bus priority on the golden mile will help but cannot be a full answer. That needs high-capacity public transport on another route, which is where light rail comes in. Bus Rapid Transit won’t work in Wellington because it needs four-lane stops, and Trackless Trams are unproven, supported by dubious claims.
    With light rail running, much better time-keeping becomes practical; never early and rarely more than a minute late. Most Miramar Peninsular buses will terminate at Miramar Village, arriving a minute or two before the tram is due, and leaving when all transferring passengers are on board. Each bus will then make another loop around the peninsular, on one of three our four routes, and back to Miramar. Complaints will dry up when people discover how fast and reliable it is, with transfer-time more than offset by a faster trip.
    Two likely bus routes out of Miramar are given in the MRCagney studies on the LGWM website. Something on the existing route 2, for people going to Hataitai or Mt Victoria, and a route 21 extension to Miramar, for people going to Massey or Victoria Universities, or Karori. Changing at one hub will be perfectly acceptable, but changing twice should be avoided where possible.
    Another advantage of hubs is a simpler bus network, with fewer routes and more frequent buses on each, with more time-savings.

  17. Karori Pete, 28. January 2020, 11:38

    Buses should be routed to the CBD not through the CBD. Too many buses have nobody on them whilst they traverse the CBD on N-S routes. Hub at the railway station and C.Place like they used to do and encourage more people to walk a bit in the CBD like rail passengers do. Diesel buses are worse than cars! Low load factors and awful noise and emissions.

  18. Ross Clark, 29. January 2020, 2:07

    @Kerry. Thank you for your comments. In reply:

    [1] I am sure you would agree with me, that reducing car traffic on the Golden Mile would be a good thing. Reduced car traffic, and the buses would work better than they do at the moment.

    [2] I agree with you about busways in Wellington, but there is a need for a more general debate about where busways are actually the right idea. There is no argument that the North Shore Busway has worked very well.

    With light rail running, much better time-keeping becomes practical; never early and rarely more than a minute late.
    Not always. In Edinburgh, the trams are frequently bogged down in the evening peak by other traffic. I doubt Wellington would end up being any different.

  19. Kerry, 29. January 2020, 8:28

    Ross. Yes, yes and nearly yes. One thing that light rail shares with bus priority is that it has to be done properly, and bringing in French or German advisers would be a big help. The Gold Coast has done well, and Wellington can do the same if it gets the right advice AND accepts it.
    Light rail is much more effective if it is fast, and an average speed of 30 km/hr, including stops, would be a good target. That is slower than a car off-peak, but a lot faster on-peak. Achieving it needs traffic signal priority, good alignment (vertical as well as horizontal, without silly compromises to fit in one more parking space). The route can be fully segregated away from junctions (but possibly shared with emergency vehicles), so the main risk is cars stopped on the tracks, manageable using legislation, traffic signals and left-turns only.

  20. John Rankin, 29. January 2020, 11:40

    @RossClark said: “In Edinburgh, the trams are frequently bogged down in the evening peak by other traffic. I doubt Wellington would end up being any different.”

    This problem can be avoided if Wellington adopts some of the proven design patterns from overseas light metro systems. Use these elements to create “transit-oriented streets”. For example, this can include:
    – run down the middle of wide streets in protected “fast lanes”
    – minimise the number of curves, especially right-angled turns
    – disallow cross traffic and right turns so the corridor is left-in, left out (LILO turns only)
    – if you run at the edge of the street, disallow left turns and put in barriers to keep people off the tracks, with pedestrian crossings (including pedestrian bridges and underpasses)
    – identify the busiest intersections the route crosses and consider grade separation, starting with the busiest such as where the route crosses SH1; trench the road or elevate the tracks
    – at the remaining intersections, give light rail signal priority over other traffic; if necessary, enforce separation with barrier arms

    Creating transit-oriented streets need not increase costs. But it requires the money is spent wisely on the right things, to minimise and manage the interaction of light rail with cars and other vehicles. As @Kerry says, “bringing in French or German advisers would be a big help” and I would add Canadian. I doubt if we will get the budget to build a proper light metro system, with an exclusive and protected rail-corridor, but we can bring some of the design patterns into an on-street system.

    Which is a long-winded way of saying that just because Edinburgh screwed up is no reason to copy their mistakes.

  21. Mike Mellor, 30. January 2020, 17:25

    The problem was not the establishment of the hubs, it was the way there were established. To work, their services need to be reliable (not necessarily frequent, though that helps), with good facilities, with good and clear connections, and with operators that are encouraged to make them work. Sadly, the new bus network had none of these: nothing was done to improve bus reliability during the years of planning (progress seems to being made now, with GWRC and WCC working together on bus priority); the hubs were woefully late, with minimal facilities (little being done to distinguish them from standard bus shelters); timetabled connections were long (many well over five minutes, some over 10) with nothing to indicate whether a particular bus was going to make a connection, or whether a 30-minute wait would be required; and operator contracts emphasise punctuality rather than connections, so buses would not wait if their connecting service was running late.

    Hubs are an essential part of transport networks, and can work well – many Wellington region railway stations have operated as hubs successfully for decades. Just because a mess was made of their introduction in 2018 doesn’t mean to say that they’re a bad idea – done properly, they’re fine.

  22. Ross Clark, 31. January 2020, 0:38

    Kerry, John Rankin, Mike Mellor – thanks for your comments. But the issue remains: how do we cut back, actively, on car use? To my mind, this is the nettle which the politicians are refusing to grasp, as this week’s announcements on various road projects have demonstrated – in spades.

  23. Eric Blair, 31. January 2020, 7:11

    Mike – your analysis of hubs sounds like a critique of Russian communism. Ideal in theory but awful in reality.