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More buses all day: better travel to Karori and Miramar

by Mike Mellor
Metlink describes several of its bus routes as “high frequency”, commonly defined as a bus every 15 minutes or better from first bus to last bus, every day of the week. With frequency like that, people don’t need a timetable: it’s turn up and go.

Until now these Metlink routes have met this criterion during the day, but in the evenings buses are only every half hour, meaning a long wait if you don’t happen to be at the stop at the right time.

This weekend that will be changing for route 2, the second-busiest bus route.

As Metlink has announced and as reported on Wellington Scoop, that route is being split at the Miramar shops into two branches, one to northern Miramar (still described confusingly as just Miramar, rather than Miramar Terminus, Darlington Rd, or Miramar North) and one to Seatoun, with increased off-peak weekday daytime frequency on the core Karori-Miramar shops section – but there’s been no mention of what happens in the evenings and weekends. That is surprising, because clearly the new route structure means that they have to change.

Some digging in a different part of the Metlink website, and looking at the hyperlinked route 2 timetable, shows that frequency on the core section will increase dramatically at all off-peak times, with alternate buses going to/from each branch:

* weekday daytime by 33%, from every 10 minutes to every 7/8
* weekends by 50%, from every 15 minutes to every 10
* evenings by 100%, from every 30 minutes to every 15.

Overall this is a major step forward for public transport in the eastern and western suburbs, and should be celebrated!

(Except in the evenings, when there’s a reduction in the Seatoun service from every 10 or 15 minutes to every 15 or 20 minutes).

Also to be celebrated is the near-disappearance of forced changes at hubs.

Nearly all suburbs that lost their through off-peak service in 2018 have had it reinstated, albeit with the unfortunate consequence of frequency being halved to hourly.

The sole exception is Strathmore Park, where changing at Kilbirnie is still required except for alternate daytime weekday off-peak services, which run to/from the city.

So congratulations to Metlink for listening to feedback and making progress – and it would help if it was made clearer what is actually happening.

The author, a member of GWRC’s Public Transport Advisory Group, has written this article in a personal capacity and he accepts full responsibility for any errors.

23 comments:

  1. David Mackenzie, 22. October 2020, 9:07

    I still can’t get to Lambton Quay or to Karori from Constable Street, Newtown, without a change of buses. Complete restoration of all the former routes is the only acceptable solution from my point of view.

     
  2. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 22. October 2020, 10:53

    Thanks for the update Mike, and congratulations on your very well deserved Absolutely Positively Wellington award. You will probably know that the latest round of changes is almost certainly the result of work by consultant Anthony Cross, who worked with me on the 1991 network review. Every new change brings us ever closer to a return to that network, albeit with very welcome frequency increases in many areas.

    I wonder if anyone would be willing to venture an estimate of the cost of the analysis that went into the 2018 network review and the creation of the hubs. Presumably in the tens of $millions.

     
  3. Cr Daran Ponter, 22. October 2020, 11:51

    @ David McKenzie – the no 3 goes down Constable St and through Lambton Quay. The No 18E goes down Constable St to Karori.

     
  4. Mike Mellor, 22. October 2020, 12:00

    David: I’m not sure why you’re having to change, because from Constable St to Lambton Quay the 3 runs every 10/15 minutes (30 in the evenings), plus from this weekend the 12, hourly weekdays off-peak during the day; and to Karori the 18e runs hourly.

    Sorry, but complete restoration of the former routes won’t happen. Apart from anything else, the users from the many suburbs that now have an improved service wouldn’t be at all happy. The solution is to do what GWRC is doing, bringing up to speed those places that did miss out, Strathmore Park still being the glaring oustanding example (though the 12 is improved from next week).

    Chris: thank you! And I fully agree about Anthony Cross: combined with new governance at GWRC and new management at Metlink, the return of his listening and planning skills set Metlink back in the right direction after the unfortunate and unnecessarily painful hubs experience. An award-winning performance there!

     
  5. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 22. October 2020, 13:27

    Yes Mike. Very pleased that Daran and Roger got back in at last year’s election, plus some talented new blood. Listening to and respecting the public appear to be the new watchwords, although you can’t please everyone of course, especially where bus routes are concerned. Onwards and upwards now, with some much needed new bus lanes and, hopefully in due course, LRT.

     
  6. David Mackenzie, 22. October 2020, 14:14

    Sorry, I meant to say to Courtenay Place not Lambton Quay.

     
  7. Marko, 22. October 2020, 15:12

    Thanks for the update Mike. Agreed that Metlink should really be as open as possible about the recent changes (both the good and not so good!).

    Do you know if they will be updating the numbering system to reflect the branching of the number 2 like the number 1 does? I.e. 2S for the Seatoun branch and 2MN for the Miramar North branch? I personally find that numbering system to be very intuitive.

     
  8. Mike Mellor, 22. October 2020, 15:17

    David: from next week the hourly weekday off-peak 12 will fit the bill, going to Lambton Quay via Courtenay Place.

     
  9. Anthony Cross, 22. October 2020, 15:53

    I don’t look at Scoop that often but happened to just now – very happy to see all those changes happening next week, especially Miramar restored to its rightful place in the network! Thanks for your kind words Chris and Mike. Glad I could play a part!

     
  10. Mike Mellor, 22. October 2020, 18:00

    Marko: I’ve suggested to Metlink that the branches be numbered 2M and 2S – similar to the way the three branches of route 1 are identified (but for some reason in the rear number displays only, not elsewhere on the bus or in printed/online information) – but have received no response. A similar approach could be used for the two branches of the 3 and of the 30x.

    Consistency of information provision is very important, and I’m not sure why Metlink is not taking a consistent approach here. To assist user understanding, the same sort of information should as far as possible be shown in the same way, irrespective of which route it refers to or where the information is being displayed.

     
  11. Andrew H, 22. October 2020, 19:48

    Another route to consider is along Oriental Parade. The 14 and 24 are usually within a couple of minutes of each other, often right behind each other. That means one bus doesn’t pick up passengers. Then there is a wait for 30 mins until the two buses both come along together again. Why not make one go 15 mins later?

     
  12. Graham Atkinson, 22. October 2020, 20:04

    Mike the reason the Route 1 destinations are shown only on the rear blind is because the full destination is shown on the front and side blinds but the smaller rear blind could only shown the full destination through scrolling small print. Originally only the Route number was shown and of course this meant anyone coming towards the stop couldn’t determine which of the four destinations the northbound service was travelling to.

     
  13. Mike Mellor, 22. October 2020, 21:09

    Thanks, Graham – but it’s unclear how the uninitiated are supposed to know that a bus showing 1JW is on route 1, when (for example) a bus showing 12e may on a different route from a bus showing 12.

    “anyone coming towards the stop couldn’t determine which of the four destinations the northbound service was travelling to” – that makes sense, but people heading for an eastbound 3 or 30x (and soon, 2) bus still can’t determine the destination in those circumstances.

    These inconsistencies, small as they may be, make it harder for people to use the bus than it needs to be.

     
  14. Ben, 23. October 2020, 9:28

    The 24 route is often tricky to get from the Khandallah end of the loop. Could we not split that in two and give the Miramar end of the loop its own separate entity? This could improve the 24 for Khandallah and expand its hourly off peak to a more useful timeframe?
    Currently the bus gets stuck in the CBD going in both directions and creates gaps. I used to enjoy a single vehicle route to the hospital on the 24 bus – alas it was culled early on. A return of this service would be good for the elderly and infirm of our suburb.

     
  15. Julienz, 23. October 2020, 13:23

    @Ben. I was involved in the workshops on the Khandallah routes. I hear what you are saying but the evidence that GWRC had from Snapper was that the vast majority of trips started in Khandallah terminated in Willis Street. Furthermore most people from other parts of town had to change buses (now to a no 1) to get to the hospital. We took this on board as being a fair outcome for all users rather than just thinking in the interests of Khandallah. My only regret is we didn’t think enough about Strathmore who used to be the other end of our route and it looks like no-one else did either.

     
  16. Mike Mellor, 23. October 2020, 20:23

    Ben, Julienz: it was the 43/44 rather than the 24 that went to the hospital and Strathmore Park – the 24 was a separate (eastern) entity. It was raised with GWRC that Strathmore Park was going to have fewer buses going to fewer places with slower overall journey times, precisely the opposite of what the new network was promised to deliver, but sadly that fell on deaf ears.

    Fortunately GWRC has since seen the light and things are now improving, but it is still the only suburb without an all day, every day route to the city centre. The pre-covid proposal was to restore this service in October 2021, and I hope that this is still on track.

     
  17. Dave B, 24. October 2020, 1:19

    Running the 43/44 from Khandallah to Strathmore as it used to, gave northern residents a direct route to the hospital, eastern suburbs and airport (almost), albeit a rather slow ride. Much more useful than the coupling of the Khandallah route with Highbury, as the No 25 does now.

     
  18. Henry Filth, 24. October 2020, 6:22

    This looks like progress. Pleasantly surprising progress. Well done all.

     
  19. Julienz, 24. October 2020, 10:46

    @Dave B – the logic of changing 43/44 from Strathmore was that it was the longest route in the city and that made time keeping all the more difficult. The lady who raised the question at a public meeting of how the boys would get from Khandallah to Scots College if they had to change bus was not well received and GWRC advised very few trips were made from Khandallah to the hospital.

     
  20. David Maclennan, 27. October 2020, 13:17

    It’s a pity they couldn’t have also extended the No.22 Northland/Mairangi service, at least as far as Courtenay Place. Before the Bustastrophe it went all the way to Southgate. It never was a great service frequency-wise, but at least it went further.

     
  21. Cr Daran Ponter, 27. October 2020, 15:08

    @ All – 2M and 2S. Done!

     
  22. Dave B, 27. October 2020, 22:05

    @ Cr Daran Ponter – Just like that! Well done! Nice to see such responsiveness to commenters’ suggestions (or perhaps the M and S were planned anyway?).

    @ Julienz – “The logic of changing 43/44 from Strathmore was that it was the longest route in the city and that made time keeping all the more difficult”. Surely the new route 24 (Johnsonville to Miramar Heights via Broadmeadows, Khandallah, Evans bay) is a longer route than the old 43/44 was. How does this manage for time-keeping?

     
  23. Mike Mellor, 28. October 2020, 10:49

    Nice one, Daran!

    Now for the 3 and the 30x, which branch similarly?