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Missing the bus


by Lindsay Shelton
Fran Wilde said on Friday that real-time information [2] for Go Wellington buses will be “a great milestone” for public transport because it will tell us when our bus is arriving “as opposed to when it’s scheduled to arrive.” I can’t help thinking that a more worthy milestone would be: just make the buses run on time.

The region’s real time information system is costing $9.7million, according to Mayor Celia Wade-Brown quoted in the DomPost. It’s going to provide electronic displays on 190 of the region’s 3000 bus stops.

But I can’t believe that the display boards will compensate for buses which are running late.

The other day I just missed a number 7 bus outside Unity Books in Willis Street. The timetable showed that the next bus was due in 20 minutes. So I waited. After 20 minutes, it had failed to arrive. Another 20 minutes passed, and the next scheduled bus also failed to arrive. For other, luckier destinations, two or three buses passed us by. But my unhappy group of passengers hoping to get to Brooklyn and Kingston waited 50 minutes for a bus which was supposed to be running every 20 minutes.

An electronic signboard would not have made us less discontented. It wouldn’t have done what Fran Wilde is claiming: “This technology will vastly improve people’s perceptions of bus … reliability and will help us and the operators identify and hopefully fix problem areas more speedily.” It’s hard to understand why they need a $9m system to tell them that buses aren’t running.

Perhaps the $9m is part of a plan to get rid of timetables – my experience the other day indicated that they don’t mean much. Were two drivers sick? Did two buses break down? Is no one overseeing the on-time despatch of the city’s buses?

Those of us who waited for 50 minutes were ready to offer a constructive suggestion to Fran Wilde and her Greater Wellington Regional Council: spend some of the $9million on quality control. The first priority should be to make sure that the buses are running as advertised.

Problems with real-time systems [3]
Bus patronage hasn’t yet recovered from fare increases [4]
Tranz Metro admits it’s short of trains [5]

April 28 – The Wellingtonista says:
You can’t trust the new real-time system [6]