Wellington Scoop

Faster bus travel – it was promised in 2010, now they’re promising it again

by Lindsay Shelton
There’s a credibility problem with yesterday’s decision to introduce a public transport system called Bus Rapid Transit in Wellington. The result, we are promised, will be “faster journey times through the Golden Mile.” But we’ve heard it all before. It’s exactly what the same people promised when they reopened Manners Street to buses.

On June 15, 2010 the city council told us that reopening Manners Street for buses would …

… create a quicker … public transport route through the city.

In the words of soon-to-be-defeated Mayor Prendergast, the new route …

“… will mean slightly shorter bus journey times…”

There were even more specific claims from the Regional Council. It released a report in October 2009 which was definite about the result of routing buses through Manners Street:

Opening up Manners Mall to buses would relieve one of the most significant bottlenecks for buses on the Golden Mile and substantially improve travel times and reliability…

David Dunlop of Opus, which carried out the study, predicted:

“With the introduction of the Manners Mall project or the entire Golden Mile bus priority project, the journey times are significantly reduced, but more importantly, the variability between direction and different time periods is reduced significantly.”

But instead of faster travel, the Regional Council discovered that a result of the new route was more congestion.

And then there were the promises from the city council that there would be greater safety.

To help make the city safer, the 30kmh speed limit is being extended to coincide with the start of the new bus route. It will apply all the way from the bus interchange to the Embassy-end of Courtenay Place. Pedestrians will need to take extra care crossing and look both ways, particularly in Willis and Manners streets where buses will be travelling in both directions.

But greater safety didn’t eventuate. Within a month of the new route being opened, the accidents had started. In the first three months, six pedestrians were hit by buses. In August 2012, a dozen injuries had been reported. Faster buses no longer seemed to be a good idea.

Yet all this now seems to have been forgotten. On the same route, our elected representatives have decided that we must have not only faster buses but also bigger ones … In the full-page advertisement in the DomPost this morning, Fran Wilde of the Regional Council assures us:

“we want … quicker trips through Wellington city … Bus Rapid Transit will move [commuters and others] more rapidly through the Golden Mile.”

Which is exactly what was being promised four years ago. With consequences which are recognised by almost everyone. But not by the people who voted for bigger faster buses through the CBD.


  1. Driver, 5. March 2014, 10:04

    It’s obvious but not to the Regional Council – the Golden Mile is a most unsuitable route for any kind of buses. Its life blood is pedestrians, not travellers passing through.

  2. Neil Douglas, 5. March 2014, 10:15

    Well said Driver. The golden mile is for pedestrians first and foremost. Buses, taxis and cars should go slower, to accommodate pedestrians.

    Therefore faster, limited stop arterial public transport should not be on Lambton Quay/Manners Mall but on the waterfront route where the road is wide and there are few pedestrians.

    Commuters need to be prepared to walk to an arterial bus stop just like the rail commuters have to. Exercise is good!

    Obvious really but not to our politicians and planners.

    Let’s wait for the next pedestrian casualty and the next and the next….

  3. Ellie, 5. March 2014, 13:12

    Light Rail – how many times must it be repeated.
    Faster buses even bowled over the Infratil CEO – and Infratil owns the buses! The boss. You can’t fool all of the people all of the time but obviously the Councils want to be fooled all of the time…..

  4. nato, 5. March 2014, 14:02

    It’s all to make public transport less attractive and thus help justify the expressway package from Levin to the Airport.

  5. Fraser, 5. March 2014, 22:05

    I’m disappointed that buses were chosen over light rail. What we must now do is fully investigate the bus system.
    Why, for example, must we have buses follow the current Lambton-Willis-Manners-Courtenay route? It would be much better to route them down the Quays on the waterfront (only 1-3 blocks from the current route). That would allow the Golden Mile to become pedestrian/cycle only and much more pleasant in general. Furthermore the route along the Quays has a lot more space and would allow the buses to have their segregated space and not be mixing with pedestrians, cars and cyclists. The central city would be safer, more pleasant and much more liveable! [First published on transportblog.co.nz]

  6. The City Is Ours, 6. March 2014, 13:23

    Faster buses? In May 2011, in response to an OIA request, the city council told me about a Regional Council survey of the number 14 bus service between Willis St and Courtenay Place (comparing trips in May 2010 before Manners Street was reopened and in May 2011 after the street was reopened). This showed that northbound buses were achieving a faster journey (14% faster during the afternoon peak period) and southbound buses were taking a little longer.

  7. OnMyBike, 7. March 2014, 10:51

    How much of that faster journey time from Courtenay Place to Willis St was due to stopping cars from travelling along Manners Street (Victoria to Willis/Boulcott), rather than letting buses go through Manners Mall?
    My experience riding the bus through there every day was that most of the delay along the old route was on Manners St due to all the cars battling to try and get past the buses.
    I have since given up on the buses and now cycle from Kilbirnie to Parliament in about half the time a bus takes. Bus = 30 minutes, Bike 16 minutes (23 if I go around the bays).

  8. mpledger, 8. March 2014, 13:49

    It used to be that at James Smiths and several other points, the faster loading buses could get around the slower loading buses. And the 7’s, 8’s and 9′ diverged earlier from the other buses. Now all the buses are stuck head to toe with the slowest bus setting the pace. It’s no surprise the buses take longer.