Wellington Scoop

Buses, but not so rapidly

by Lindsay Shelton
Will the latest developments in planning a new Wellington bus system provide the rapid transit that was originally promised?

Our local bodies (the city council and the regional council, working with the Transport Agency) have chosen “two options” to be investigated for the development of “modern, faster public transport” for Wellington City. But the announcement reads as if they know nothing about the city’s layout. And as for cycleways, it’s obvious that till now these haven’t been given any consideration at all.

The detailed business case will examine where bus lanes are needed, how these should be designed and what priority should be provided for buses at intersections. On several of the key corridors it will be necessary to undertake design of the corridors for multiple modes, particularly to accommodate proposed new cycling infrastructure.

The DomPost put things more precisely, reporting that plans to fully separate bus lanes from central city traffic have been shelved.

Regional council public transport portfolio leader Paul Swain said … traditional rapid transit would not work for Wellington as it would require “big concrete channels” through the city. “That would completely compromise and undermine the idea of Wellington being a liveable city.” The two preferred options were the “Wellington version” of rapid transit, and together with larger buses would help ease congestion and get people to their destinations quicker.

And Leviathan writing on eyeofthefish: says that neither of the options will deliver bus rapid transit.

A year or two ago Price Waterhouse Coopers were tasked with producing a report on Wellington’s rapid public transport future… PWC are, of course, a company of accountants – bean-counters, who may know the cost of some things, but have no idea of the value, and certainly no idea of anything to do with Public Transport. After a year of deliberation and over a million of ratepayers’ money, they “whittled down” a dozen or more options into just 3 – either Light Rail, or Bus Rapid Transit, or Stay as we are. (That last one’s not really an option now, is it?)…

After another period of deliberation, and some deliberate lying, incompetence, and obfuscation, the Light Rail was shelved and Bus Rapid Transit was declared to be the route forward. Now, the BRT option itself has also been shelved, leaving us with – well, pretty much nothing except stay as we are. Useless, useless, useless…We [now] have two options, neither of which will work very much better than present, and thus neither of which can be called Rapid any more than Isis can be called Respected. Who is this latest report by? Why, none other than PWC again, the original clueless wonders who know nothing of transport

Mayor Wade-Brown was initially a strong supporter of light rail, till she was out-voted. In the latest official announcement, she says the as-yet undeveloped new bus system will be exciting. But then the “transformation” word (used too often and too unconvincingly about Victoria Street) is used again.

“As our population grows, public transport becomes ever more important. Wellington’s transport network plays an important role in the region’s economy and the BRT will improve efficiency … This exciting new system will transform public transport between the CBD, Newtown and Kilbirnie, and I hope to see it eventually extended all the way to the Airport.”

Who else believes that either of the two options will really transform our bus services?

PWC report in full
Don’t call it rapid transit
DomPost: Doubledeckers could be too heavy


  1. Ross Clark, 6. August 2015, 2:53

    The actual report is here:


    I am working through it; page xi of the report has their key POV in the analysis:

    “Wellington can have the highest quality BRT system considered, but this comes at a cost. The analysis of the intermediate options shows that there is an opportunity for Wellington to achieve a significant proportion of the benefits of a high-quality system, for a much lower cost”.

    Option 5’s benefits are more than double those of Option 3 ($108m NPV v $48m NPV); but has a net cost in PV terms of nearly $90m, against the $21m for option 3.

    However, BRT is scaleable, so small incremental improvement may make the case for something larger. Now, could someone give me a robust estimate of what LRT over the proposed route could be costed at? Thanx.

  2. Wgtn Commuter, 6. August 2015, 12:36

    Having unprotected bus lanes ain’t BRT so stop calling it BRT. [via Twitter]

  3. Matthew, 6. August 2015, 13:24

    Thorndon Quay needs a dedicated bus lane from the bus station to at least the Ngaio Gorge. It could be single lane and tidal. It is such a joke inching along at rush hour in either direction. [first posted on transportblog.co.nz]

  4. luke, 6. August 2015, 18:21

    this watered down brt is nothing more than pt wash to go with the motorway to the airport.

  5. Newtown, 6. August 2015, 23:07

    How will you increase patronage on buses when it’s cheaper to drive? Busfares seem to rise every sixth month.

  6. Island Bay Rules, 7. August 2015, 13:10

    Public transport owned by a private company with shareholders (Z Energy) who sell petrol? Good luck.