Our city’s bus service needs more work

A news release from myself and Simon Woolf

Wellington city councillors Diane Calvert and Simon Woolf recently ran their own online survey of bus patrons focusing on the Karori service (commuter peak period).  The survey was conducted in May over a three week period and there were 468 respondents with 49% from Karori. Results were collected and analysed independently.

Councillor Woolf says “For some time we have been actively advocating for our city’s residents and wanted an independent snapshot in time to support our ongoing concerns about the bus service provided by Greater Wellington Regional Council. The survey results clearly show that there are still significant issues being faced by bus patrons with the main one being lack of capacity on the routes at peak periods. These issues are slowly eroding both the social and economic fabric of our city.

Councillor Calvert says “We will be sharing the survey results with Greater Wellington Regional Council and the government’s Transport and Infrastructure Select Committee to support their reviews into Wellington’s bus service”.

Key findings from the survey of 468 respondents are;

  • 91% of respondents say their experience of the new bus service is worse than before July 2018
  • 72% of respondents are considering alternative options to get to town with the majority considering car
  • 46% of respondents say they are using the bus less than before July 2018

Woolf and Calvert acknowledge that new operational leadership and resources within Greater Wellington’s public transport team is enabling a fresh look at the fundamental issues underpinning the current design. Councillor Woolf says “We’re really seeing a strong willingness by Greater Wellington Regional Council’s new Public Transport Manager to listen to and address concerns”.

Both Woolf and Calvert feel however that more should still be done strategically to understand what went wrong in the first place, ensure it is never repeated, and what other opportunities there may be to improve the bus service even further.

Councillor Calvert says “Our world has changed and will continue to do so since the current service was designed several years ago. We know even with extra drivers and the tweaking of some routes, it’s still not enough to keep pace with demand”.

Councillors Woolf and Calvert are concerned that The Let’s Get Welly Moving Programme (comprising three partners – NZTA, WCC and GRWC) appear to have eliminated any real future improvements to the bus network within Wellington city other than some bus priority lanes and traffic lights. They say the billion dollar investment on mass transit to the south and east is welcome but the western and northern suburbs also need and deserve investment to improve the public transport service. Councillors Woolf and Calvert believe the programme is essentially putting all their public transport eggs into one basket with trackless trams to the east and south, which are still realistically 5-10 years away and with very little in the meantime to help congestion right across the city.

Councillor Calvert says “What we need as an additional early improvement is a coordinated bus transport improvement plan, covering the whole city, to be delivered over the next 10 years while investment and delivery for mass transit is completed.  The plan would not only consider additional routes, capacity and priority lanes but also look at better fares to attract more patrons.”

Councillors Woolf and Calvert believe further improvements to our bus service will provide speedier and greater value to ratepayers, have a strong impact on reducing cars on the road and get us quicker to our carbon-neutral targets.  They say improvements can still carry on in parallel with other work on new roads and mass transit routes but at least people will still be able to get to work, school and home when they want.

Councillors Woolf and Calvert say that they will continue to maintain a focus on advocating for improving the city’s bus network so Wellingtonians can benefit from a reliable and cost effective service that provides improved choice of travel, reduced congestion and reduced emission levels.

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