This is a guest post from Marko G.
Bus stop spacing and quality really matters. It’s not as noticeable as a shiny new light rail line, but it can have a massive impact and make public transport better.
Bus stop spacing
This is the distance between each bus stop. Stops are essential (obviously) and provide a catchment to the surrounding area. People generally prefer to walk no more than 400m to get to a stop.
However, my general opinion is that Wellington has lots of useless stops that are probably just there because they have always been there. There are some massive benefits to removing them:
- Higher average speeds and lower travel times
- Fewer emissions and noise
- Reduced bus bunching due having stops that are rarely used.
- Reduced overall dwell times
- Increased ridership from better reliability
- Only a small drop in catchment area.
The Number 2 bus: Karori Shops to Lambton Quay
I want to take a singular example of a frequent bus corridor to illustrate this point.
The number 2 bus goes to Karori and is well used by commuters into the city. The route is “high frequency” with 10-15 minute frequencies in the daytime. But Karori still has high car usage so improved bus services will go further in encouraging people to trust the buses and leave their cars at home.
Let’s take a closer look
Generally speaking, stops should be about 300m apart. From Karori shops, there are 17 stops until Lambton Quay. At 4.9km in distance, that gives an average of less than 300m. Worse, many stops are closely bunched together or just poorly placed.
I have estimated that about 5 stops (out of 17) could be removed along this route, greatly improving speed and reliability without reducing catchment.
Karori Rd has a useless stop 100m up the road from the shops with shelter or a Real Time Information (RTI) board showing when the next bus comes.
Chaytor St has a stop that again could easily be removed without a loss of catchment. That stop itself is pretty desolate being located on the side of a gully with poor walking connections. It also slows down buses using the bus lane there.
Under the Kelburn Viaduct also holds a very awkwardly placed stop with a catchment that overlaps with the nearby two stops.
Glenmore St opposite the Botanic gardens again has a stop very to another one. The lonely second stop has no shelter or real time information board.
Bowen St has a stop very near the employment hub of Lambton Quay. With no ‘pair’ to this stop on the other side of the road, I’m not really sure what utility this stop has. It also adds very little catchment to the main Lambton Quay stop as it is situated next to the dead space under the urban motorway flyover.
What should we do about it?
I’m no expert on bus stops so I’m sure there will be a stop I’ve identified for removal that is there for a good reason. But putting that aside, there are 5/17 stops that could be removed! – 29 percent! And without a drop of catchment as they seem to be doubling up. This would greatly improve travel times and reliability along this popular route.
Wellington City Council and Greater Wellington Regional Council are responsible collectively for this issue (the former owning the assets themselves and the latter planning the bus routes that stop at them) and should be looking at reviewing bus routes and analysing what stops might not be fit for purpose, and could be removed to improve service speed and reliability. This would be taking a truly customer-centric approach to the workhorse of New Zealand public transport: the bus.
In Part 2 of Better Bus Stops, I look at how Wellington could be making more attractive and safer bus stops.