A celebration of the bus in Wellington (and down with tunnel vision!)

There’s a lot of bus news in Wellington at the moment, so I thought it was about time to take a quick look at what is going on.


Fixing Wellington’s bus network

2018 will go down in infamy as the year of “busageddon” or “bustastrophe”; when contracts for Wellington’s bus network were renewed, routes changed, buses didn;t turn up and chaos ensued as Wellingtonians found some buses didn’t go all the way into the city and a transfer was required at a rainy, windswept bus stop.

Wlg bus

My feeling is that this was more a perfect storm at the time, yet it remains that there are some hangover issues associated with the new network that need fixing, so it is good to see something being done about this. All up, I think the changes are positive. The new network introduced in 2018 caused a very complex situation, but could probably best be described as attempting to do too much with too little. Forcing people to transfer over short distances is probably never going to be too attractive, especially from/to a low-frequency service.

Just as Christchurch discovered with the shortcomings of their bus network (which has led to stagnant patronage), the Wellington proposal seems to take the mantra that to do it right you need to ensure adequate coverage of the city by high frequency routes, strategically think about where gaps can be filled by less frequent routes, including crosstown services, and avoid trying to fill gaps with loopy suburban bus services. The changes proposed seem to do just that. Curiously, the council report points out that Wellington bus patronage has actually grown over the last year, though not in all areas.

Check out this report for detail, but essentially the plan is divided into two phases: first,  short-term changes to be implemented early 2020; second, medium and longer-term changes that will require additional resource, and is likely to not be implemented until July 2022. I have only skimmed over things thus far, but I generally like what I see. The short term changes will address some of the issues experienced at present, but do require trade offs (such as swapping out frequency for a direct route). The second phase is largely indicative only, and will require further analysis, but basically beefs up coverage of the city, including the addition of some new high-frequency routes.

The map below shows the proposed new network in southern and eastern Wellington. Of note are the number of direct routes into the city and the changes and additions to high frequency routes.


Note that route 3 now follows route 1 to Newtown instead of going down Taranaki Street, its place taken by the “R” route which links to Newtown Zoo. The “D” route from Karori to Kilburnie provides a useful cross-city frequent connection, linking several non-CBD key nodes. The “A” route provides a direct Mirimar connection again, and doubles with the existing route 2 to create an intensive service from Mirimar shops into the city (the 1 and 3 do that through Newtown).

All up, I really like it, but I shake my head at what an indictment this is of the PTOM driven changes that resulted in the 2018 network. The changes go through for council approval on Thursday.


Having your say on “Golden Mile” improvements

The map above is a handy reminder that Wellington presently funnels a lot of buses through a single route in the CBD that currently experiences a lot of congestion during peak hours. The so-called “Golden Mile” is up for a significant reform as part of Let’s Get Wellington Moving, and it will be needed to ensure a fit-for-purpose bus network can operate (along with mass rapid transit – but that’s another tale).

So, it is prudent to acknowledge that people have just a few more days (until 15 December) to have your say on changes to the Golden Mile, Wellington’s main public transport thoroughfare. In thinking about how to fix Wellington’s bus network beyond short-term improvements, this project is very key. I’ll eventually do a post on my thoughts, but at a high level they are to prioritise people through removing private vehicles, having a dedicated bus corridor with sufficient priority measures, expanding pedestrian space, and removing conflicts at key intersections. Have your say here.


Bus Priority Action (plan)

It’s three for three as a new bus priority action plan gets underway with the endorsement of a new plan for getting buses moving more efficiently through Wellington. This package of improvements is to be implemented by Let’s Get Wellington Moving and is, in my view, a really good project and a needed distraction from the arguing over tunnels and trams (tracked and trackless varieties!). It includes implementing bus priority on eight targeted routes, and without it all of the above can’t be fully implemented or fully effective.


Let’s Get Wellington Moving will seek feedback from the public in early 2020 to inform the design of the improvements and work will start during the year, though it could take up to a decade to complete. The eight routes identified are:

  • Johnsonville to Ngauranga Gorge
  • Karori to city
  • Kelburn to city
  • Brooklyn to city
  • Newtown/Mount Cook to city
  • Miramar/Kilbirnie/Mount Victoria to city
  • Miramar/Kilbirnie to Newtown
  • Newtown/Mount Cook to city.

Check out this handy post on Talk Wellington for more info.


Tunnel vision still a thing, unfortunately…


Yep. This is happening. There is now a well supported campaign to prioritise the duplication of the Mount Victoria tunnel. As I pointed out in my previous post, extolling the “virtues” of roads is a relatively simple thing (even if it is a complete load of crap) and it is even more effective when money is behind it. Campaigning to put people first instead of cars is a hard business because those that love to prioritise cars seem to have a lot of resources. Down with tunnel vision, I say!

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