18 Sep 2018

Wellington passengers left behind due to small buses

1:44 pm on 18 September 2018

Nearly half of buses arriving during peak periods on one of Wellington's busiest routes are too small, figures for the regional council show.

Wellington Go Bus bus.

Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Figures from a Greater Wellington Regional Council meeting agenda show out of the almost 1400 trips done on route 3 - one of the busiest - 49 percent of the time, the bus that turned up was too small.

Route 3 runs through Lyall Bay, Rongotai, Kilbirne and Newtown.

Customers not being able to catch a bus at their chosen time has also been a key issue, the agenda said. It said the primary cause has been a high number of services being delivered with smaller buses than are contractually and practicably required to meet the network design.

"Ensuring that the correct bus size is used is a key focus of Metlink and operators. However, in the meantime additional buses have been deployed to key areas to ensure there is sufficient capacity to meet peak demand."

NZ Bus, which runs route 3, did not respond to a message left by RNZ.

Commuters have vented frustrations about overloaded buses and buses not stopping because they were too full, since the network changed its routes in July.

Former Wellington deputy mayor Paul Eagle, now Labour MP for Rongotai, told Morning Report the new network was a shambles.

"[The bus network] is a shambles but it sounds like the regional council is trying at last to sort it out," Mr Eagle said.

"For starters if you drive around the parts of Wellington where I'm from, that's south Wellington, you will see loads of people standing on the street at most times of the day.

"This isn't just a peak hour issue.

"So that's unacceptable. That tells me that there's something wrong with timetabling."

Mr Eagle said the council should crack down on contractors running buses that were too small on certain routes.

"They do need to wrestle their contractors, those three bus companies, and [say] to them 'look you need to put the right size buses on the right routes," he said.

"What I'm told is that one company hasn't got the number of required buses. They sign the contract with the council later ... and that meant they couldn't goto the bus builder and buy they buses to fit.

"They're using what they have, where they can, to deliver the service."

More seating

In an attempt to fit more people on the buses some had their front seats removed but the council said due to negative feedback from commuters they would be put back in.

"Some seating has been removed on some buses to provide a short-term increase in passenger capacity as an interim measure until double decker buses are running on those services as planned," the agenda report stated.

"We acknowledge that removing seats has not been well received and that some of these buses have been used on other routes. As a result of feedback, Metlink will be reinstating seating in affected buses over coming months."

Wellington resident Kara Lipski, who organised a community meeting last month for users to vent their frustrations, said it was common for full buses to bypass stops.

"It's the route 2 that has a big problem, especially in the afternoon peak from the city to Karori, and in the morning peak it's in the Karori township, where people are seeing full buses that are going through."

She said she had also complained to the council many times about the seats being removed.

"Usually you find that the number of people standing anyway could have been sitting on those seats," Ms Lipski said.

"It's weird. Very weird."

A spokesperson for GWRC said they would not discuss the items in the agenda until after Wednesday's meeting.

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