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GWRC transport meeting owns bus problems, suggests solutions

This morning’s meeting of the Sustainable Transport Committee of the Greater Wellington Regional Council saw councillors fronting up to the problems that have plagued Wellington bus passengers since the changes to the public transport system from 15 July.

by Mark Cubey

The meeting discussed a staff report to councillors that called the city’s ongoing bus problems “expected” and “regrettable”.

The order paper for the meeting, including the report, is available as PDF here.

The report blames “systemic challenges” which were aggravated by driver shortages and drivers getting used to new routes, the extent of the route changes and associated customer reaction, and operational challenges associated with the changes for causing frustrations and disruption to Metlink customers.

The report says that “an operational team remains in place dedicated to quickly resolving residual issues and the results of this work are beginning to show with generally improving performance”.

The meeting heard a range of submissions and recommendations from interest groups, individuals, and Wellington City Councillors addressing the ongoing issues.

These included problems with “hubbing” (the incomplete bus hubs that are not operating as planned), lack of capacity on a number of key routes (mainly on the east-west corridors), the failure of the #18 route to cope with offpeak demand and service through Newtown, the inaccuracies of the Real Time Information system, and overcrowding of buses that then cannot collect passengers at scheduled bus stops.

Mike Mellor presents to the GWRC Sustainable Transport Committee

Many speakers called upon the GWRC to own the problems and find solutions within a shorter time frame than previously proposed.

In response, Ian McKinnon was one councillor to admit that “we own the problem…and must move on solutions with speed.”

After hearing from these speakers, and GWRC officials Wayne Hastie and Deborah Hume, the Committee, chaired by Councilor Barbara Donaldson, unanimously adopted a number of recommendations to GWRC Chief Executive Greg Campbell.

The recommendations, submitted by Crs Daran Ponter and Sue Kedgley, hope to address problems with capacity and congestion, citing particular problems on routes #2, #3, #14, #18, #21 and #23.

More detail on these problems and possible solutions will follow in a series of posts on The Wellington App.

The meeting had opened by hearing about difficulties experienced by passengers across Wellington, and possible solutions.

These were detailed by speakers including sustainable transport advocate Paula Warren, Bill Guest of the Karori Association, Mike Mellor of Congestion Free Wellington, Marlon Drake of VUWSA, Kara Lipski of the Public Transport Users Association, Tony Randall from the northern suburbs and Robin Boldarin from Miramar.

The meeting also heard longer presentations from  Wellington City Councillors Simon Woolf and Diane Calvert (western ward) and Sarah Free (eastern ward).

Most presentations were subject to questioning by GWRC councillors.

The meeting, which was very nearly standing room only, ended with a call from Wairarapa council representative Adrienne Staples saying that “we are all responsible for this” and pointing out that despite apologies at the meeting from individual councillors “nothing formal” was in place on this front.

She asked if GWRC planned to issue a statement apologising to the public. The response from the chair and councillors was inconclusive, and no resolution was adopted.