Capital Can’t Grow Bus Patronage


Nothing Wellington does seems to be able to boost bus passenger numbers.

Despite the uneven problems of the train network service because of the rail network upgrade, the old trains and the slow introduction of the new Matangi electric ones, people are not turning to buses.

Since the fare rise timed with the introduction of the GST rise almost a year ago, passenger numbers each month are flat -apart from a minuscule one per cent rise a few months back.

Compare that to Auckland’s bus patronage which grows month by month.

This is NZ Bus’ Auckland growth alone by comparison.

For example, Auckland’s Northern Express bus patronage continued its extraordinary growth, up to July exceeding the annual PT average. Northern Express bus service carried 2,079,098 passenger trips for the 12-months with a growth in July 2011 compared to July 2010 of +14.2%. Patronage on other Auckland bus services was up 1.7% in July –and up 7.1% for the last 12 months. Latest figures here

Wellington’s bus public transport is currently subject to several reviews by the Regional Council and NZ Bus says it is hoped these lead to service enhancements later in the year when Government unveils the new regulatory regime.

Following on from the success of bus priority ways through Manners Street, Wellington City Council has now agreed to open consultation on introducing morning and evening bus priority-ways through Courtenay Place and Cambridge/Kent Terraces.

A report to the Wellington  Council says the restoration of the Golden Mile project  - the Manners Mall bus change - has been successful.

It says this has achieved a number of core planning objectives including restoring the original two- way public transport route through the Golden Mile, providing a morelegible bus route closer to passenger demand and bypassing potential traffic delays by creating a largely dedicated route along Manners Street.

“While it is too early to fully evaluate the project, early bus travel survey results are encouraging with the key northbound direction, which has been subject to persistent delays and unreliability for a number of years, showing journey time
savings of around 14% and reduced variability in service times by about 11 minutes during the evening peak.”
Bus operators have reported significant reduction in congestion, no holdups northbound, more consistent trip times with better timekeeping and fewer customer complaints.
The survey results can be viewed in the context of the new lower 30km/h speed limit, long running road works on Willis Street, and the project continuing to settle in.
It says public feedback has also been positive, and Colliers International has reported that pedestrian counts in the former Manners Mall have returned to 2009 levels.
It is proposed that the next stage of the Bus Priority Plan include Courtenay Place, Kent and Cambridge Terrace and Adelaide Road all of which carry large bus flows. A detailed assessment of the scope for introducing bus lanes along these routes shows that it will be possible to implement these with minimal effect on parking or general traffic movement while achieving good benefits for public transport users.
In the case of Courtenay Place, the plan is to address two other long standing traffic related matters.

These are:

  • The traffic circulation on Blair and Allen Streets where there is the potential to improve pedestrian safety and expand the amount of space available for café/dining while retaining as much parking space as possible.
  • Also the issue of poor taxi driver compliance during weekend evenings in particular.
  • On the matter of pedestrian safety and convenience, detailed work is also progressing on whether or not the two remaining zebra crossings on Courtenay Place should be converted to signalised crossings in the same manner as the crossing near the Reading cinema. Depending on the outcome one or more of these may be signalised.




  1. Pickle says:

    Maybe Wellington shouldn’t be constantly rising fares. They are now much higher than Auckland’s fares.

  2. Steve says:

    Cash fares yes, but Snapper fares are a lot cheaper. Appreciate that the zones are smaller, but for example in WLG a 2 zone cash fare is $3.50 but drops to $2.46 on Snapper, in AKL the figures are $3.40 cash, $3 HOP - so despite the casual user paying more, regular commuters using Snapper pay less in WLG than their HOP counterparts in Auckland..

  3. Matt L says:

    Steve - Even so it is probably an issue of perception as even if they get a discount, people tend to look at the original price more.

    One thing I have mentioned before and still think holds true is that the GWRC has taken PT for granted for some time. I get the impression that they almost have the attitude of “we have the best PT stats so we don’t need to do much” where as Auckland is fighting hard to improve things as we know that we need to do everything we can to get more passengers using PT. A classic example is rail stations, AT and ARTA before it are wanting all rail stations upgraded to a decent standard to help attract patronage and as a result we now have some amazing stations like Newmarket and New Lynn where as in Wellington little is seems to be being done to even tidy stations up.

  4. Malcolm says:

    Personally, I prefer to cycle to work now instead of catching the bus. Its actually twice as fast for me to cycle instead of use PT due to my works location relative to bus routes. And this is a job in town!

    Wellington doesn’t make much of an effort to get people onto public transport. I think they do take if for granted that people will use it, as Matt says above.

  5. Matt says:

    There’s the hassle of having to have train tickets, a Snapper card and a Newlands/Mana card and keeping them all up to date, which is a bloody hassle.

    The route through the Golden Mile is slow, slow, slow.

    They should have a route from the top of the cable car to somewhere (even if it was the 9 down Aro Street).

    Some of us are too shy to say “Thankyou Driver” as we disembark through the centre doors. Is that just a Welly thing or is that all of NZ?

    J’ville to Lower Hutt anyone?

  6. pete says:

    Matt, J´ville to Lower Hutt was trailed a couple of years ago as the 49 I think (starting in Karori). Go Wellington barely advertised it and didn´t tell metlink much either. They pulled it after a few months citing poor numbers - didn´t help it was invisible to say the least.

  7. geoff_184 says:

    I think it’s the simple fact that PT use per capita in Wellington was already high, whereas Auckland was very low. Also Auckland’s population is growing faster.

    Basically, Auckland has much more capacity for growth, whereas Wellington is pretty much there.

  8. Brent C says:

    It’s time that a Busway is built along the Quay’s! The golden mile is just far to slow for buses.

    Wellingtons bus usage can grow, but there are not very many improvements occurring. For instance, more 24hr bus lanes. This should be implemented to Newtown before light rail is constructed.

  9. Kegan says:

    A few suggestions to increase patronage:

    - integrated ticketing & fares.
    - fewer but more frequent routes (particularly on the Golden Mile).
    - more non-Golden Mile buses.
    - bus stop rationalisation/relocation (too many are poorly located and/or too closely spaced).
    - more bus lanes, signal priority, etc.

    Longer term a second main city route (probably via the Quays and with more of a rapid transit flavour).

    “J’ville to Lower Hutt anyone?”
    Yep. IMO should be an extension of the Tawa buses.

  10. Tony says:

    “Nothing Wellington does seems to be able to boost bus passenger numbers.”

    Who writes this rubbish ? It should read “Wellington does nothing to be able to boost bus passenger numbers !”

    The whole focus of the GWRC over the past 5 years has been on its passenger rail investment. They have only spent a minimal amount to improve the bus service . . . Manners Mall conversion is the only substantial investment and this was by the WCC (and it’s ratepayers).

    The GWRC’s main activity on buses has been to increase City and One section bus Fares ABOVE the cost of a car impacting large numbers of bus commuters, especially in Wellington City. In fact, with the loss of monthly discount bus passes, the Wellington One Section Child bus fares fares have tripled over the past nine years.

    Looking forward is no different. The GWRC subsidy level for bus services is not planned to increase over the next three years in nominal terms. There is not even an adjustment for inflation.

    As the regions bus fares will continue to increase, bus subsidies currently covering 44% of fares (Wellington City less than 25%) will continue to reduce per commuter (per commuter rail fare subsidy is higher and will exceed 50% from 2013).

    Given this lack of attention and funding, it it no surpise the bus patronage is static.

  11. Jon C says:

    @Tony I write all the rubbish on the site.
    The statement is no reflection on the GWC which I think does a great job.
    It would out of frustration that that more people are not using buses.
    Your summary is completely fair.

  12. greenwelly says:

    Despite the uneven problems of the train network service …. people are not turning to buses.
    That’s most likely because the Go Wellington bus network only has minimal overlap with the rail service, (A few services to Khandallah/Ngaio) and a couple to Eastbourne and the Hutt

    Also don’t confuse GoWellington for the entire network, according to the council for the 2010/2011 year

    “There were 24.0 million passenger trips on bus services in 2010/11, a 1.6% increase on the previous year. Peak passenger trips increased by 13.5% to 11.3 million and off-peak passenger trips decreased by 7.0% to 12.7 million.”

    For rail there were 11.2 million passenger trips on the rail network in 2010/11, a 0.6% increase on the previous year.

  13. Tony says:

    Thank you @Jon C for your considered response to my comment.

    While I stand behind my criticism of the article’s leading sentance about Wellington bus patronage as “rubbish”, I do want to note I do not believe your blog is Rubbish. On the contrary, I appreciate your considerable efforts to provide transport information and news in both volume and quality.

    If I have one suggestion for improvement, could you please cite the source of quotes in your articles ?Sometimes they cannot be independently verifed. Otherwise . . . thanks.


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