Go Wellington!

So this government is trying to get as many of us onto public transport as possible. It is supposedly good for the planet, although I have driven behind some of those diesel buses, and the clouds spewing out of the back end of many of them can be pretty disgusting. I am told things are much better nowadays… from a cloud spewing perspective, that is. This can probably be at least partly attributed to the fact that, half of the time, the scheduled buses simply don’t turn up at all.

Well, this is a very good way to get to zero carbon dioxide. (Please note that is not ‘zero carbon’, as most of our climate change experts do not seem to know the difference.) If you talk everyone out of their cars and onto public transport, and then the buses don’t turn up, well hey! It is a win-win, don’t you think?

No. Not if you are trying to get to work on time.

The thing is that a lot of people who work in the city used to use the bus services. They were not perfect, but they were generally fairly reliable. Since the changes to the timetables last year, they are neither perfect nor reliable. And now, it seems, they are not particularly fast either.

If it feels like your bus ride is taking longer than it should, regional council figures show you are probably right.

A report outlining the state of Wellington’s bus network shows about half of all trips are at least twice as slow as driving, with average peak-time travel speeds on some routes dropping below 10kmh.

10 kmh. Good grief. I can probably walk faster than that, particularly as at least half of those routes will be downhill.

An average speed comparable with international best practice would be 22kmh – an increase of between 10 and 30 per cent on Wellington’s travel times, the report said.

“In a very few instances, taking public transport is slightly faster than driving, or takes about the same amount of time.

“However, in all these instances, this is by train rather than bus.”

Which means they are looking at the travelling time of people who come from outside the Wellington city. It is quicker to travel from Kapiti by train than by car. It is quicker to travel from the Hutt Valley by train than by car. Well, if anyone has ever seen the Wellington motorway on the average morning (not a day when there has been an accident, which happens far too often these days), they could probably figure that out for themselves. But if you then have to catch a bus to travel across town from the railway station, then things will not be faster in the end at all.

There are also other things to consider. Parking in Wellington CBD is not exactly cheap. But time is valuable to those with busy lives these days… which, let’s face it, is most of us. Travelling in the car may cost more overall, but what is more valuable – time or money?

Believe me, to many of the well paid Wellington civil servants, and even to some of the not-so-well paid ones, time is worth more.

Greater Wellington Regional and Wellington City councils compiled the report after teaming up to develop a plan aimed at making the network more reliable.

The plan includes removing car parks on the Golden Mile, which runs from Wellington Railway Station along Lambton Quay, Willis St, Manners St and Courtenay Place, and creating more bus lanes and traffic-light priority for buses across the city.

Here we go. Remove more car parks. Make it practically impossible for people to drive into the city, but don’t worry about the fact that their travel around the city will be done by hedgehog. If they can’t drive in, they will have no choice. That is the way to treat ratepayers, isn’t it?

Public transport advocate Tony Randle said the figures showed the difficulty in encouraging people out of cars and onto public transport.

“People are not going to give up a 20-minute car journey to travel for 40 to 50 minutes on a bus, especially when it’s unreliable.”


Or especially when they are trying to get to work…

I cannot believe the stupidity of all of this. Central and local government are adamant that everyone needs to leave the car at home, and yet public transport has never been less reliable.

Nevertheless, every time I think thing are getting silly in Wellington, Auckland manages to outstrip us… by a long way.

All of which goes to show that public transport has a long way to go before it is going to be attractive to most of us… no matter what Julie-Ann Genter thinks.