Some months ago, we told you our public transport network would be better. Some of you have told us they’ve noticed an improvement, many have said it’s not working for them yet.

Thank you for all the feedback that you have provided to us via our website, social media, elected representatives as well as written and spoken submissions from the series of public meetings held around the city since August.

Themes common to all suburbs appear below. Suburb-specific commentary follows. Issues most commonly cited appear at the top, less commonly cited lower down.

 

Question

Response

When will further new buses be joining the fleet? How many? What operators?
  • Six new double deckers will be joining Mana’s fleet in November 2018
  • Seventeen new double deckers will be joining NZ Bus’s fleet in January 2019
  • 51 refurbished and repowered trolley buses owned by NZ Bus may enter service in early 2019, subject to current negotiations

Why have seats been removed? What safety audits have been undertaken?

We can confirm that some seating has been removed on some buses to increase short term passenger capacity. We acknowledge this has not been well received and it will not remain like this. We will be looking to restore seating in affected buses over coming months. Balancing capacity and comfort isn’t easy and we are constantly reviewing the situation to enable us to get to a point where we can reasonably meet passenger needs, trying to provide as many seats as possible while enabling other passengers to stand in reasonable comfort. 

The ratio varies between buses and routes and the legal number of people able to stand is shown on documentation on the bus. Of course, standing was common before the introduction of the new network and is common on networks throughout the world and enables us to expand capacity during peak hours. The alternative would be to provide many more buses, which would contribute to more congestion and longer journey times. In terms of safety, standing passengers have long been a feature of bus travel in Wellington and the same safety standards, practices and equipment apply.

Question Response

Has GWRC solved the "ghost bus" scenario and if not why not? 

The causes of the "ghost bus" issue have been identified and we are delivering measurable improvements to accuracy.

The main problem (occurred with approximately 30% of buses post-implementation) was not "ghost buses", but "Due" buses dropping off signs one to three minutes before they arrive at the stop. This issue has now been fixed.

Are the RTI systems now operating reliably and if not why not? 

We are now focused on improving the less frequent issue of a small number of buses not being tracked by the system. This was a common issue prior to the network changes and we have more buses tracking now than in previous years. We want to have all buses tracking.

RTI systems are performing better but are not yet perfect. The Real Time Information system is the same system used prior to the network changes. Changes to timetables and buses caused some of the settings to unexpectedly change.  Diagnosis – observing signs, buses and the system set-up – takes time.

The recent visit of an expert from the UK system provider has enabled us to apply specialist resource to speed up these fixes and we are confident we will soon have the RTI system operating at the same or better level of accuracy than it was prior to changes to the bus network.

We will continue to closely monitor performance through customer complaints, on-street observations and our systems. 

Question Response

What monitoring of Snapper data is GWRC carrying out and will this be used to assess effectiveness of bus services? 

Snapper data is constantly being used to review capacity and determine where extra buses are required. This information along with cordon counts (in which staff count the number of people on buses at each of the main points buses come into or leave the city) also allow us to closely track patronage patterns.

Why were some services cut back?

Some services were reduced where demand did not justify the levels of service being provided. Additional services were applied to areas of demand growth.

Why did some areas get new services?

GWRC is aiming to provide a more fair and equitable spread of service across Wellington. It wasn’t fair that some suburbs had very little service, such as no evening of weekend buses, while other similar suburbs had high levels of service – sometimes with low patronage.

Can we go back to the old bus network?

In a word, no. This has been the most challenging aspect of managing the changes. Under PTOM we needed to put all new “units” (groupings of bus routes) out to tender. This has been completed and applied – contracts are for the new routes, so we can’t go back. The old bus network was simply no longer fit for service. This was manifested in the increasingly chronic bus congestion along the Golden Mile, and in poor or non-existent services to the newer, fast-growing, outlying suburbs. Metlink already operates some 38 million bus journeys a year. By 2024 we expect this to increase to 42 million. The old network simply wasn’t up to dealing with this.

The solution did not lie in injecting more and more buses into an already-crowded network and particularly along the Golden Mile. To have continued this would have been irresponsible, and would have pushed an even bigger problem onto a future council. 

Question Response

What changes is GWRC making to address concerns with school buses?

We have received some feedback about concerns regarding some school children not receiving a dedicated service and needing to use public bus services in the new network. We have been working with schools to help communicate the changes and assist their students in moving around on the new network.

Some dedicated school buses have been found to have insufficient capacity. We are reviewing patronage on each service and working with operators to add extra capacity by term 4. Where necessary we have implemented an interim solution to immediately add capacity while a longer-term solution is developed.

The Council's most recent Sustainable Transport Committee report (19 September) summarises implemented and in process service changes for the following routes: St Patrick’s and St Catherine’s afternoon service route 75; Taita school route 828; Marsden College route 674; Newlands Schools routes 626, 627, 628, 631, 633; Bishop Viard route 421; Sacred Heart College route 888; Aotea College route 444; Scots College route 784; Marsden School route 673; St Oran’s route 154; St Patrick’s College route 753; Onslow college route 24/624; and Kapiti school bus timetable changes.

Question Response

When tendering new bus services did GWRC include criteria that allowed an accurate assessment of providers' ability to deliver on their contracts (e.g. availability of trained drivers and support for those drivers)? 

GWRC’s tender process included a variety of criteria to assess the relevant experience and track record of the tenderers in transitioning into and delivering similar contracts. The RFT did not include specific criteria about the availability of trained drivers as it was not practicable for any new operator to have trained drivers on their staff more than 18 months out from contract commencement. In the transition into the new contracts GWRC worked closely with the operator to track progress on, amongst other things, recruitment and training of drivers. Recruitment of drivers was particularly challenging however planned contingencies were invoked to enable services to be delivered. Recruitment and training has continued and is progressing well. 

Why were routes tendered?

We were required by central government to do this. Routes were tendered in accordance with the Government’s requirement for regional councils and Auckland Transport to tender bus contracts. This was undertaken in line with the government’s Public Transport Operating Model. Tendering provides an opportunity for organisations to test value for money of the services that they are buying. It is a common activity undertaken periodically by all public organisations to ensure that the best spend of ratepayer and taxpayer money is being achieved. Note that in the Wellington region bus services have been allocated across 16 bus operating contacts. Of these, nine were tendered and seven were directly appointed to incumbents NZ Bus and Mana.

 How is the Government involved?  The Government is involved in public transport through policy setting and through funding which is administered by the NZTA.  GWRC has worked closely with NZTA throughout the procurement process.

What information does GWRC have about bus driver resignations from bus operators and/or concerns from bus drivers about their health and safety, and do these issues raise any enforcement issues from a contract perspective or health and safety issues from a PCBU perspective? 

We do not hold any information about resignations due to health and safety concerns. Bus operators must comply with a range of employment and safety regulations in managing the workloads and welfare of their drivers. We do not hold any specific concerns about how they are undertaking their responsibilities. We note that Tranzit re-rostered their workforce soon after contract go live to address concerns raised by some of their workforce. We note that NZ Bus and other operators are in regular dialogue and consultation with unions about hours of work and any concerns raised by their own employees are addressed through these channels. This issue has also been raised directly with the council by way of public participation at the last Sustainable Transport Committee meeting.

Question Response

Prior to bus network changes what advice did GWRC seek about the potential negative impact of hubbing on bus users? 

GWRC sought advice on best practice in bus network design. This recommended we make more use of hubbing to allow us to reduce service duplication. This frees up resources which we could use to improve services to areas that were underserviced, and allow us to offer more regular services to many communities. It also gets us ready for big new developments like light rail which relies on hubbing and connections.

Consultation with the community however told us that people had concerns about hubbing and as a result we listened and the need to hub was reduced so that only around 5% of customers would have to transfer between buses and waits were designed to be short with enhanced shelter facilities. We are working to deliver this and acknowledge we are not there yet.

When will the hubs be completed?

  • Brooklyn stops A and B (in front of the library) were completed on Sunday 23 September (for operational reasons all go-live dates fall on a Sunday)
  • Brooklyn stop C is due for go-live on Tuesday 20 November
  • Kilbirnie stops A, B and C (the whole hub) are open as of 18 November
  • Miramar stops A and B are both completed and open
  • Newtown stop B (outside Ronald McDonald House) is now open
  • Newtown stops A and C outside the hospital are due for completion before Christmas
  • Johnsonville stop B is completed, stop C is due for completion just before Christmas, and work on stop A will start in the new year
  • Karori stops A and B (the whole hub) will be started in the new year
  • Courtenay Place will not be started until after Christmas and is due for completion in February 2019. This hub was held back so that work on the higher-priority hospital hub could be brought forward

We are very sorry that these hubs are not yet fully functional. We have been beset by construction and engineering delays, typical of building projects exposed to Wellington’s weather at this time of year. We know it is not good enough and we are working hard to remedy the situation.

Question Response

What is the acceptable number of cancelled services and by what date will this goal be achieved?

A KPI (Key Performance Indicator) target for cancelled services has been set at less than 0.5% of all services delivered. The number of cancelled services is trending down and, over the last three weeks, daily cancelled services have fluctuated between 0.5% and 1.5%. We will continue to report cancellation statistics.

What proportion of bus services are now running on time and how does this compare with rates over the past few weeks?  In the week 15-19 July, services in Wellington city started on time between 73% and 81% of the time. In the week 3-7 September services started on time consistently 91% of the time. We are analysing schedule adherence on a route by route basis and tweaking timetables where necessary to ensure that services can be consistently completed within the times specified in the timetables, and therefore able to consistently meet the times advertised in the timetables.
Question Response

How many Uber trips has GWRC paid for since the bus network changed? 

This is something that has been used only in exceptional circumstances in situations of significant need – such as for the elderly, for people going to hospital and so forth where the passenger was in for a considerable wait for the next bus. We have authorised 24 trips, at a total cost of $302.05.

Is GWRC aware of the impact of bus users with a "Total Mobility card"? 

Accessible Concession is a new concession available to Total Mobility card holders and Foundation Blind members. Access to the concession is via a Snapper card (TM card is also a Snapper card) which enables GWRC to monitor general use of the concession, as with other concessions and general travel on Metlink buses. 

Total Mobility card holders and Blind Foundation members get a 50% discount off the adult Snapper or 10-trip ticket fare. The Accessibility Concession is available on Metlink buses, trains and ferries, except after-midnight buses.

Those eligible should contact Snapper to get their Snapper card registered and the concession applied. The Total Mobility card is a Snapper card and has the concession automatically applied. 

There is a separate process to assess whether you are eligible for Total Mobility – here is the link to the application process. For rail the concession is applied via 10-trip passes

If you require assistance for your travel, a carer can come with you and travel for free. You will need to show Metlink staff your Total Mobility Card or Blind Foundation ID card if they ask.

Have the blue lights been removed from the new buses?

Yes – although some people are unhappy we have done so!

Is Snapper now working consistently?

Snapper is fully operational and working as expected.

Question Response

What steps is GWRC taking to monitor the health and safety of passengers on Wellington bus services (particularly given its PCBU – Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking – responsibilities), and if so what statistics has it collected about the number of reported health and safety incidents or "near misses" since the bus network changes were rolled out? 

Our approach to health and safety with our bus operators sees them as trusted partners.  We back this up by monitoring their systems and processes.  

The obligations of Metlink are covered in the Health and Safety at Work Act and in our own PCBU Policy.  

We provide our Operators with detailed instructions on how to communicate with us in the event of health and safety events (a Communication Matrix).

Officers meet with our Operators weekly and monthly formally, and health and safety events are analysed and discussed. 

Our operators provide us with formal health and safety information in their monthly reports, the first of which are due on September 10, so we do not hold the information requested at this point.