A key issue that keeps coming up in the discussions about the introduction of light rail and problems with the bus system is bus congestion in Lambton Quay. The Opus Central Area Bus Operational Review (http://www.gw.govt.nz/assets/Transport/Public-transport/Docs/Bus-Operational-Review-Final-for-GWRC2.pdf) has confirmed what users have known for years – buses are unreliable in large part because of bus congestion.
The study found that “…existing public transport delay and variability is significant and will only increase in the future without interventions or modification to the existing network operation model for bus services. Growth in PT for the study area is predicted to increase significantly (between 10 and 30 percent during peak periods) until 2016 and then maintain lower growth beyond this period through to 2026. This growth will place increased pressure on existing operation and infrastructure, highlighting the need for short to medium term enhancements to those locations in which reliability and operational conditions are poor….The review of the existing bus network operational model and passenger loading and alighting patterns through the Golden Mile highlighted that peak hour bus frequencies are at the upper end of the capacity and additional capacity on the Golden Mile is needed now for the following reasons:
- High volumes of buses cause delays on the carriageway and at stops;
- Stops have insufficient capacity, bus drivers often have difficulty pulling in and out of stops and frequently block the carriageway while waiting to access the stop;
- Variation in bus occupancy and under utilisation of capacity on some routes;
- Passenger loading inefficiencies (ticketing, entry/exit limitations, bus stop design); and
- Processing cash payments and giving change on board the bus is slow.
Analysis indicated that reducing the number of buses using the Golden Mile would improve the efficiency and reliability of the bus operations. The creation of hubs outside or at the periphery of the Golden Mile has been identified as the preferred long term solution…It is recommended that both the hubs concept and express service concept be further investigated and tested with the public as part of GWRC’s Wellington Public Transport Review which is currently underway. The review would need to define appropriate hub and corridor locations as well as express stop locations. Newtown would be an ideal location for a hub in the south while hubs at Johnsonville and Petone might also be desirable in the north.”
Sustainable transport groups have agreed that getting the overall public transport network design right must be the first priority for Greater Wellington over the next year. They have already proposed a new network design approach in a discussion document (http://www.gw.govt.nz/assets/Transport/Public-transport/Docs/RPTP2010discussiondocument.pdf). What is needed is urgent progression of discussions on this key issue, and early finalisation of an overall network design. Then things like the study of light rail routes can operate on a sound footing.