Posted by: senjmito | November 14, 2010

Bus Congestion: What Should We Do About It?

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 ( 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 (  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.



  1. I find the font size far too small on this page for older eyes like mine. re the topic. Big problems: Firstly, Opus referred to may have some valid points, but the highly expensive so-called report they did for the WCC involving the Golden Mile and Manners mall in particular, so completely failed to identify major operational problems and numerous pedestrian hazards greatly increasing risks to pedestrians, let alone unsupportable and unverifiable and frankly wrong benefit/cost ratio figures as to be worthless.

    There is no point in talking about bus congestion in Lambton Quay when for several years the WCC has been advised of significant steps that are available now at little cost to achieve big improvements in this matter. They continue to ignore these recommendations, especially those relating to the serious mistakes the WCC has made that have increased bus congestion.

    As for bus hubs such as in Newtown and express buses from there, it is patently obvious that those coming up with these great ideas have little understanding and little if any of the practical knowledge and experience necessary to identify all the issues and problems associated with such a plan. Certainly the proposals put forward by Opus regarding bus hubs at Courtenay Place and the Rail with ‘platoons’ of express buses running in between were so bizarre and totally devoid of understanding of all the operaional problems as to be ludicrous.

    • It is because things that could be done about bus congestion and operations aren’t being done that it needs to be talked about. One of the things that particular disappointed Public Transport Voice was that the upgrade of Lambton Quay failed to exclude traffic (despite this being supported in an AA submission), and failed to focus the design aroung the role as a key public transport corridor. We now have Greater Wellington talking quite sensibly about network design, and it is vital that the voices of users are brought into that process.

      A hub at Courtenay Place doesn’t make a lot of sense. Hubs should be further out.

  2. With Snapper cards riders should be able to enter the bus at either door. Sure there’d be a few cheats but the overall savings and say a $200 on-the-spot fine would reduce the costs and the benefits I imagine would outweigh these anyway. Trams usually allow entry from all platform-facing doors. At peak times some Snapper only buses could run.

    • @joshua
      I think you’re heading in the right direction. Boarding at both doors – for buses with multiple doors should be fine. I’d asked Snapper about having tag-on/off posts at the city section bus stops to accomplish the same thing. That’s a bit harder to do, but not impossible.

      • I like that idea. If you know your bus is coming, and that you’ll be able to get on, then it would work fine. I guess if you changed your mind you could tag again (within a limited period) for a refund and walk away.

        To be honest I’m really in favour of systems that have a single fare for the whole network. They’re much easier to police, and encourage greater use.

  3. The Christchurch system has only three zones for the whole region (city, outer bits, provincial towns), so for a city bus you tag on and don’t have to tag off. If you catch another bus within a set time it is treated as a transfer and free. And if you pay a fare more than twice in a day you get any further trips free.

  4. […] number of the comments to our think-piece on network design rightly pointed out that fares and fare systems are critical to making a transfer system […]

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